WITH SUBURBAN train services restricted and rickety buses frequently stranded on potholed and congested roads, officegoers from Kalyan and Dombivali areas have resorted to a decade-old ferry service, which operates between Mangaon in Dombivali and Vellu in Bhiwandi, to cut down on travel time. Previously accessed only by local villagers to ferry goods to the city market, the service across the Ulhas creek can save nearly three-four hours’ commute.
Shreya Gavankar, who works at a mall in Thane, had been taking the state transport buses to reach her workplace since September. But long queues and traffic congestions, she says, took her more than three hours just to reach there. After she switched to travelling by a ferry till Bhiwandi, Gavankar says, she has managed to save four hours of daily travel.
“I can reach office in about an hour. It also bypasses an hour-long waiting time at bus stands and the heavy traffic congestions from Manpada to Shilphata,” Gavankar says. Currently, she takes a ferry from Mothagaon to Vellu, then an autorickshaw to Mankoli junction and another 15-minute autorickshaw ride to reach office.
Shakshata Verma, who also works in Thane, says, “I never reach my workplace on time. Once I had left my house at 8 am and reached office at 11 am. On Thursday, I left office at 4.45 pm and reached home around 9 pm. Travelling by bus leaves me helpless and frustrated.”
As businesses reopened after the lockdown restrictions were gradually rolled back, many among the Mumbai Metropolitan Region workforce, who stay in faraway locations from commercial business districts, have seen their daily commute time double as they are not allowed to access the suburban trains. In some cases, commuters from satellite suburbs, like Vasai, Virar, Panvel and Kalyan spend over four hours one-way to reach their places of work.
The cost of commuting, too, has gone up substantially. While a 67-km commute on a suburban line would cost only Rs 35, commuters now spend anything between Rs 200-300 to cover the same distance by road. There have been protests and demonstrations in these places seeking the resumption of normal train services.
The need to cut down travel time has also led to people compromising on safety. Harshada Darmapurkar (22), who lives in Diva, says that people are travelling at their own risk. “When I took the ferry service for the first time, I was scared because there wasn’t any safety jacket. But instead of travelling by bus and getting stranded at one place for hours, I feel this is the better option and now I have got used to it. There is a risk involved which people are willing to take in order to save their time and energy,” she adds.
According to officegoers, massive traffic congestions are witnessed on roads leading to Shilphata junction, Kongaon and Patripol bridge. “The vehicles are stranded for hours on these stretches,” says Bharat Shah, a resident of Dombivali.
The poor condition of the roads in the area has also led motorists to skip their daily ride to work. “I work as a manager at a warehouse in Bhiwandi where my reporting time is 10 am. I would leave home at 8.30 am to reach office on time, but could never manage to do so. Besides riding in that traffic takes away the fresh morning energy. Now, on my colleague’s suggestion, I have started using the ferry service and I am saving a lot of time,” Vikrant Thorat, a resident ofPanchayat Bawdi in Dombivali, says.
Residents of Mothagaon say that the benefit of this ferry service, which is currently being exploited by officegoers, was being utilised by vegetable vendors for years. “Vegetable vendors from the small villages (Surai, Vellu and Pimplas) of Bhiwandi take ferries to Dombivali and sell vegetables at Umesh Nagar area. It’s because of them that this ferry service is still active today,” Shah adds.
Kalpana Gaikwad, who sells vegetables at Umesh Nagar, says she has been using the ferry service for the last five years.
With ferry operators boarding more than 30 people per ride, the local police and the civic administration have now sought information on the permission granted to them by the Maharashtra Maritime Board. Senior Inspector R N Munagekar of Vishnu Nagar police station said, “The boat service has been operational for many years and we have come to know that since the state started reopening, people have been making use of the service to reach their destination faster. We have served them a notice Thursday asking them to submit adequate permissions that they have obtained from Maharashtra Maritime Board.”
Thane city Collector Rajesh Narvekar, meanwhile, said he came to know about such activity on Friday. “We will be writing to the Maharashtra Maritime Board and seek information like since when this boat service has been active and the number of passengers they boats have been allowed to board.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines