Bridge over Troubled Waters

The world is talking about it from Mumbai to Minessota.  Folks have travelled long distances to catch the pre-inauguration laser show and test drive on the new sea-link during its first few days of launch.  And, office goers of Mumbai are desperately waiting for its hi-speed lanes to reduce their daily commute downtown.

It’s also (probably) India’s first bridge to have a website of its own, even if its classic brochureware design boasts of more ads than real content on the project!   The sad reality is, for all the effort that went into its construction, it may not achieve the larger objective, thanks to poor planning and myopic politics.

The Economic Times went from calling it a “traveller’s delight” to “hi-tech incompetence“, in a single day!

ET, 30 June — It was quite an exhilarating experience to be able to commute via the Bandra Worli Sea Link for the time. We started off from the MSRDC site office near Bandra Reclamation and halted at Worli, in a matter of less than 8 minutes, using the sea link route as it was gearing up to open to public in less than 48 hours.

ET, 1 July — What was supposed to be a Rs 300-crore project completed in 2004 actually cost Rs 1,600 crore and was completed five years late… Supposedly it will reduce the 40-minute car journey from Bandra to Worli to seven minutes, but in practice it will lead to traffic bunching at both ends of the link, and become a nightmare during rush hour.

In the days leading up to its inauguration, I was wondering what it would be named…  Given that Mumbai happens to be in Maharashtra,  the Shiv Sena would definitely want it named after a ‘son of the soil’.  And, since the Congress was elected back into power earlier this year, the “first family” would probably want it named after one of its own.  In the end, the Congress had its say.  It would be called the Rajiv Gandhi Setu.

As someone who’s lived in Mumbai all my life, I firmly believe that the city’s traffic problems need a hoslitic mass-oriented solution.  Improvement in the Public Transport System will result in far greater benefits per rupee spent, than investing in two-lane flyovers or sea links that begin and end in traffic jams…

I have yet to see the Bandra Worli Sea Link in its finished state, and plan to head there on the weekend to shoot some pics.  But that’s only because the photographer in me can still appreciate its engineering design and beauty. 

As a commuter, I have no doubt that it’s not much more than Rs. 16 billion worth of band-aid  for a problem that requires open-heart surgery!   Is any one listening?

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