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Mumbai cruises into future with monorail

Sunday, 17 February 2013 - 8:00am IST

The shiny new mode of transport and the acres of decaying slums are a gentle reminder of how change and stagnancy co-exist in Mumbai.

Mumbai made history on Saturday when the nation’s first monorail made its maiden journey with passengers — non-monorail personnel — on a trial run between Wadala and Chembur.

The 8.8km trial journey started at 1.31pm from Wadala and reached Chembur at 1.47pm. The return journey started around 1.57pm and ended around 2.16 pm. 

The monorail route from Wadala to Chembur showcases the history of Mumbai, in a way. The swanky access-controlled Wadala station rises several meters above the rows of metal transit accommodation, surrounded by marshy land pockmarked with stagnant dirty water ponds near Anik. The shiny new mode of transport and the acres of decaying slums are a gentle reminder of how change and stagnancy co-exist in Mumbai.

View pics of a pink monorail train at Wadala station

Minutes later the monorail is moving along stretches that once gave the city its industrial and strategic powerhouse status. Massive silos and smoke-spewing chimneys of the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers, the massive gas and oil infrastructure of the Bharat Petroleum are all part of the monorail scenery.

As it makes its way towards Chembur, the monorail intersects twice with another piece of engineering that should hopefully add some respite to the bursting-at-the-seams Mumbai — the Eastern Freeway.

Closer to Chembur the monorail moves over roads — VN Purav and RC Marg — experiencing bumper-to-bumper traffic and along areas where 20 storied buildings stand tall around vast seas of slums.

“It is Mumbai on show,” said an excited Scomi engineer peering out of the giant glass windows.

The only thing that is slightly uncomfortable about the ride is the tilt the train experiences while navigating a sharp curve. However according to officials, the monorail — its four cars linked by giant accordian like vestibules — is meant exactly for such curves.

“This monorail can do a maximum of 80kmph. We were cruising at 35 kmph so you might have felt the tilt more. At higher speeds and higher passenger loads, you wouldn’t notice it at all,” said the train captain Paul Raj, the Scomi trainer who piloted the monorail on Saturday.

The monorail has light pink seats and white wall panels that give the interiors a bright and airy feel. 

According to MMRDA commissioner Rahul Asthana the process to get the monorail certified is underway and the state would soon appoint a Safety Certification Engineer soon.

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