Motorists hail Atal Setu for fuel and time savings, but want public transport buses to ply

The sea bridge would be thrown open for motorists from Saturday morning


The 21.8 kilometre Atal Setu inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday will save time and fuel as well as reduce congestion and pollution but will be "under utilized" unless public transport buses ply on it, transport activists said.

Traffic police said the sea bridge would be thrown open for motorists from Saturday morning.

The PM inaugurated the Rs 17,840 crore Atal Bihari Vajpayee Sewri-Nhava Sheva Atal Setu, also called the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, which will cut the distance between Mumbai and the satellite city of Navi Mumbai from some hours to 15-20 minutes, in the process boosting development in the region, which houses a mega port and also an upcoming international airport.

The Atal Setu, which is the longest bridge and seabridge in the country, is 21.8 kilometre long, including a 16.5 portion over sea, and will reduce the distance from the metropolis to the Navi Mumbai International Airport and also cut travel time to major areas like Pune, the state's second largest city, and further to Goa and the rest of south India.

As per some motorists, the Atal Setu will reduce the distance between Palasphe Phata in Panvel in neighbouring Raigad district and Mantralaya, the state secretariat in south Mumbai, by at least 5-6 kilometres as compared to the current route via Vashi Creek Bridge, which is around 53 kilometres.

It will save at least one hour of travel time, they said, though the government claimed it would be two hours.

"Presently it takes more than two hours to reach Palasphe Phata from Mantralaya. Now motorists can cross MTHL in 20 minutes. But to reach there, one has to navigate P D'Mello road and cover further distance after going out of the bridge," motorist Pravin Shinde argued.

A senior RTO official said the MTHL will have an open tolling system due to which vehicles won't have to stop at the toll gates, a departure from the process of payment at booths on highways and other bridges.

"The toll amount will be debited even if the vehicle is speeding. Hence, motorists will be saved the snarls that get created at these booths. There will be a few lanes for paying toll in cash as well if there is any issue with FastTag or RFID readers," the official informed.

Najuka Sawant, an assistant professor and Navi Mumbai resident, said the sea bridge will make it easy for those who want to reach south Mumbai and the eastern suburbs, but will not be very useful for those who want to reach the western suburbs unless the under-construction link between Sewri and Worli in the south-central part of the metropolis is ready.

"Motorists have got one more alternative to go out of Mumbai. Getting out of Mumbai will be easier and faster, though it will be costlier when compared to the current route. MTHL and the road ahead up to Palaspe Phata are signal-free. It will give motorists relief from traffic snarls and mental fatigue caused by them," Sawant claimed.

Atal Setu will ease the burden on the heavily-patronised Vashi Creek bridge, other motorists said.

The Mumbai traffic police has laid down a maximum speed of 100 kilometre per hour, and have barred access to two-wheelers and tractors.

A.V. Shenoy, a transport activist of Mumbai Mobility Forum and a think tank, said there is no decision as yet on when public transport buses will be allowed to use the sea bridge.

"Unless public transport buses operate on the bridge, it will only be useful for car users and not to the common public. Unlike the sea link, due to to high toll rates, many motorists, cab drivers and truckers will not use it, which will keep the structure under-utilised," Shenoy claimed.

The transport commissioner or MMRTA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority) should have decided about running public transport buses on the bridge, and services of BEST or Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) should have operated from the first day, he added.

As per the notification issued by the state government, light motor vehicles like cars and jeeps will have to pay singe-journey toll of Rs 250 between Sewri and Gavan, while this rate will be Rs 200 between Sewri and Shivaji Nagar and Rs 50 between Shivaji Nagar and Gavan.

For mini buses and multi-axle vehicles, the single journey toll rate between Sewri and Gavan will range from Rs 400 to Rs 1500, while the same will be Rs 320 to Rs 1,255 between Sewri and Shivaji Nagar and Rs 80 to Rs 325 between Shivaji Nagar and Gavan, the notification informed.

Return journey pass and daily pass will be one-and-half times and two-and-half times, respectively, of the one-way toll. The monthly pass rate has been fixed at 50 times the one-way toll, it said.

As per the notification, these toll rates will be applicable till December 31, 2024.

The MTHL first came on the drawing board in 1963 when a consultant proposed it, though the plan went into cold storage over the next four decades.

In the last two decades, the government floated tenders for the project on two occasions, but it took off only after the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) model was adopted, as per officials.


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