One had heard of the Golden Gate in San Francisco, USA and of course of the Howrah Bridge in Kolkata nearer to home. So there was a lot of excitement and expectation when the sea link project was announced in Mumbai. An added advantage was the time that one would save moving from the Business district to the western suburbs within 20-30 minutes.
The project got financially stretched and was delayed but eventually the dream was realized in the summer of 2009.
It was our latest landmark in the city and the symmetrical design was something to really savour. The sea link’s travel appeal as a joyride was at its peak at night-time when the evening rush hour was over and the lights provided a great ambience for the trip.
The trip is of course most popular and targeted at the car segment of travellers and many bikers were disappointed to learn that they will not permitted access to the same. The common man was allowed the choice of using the bus service to undertake the epic journey. It was also added to the Mumbai Marathon route and that provided us a new opportunity to use the sea link.
But the novelty of using the route for your daily commute to office had worn off after a few months, thanks to high toll charges levied for using the sea link. The revenue and traffic numbers did not add up to the expected levels and the project started to make a loss. Tweaking the toll structure to drives volumes at the cost of lowering the toll per vehicle would be surely an option that could be considered. But the experience so far has not been very encouraging – it is now estimated that break-even cost will need approximately forty years as, on an average, 40,000 vehicles use it everyday.
It remains a tourist attraction and visitors to Mumbai have the joyride as a ‘must-do’ item on their list. They find it a bit dampening to note that the enthusiasm of the average Mumbaikar for the trip is a bit below par. Still not wanting to disappoint our guests, we do indulge them and do the trip occasionally.
The sea link attracts our attention in many other ways – the scenic images were featured in a popular Hindi movie, the sea link often becomes a site to register political protests and off late there is a rather sad trend of people wanting to jump off the bridge to end it all. So not all of the attention is positive and one sees an element of struggle even in the existence of one of the newly inducted landmarks. An engineering marvel, surely it deserves to be a more popular story in our lives.
But we love our monsoon and the rains make the sea link ride a romantic rendezvous – along with the Marine Drive and the Worli Sea Face, the sea link attracts its own set of loyal visitors who love to enjoy the rains and sea waves while driving the 5.6 KM stretch.