A couple of weeks ago, I happened to use the recently-opened Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL) in Bombay. For those who are not familiar, BWSL is a bridge over the sea connecting the suburb of Bandra with Worli in South Bombay. By using BWSL, motorists can avoid Mahim Causeway, Shivaji Park, Prabhadevi and other busy areas that come on the traditional land route, thus slashing their travel time to 8-10 minutes from 50-60 minutes.
Such a drastic saving in time should make the sea link very popular and justify city planner’s estimate that it would grab at least 60% of the volume of 145,000 vehicles that use the old route via Mahim Causeway every day.
However, that’s not to be – at least not yet.
During my trip, there was so little traffic on BWSL that I forgot for a moment that I was in Bombay – a city known for heavy traffic virtually round-the-clock. At first, I was wondering if this was because I was traveling during the non-rush hour. However, as I learned later from a local friend who takes the sea link everyday to work, traffic has always been light on BWSL from the time it started attracting toll charges of INR 50 (~USD 1) in July.
In a fast-paced city like Bombay, fifty rupees seems to be a small price to pay for the benefit of gaining 40-45 minutes of time. Besides, when compared with a random sample drawn from Malaysia, UK and other countries, BWSL’s fifty rupees happens to one of the lowest tolls for a bridge anywhere in the world, as the following chart indicates.
(Click here to download the Excel model behind this chart.)
When people that stand to gain most from better infrastructure are reluctant to pay for it, it’s difficult to understand the viability of the scores of highways, metros and other ambitious infrastructure projects being undertaken all over India.
PS: Talking about low traffic on BWSL, many frequent users are not complaining: they fear that increase in volumes on the sea link would lead to major traffic snarls because of the sub-optimal design of the approach road on its Worli side. But, that’s a topic for another day!