Mumbai – Drive, Design and Connect

Mumbai. Bombay. Bambai. The City that Never Sleeps. Maximum City. Or, as I like to call it, BEST City.

The city of Mumbai, along with its satellite townships of Thane, Navi Mumbai, Mira-Bhayander, Vasai-Virar, and Kalyan-Dombivali forms the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, which is India’s second largest urban agglomeration and largest conurbation in a single state in the country. Other major Metropolitan regions in the country include the Tricity area of the Union Territory of Chandigarh, Mohali in Punjab and Panchkula in Haryana, and the National Capital Region consisting of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, NOIDA, Ghaziabad, etc. Neither of these two is in a single state unlike the MMR.

However, what makes the MMR unique is the variety that is present across one single state. Maharashtra, being the state with the most decentralised administration, doesn’t control the MMR as much as the local Municipal bodies do. Each Municipal Body controls Transport in its jurisdiction, along with other factors such as water supply, electricity supply etc.

So what maketh Mumbai #MadeOfGreat ???

Roads. Rail. Buses. Beaches. Add to it, we have India’s first open-to-sea Cable-stayed bridge and also are the proud starting point of India’s first Expressway.

So, now, let us go into the nitty-gritties of what makes Mumbai the most amazing city.


Western Express Highway, Mumbai.
Western Express Highway, Mumbai. Image copyright Nicholas, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available at Wikimedia Commons.

Mumbai offers some amazing roads for you to take out your Tata, Toyota, Maruti, and Mercedes. You have the Western Express Highway, Eastern Express Highway, Sion Panvel Highway for your car to stretch its tyres. If you want the scenic route, you have Marine Drive, the Worli Seaface, Bandra Worli Sea Link, Eastern Freeway, Palm Beach Marg, and more. Of course, you do have the Toll Plazas, but if you have a FASTag, you can zip thru with ease. If this wasn’t enough, the city is the only one in India to feature a Road tunnel WITHIN the city! Mumbai also happens to be the city with maximum disciplined traffic. You’ll see people drive neatly in lanes, and give preference to pedestrians. The city also has long Skywalks, mostly connecting Railway stations to other areas, allowing Pedestrians to walk without having to put up with traffic.


Mumbai is probably India’s ONLY Linear city. The core city is divided into two parts, the Island City also known as Town,  and the Suburbs, known as Greater Mumbai. Autos are prohibited in Town, which also houses some of Mumbai’s longest flyovers. Dr. Ambedkar Marg, the southern extension of the Eastern Express Highway features the 2.9km Lalbaugh flyover at Parel, which was built higher than most flyovers to allow the procession of the Lalbughcha Raja during Ganesh Chaturthi. The 2.4km long JJ Road flyover at Byculla was among the first in the country to use Noise barriers. The suburbs have the two main highways, along with SV Road, LBS Marg and numerous link roads such as the Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road, and the Santacruz Chembur Link Road, which features the city’s first Double Decker flyover.

Navi Mumbai, India’s most amazing planned city was built in the 1970s by the City and Industrial Development Corporation [CIDCO] to decongest Mumbai. It is a planned city, stretching from Airoli in the North to Panvel in the south. It was planned and designed by Charles Correa, and features some amazing railway stations. Vashi station has an IT Park above the tracks, CBD Belapur station has a helipad atop it, and Turbhe Railway station was designed by Hafeez Contractor.

Flyovers in Mumbai feature public paid parking lots below them, or house Traffic Police Stations. The Khodadad Circle flyover, at Dadar Tram Terminus houses a Bus terminus under it. MSRTC’s conductorless Shivneri buses to Pune leave from here.

Transport aside, Mumbai features a lot of amenities and interesting facilities for the humans residing there. It houses two cricket stadiums, Wankhede and Brabourne, a football stadium at Cooperage for all the future Messi’s, and a large Indoor stadium at the National Sports Club of India [NSCI].  It features numerous cultural establishments such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalay, Bhau Da Ji Lad Museum, Jehangir Art Gallery and National Centre for Performing Arts.


Mumbai is home to India’s densest railway network. Comprising 465km of suburban lines, it is spread out across 6 lines. The city has India’s oldest railway network, and the maximum number of Terminus Railway stations. 2342 daily services from 4am to 1am carry approximately 7.5million passengers in a Day! Each train consists of Second Class, First Class, Women’s Second and First class coaches. Mumbai has a combination of trains, some with 9 coaches, some with 12 and some with 15! Air conditioned coaches will be inducted by 2016. Mumbai is the head of two railway zones, Western and Central and houses India’s most magnificent railway terminus, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, which is a UNESCO World Heritage structure. It is also the only city that has two Rajdhani Expresses connecting it to Delhi.


Mumbai Suburban Railway
Mumbai Suburban Railway. Image copyright Integral Coach Factory, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on Wikimedia Commons.

Mumbai has India’s oldest Public Transport system, in the form of BEST, which has been operational since 1873. It is right to say that Mumbai had Public Transport when the rest of India did not know what Transport meant. The BEST provides buses that connect to all other parts of the city and most of the metropolis. BEST is today, the only Transco apart from the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation that operates Double Decker buses, and makes use of the Bell Pull on all its non AC fleet. BEST is also the only transco to feature a single-door Volvo B7RLE.

BEST Bus No. 56 at Versova Yari Road Bus Station.
BEST Bus No. 56 at Versova Yari Road Bus Station. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Mumbai also has India’s oldest airport at Juhu as well as the second largest airport in the country, that also has the current tallest Air Traffic Control tower. Again, the city had air transport when the rest of India wanted to know how planes fly. It was from here that JRD Tata first flew in 1932, four years after it opened.

Mumbai Airport as seen from above.
Mumbai Airport as seen from above. Image copyright Andrew Thomas, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Generic, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

India’s first expressway connecting Mumbai and Pune starts from Panvel, while the Eastern Freeway, and Sion Panvel Expressway offer great drives and greater escape routes in the city.


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Atal Bihari Vajpayee is #madeofgreat

Do you know someone who is #MadeOfGreat? I do, and his name is Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Who doesn’t know Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Arguably India’s most famous Prime Minister, the man is a legend.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001. Image credits EditorMarkJameBenson, released into the Public Domain, available on the Wikimedia Commons

I’m not going to go into his background, for that is irrelevant for us here. I’m only going to focus on one major section of his life. The one section that had a profound effect on the entire nation. Yes, it has everything to do with transport. I’m referring to Atalji’s second and third terms as Prime Minister. It was during this time, that he did three major things relating to transport:

  • The National Highways Development Project
  • The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana
  • Delhi-Lahore Bus

Let me start with these, and explain exactly what they mean to us as Indians.

The National Highways Development Project [NHDP]

The National Highways Development Project, the crowning glory of the first NDA government in India consisted of two main sections at that time:

  • The Golden Quadrilateral
  • The North South East West Corridor
The Golden Quadrilateral
The Dehu Road - Katraj Bypass at Pashan in Pune along the Mumbai-Pune-Bangalore National Highway.
The Dehu Road – Katraj Bypass at Pashan in Pune along the Mumbai-Pune-Bangalore National Highway. Image copyright Amit20081980, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The GQ was envisioned as a set of four lane highways connecting the four metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi. It also included India’s first major Expressways; Mumbai-Pune, Delhi-Gurgaon, and Ahmedabad-Vadodara. Barring a few stretches such as the Udaipur Bypass and the Hubli-Dharwad bypass, it was mostly four-laned, with a few sections being six laned. The net result? Travel time to between various cities shot down by 50%. Subsequently, the UPA government decided to six lane the GQ, while several state governments initiated similar programs for four laning their State Highways. The impact of the Golden Quadrilateral was felt immediately as sections were completed. Nearly 95% of the project was completed before the NDA government left office, and one must congratulate Major General BC Khanduri, then Minister of Surface Transport with the Government of India and Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Public Works in Maharashtra till 1999 for laying the groundwork for future projects. The bulk of the project was funded through a 1% cess levied on fuel and recovered by collecting Toll. The GQ also saw the construction of India’s first and so far, only National Expressway, the Mahatma Gandhi Expressway, connecting Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat. The only major non-National Highway section on the GQ is the Yeshwantrao Chavan Expressway, built by the MSRDC, connecting Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra.

North-South and East-West Corridors

Another major project initiated under the NHDP by the NDA government, this project aimed to connect Srinagar in the North to Kanyakumari in the South and Silchar in the East with Porbandar in the West. The connected major Indian cities that were not covered by the GQ, such as Hyderabad, Nagpur, Jabalpur, Coimbatore, Cochin, etc. It also laid the basis for the Port Connectivity Projects, Sagar Mala, Bharat Mala, etc by subsequent governments in the centre. Again, it also spurred several state and city funded projects to provide connectivity between National Highways and others towns as well. Two notable projects include the four laning of the  Bangalore-Mysore State Highway connecting Mysore to both the GQ and North South corridor at Bangalore and the six-eight lane Hyderabad Outer Ring Road that connects the two arms of the Sringar-Kanyakumari, Pune-Vijaywada National Highways apart from numerous state highways passing thru Hyderabad.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana [PMGSY]
A PMGSY Road marker in Jalandhar.
A PMGSY Road marker in Jalandhar. Image Copyright Gopal Aggarwal of Image available on the Wikimedia Commons under a CC 2.0 Attribution Generic licence.

The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana [PMGSY], literally translating to Prime Minister’s Village Roads Project, was initiated by the NDA government in order to provide all weather roads to villages that were hitherto unconnected. In 2010, it was reported that the PMGSY started changing the lifestyles of villagers in the North Eastern Parts of the country. A very noble plan, it has impacted villagers massively, offering them connectivity which has in turn boosted trade and helped villagers deal with others without middlemen as well.

Of course, the subsequent UPA government tried to hijack the project with Jairam Ramesh infamously stating that the Project was Atalji’s “Poem” but it was the subsequent government that gave it the wings. A fine way to steal credit, might I add.

Delhi-Lahore Bus
The Friendship Bus Delhi-Lahore at the Pakistan-India border.
The Friendship Bus Delhi-Lahore at the Pakistan-India border. Image Copyright Lorenz Khazaleh, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0, available on Flickr.

This was the most amazing thing that Atalji’s government did. A bus connecting two neighbouring countries that have been at war for most of their history. Officially known as the Sada-e-Sarhad, it was launched on 19 February 1999 connecting Delhi and Lahore via the Attari-Wagah border. A gesture of friendship between India and Pakistan, it continues on today, 16 years later. It is jointly operated by the Delhi Transport Corporation [DTC] and the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation [PTDC], who run buses on alternate days. It laid the basic framework for the introduction of the Delhi-Kathmandu Bus by the DTC and the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala buses by the Tripura Road Transport Corporation [TRTC], West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation [WBSTC] and Shyamoli Paribahan [SB] a decade later.

In 2015, India was a signatory of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement [BBIN MVA], for seamless movement of road traffic among the four nations. This achievement, combined with the launch of international bus services makes international road travel something every Indian can look forward to.


At the end of the day, one can say that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was certainly one of the best Prime Ministers we had. By laying a solid foundation in the transport sector, he effectively ensured that all other sectors benefited and the economy grew and that millions reaped rewards. So next time you take your brand new Tata car out for a drive and cross 100km/hr, remember that it was Vajpayee who made it possible.

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