Ola’s river taxis begin route learning exercise in Assam

App-based taxi service provider Ola has started working on its ambitious river taxi service plan in Assam. Just a few days ago, Ola’s vice president of operations Vijay Ghadge had signed a MoU with the government of Assam in the ongoing Global Investor Summit: Advantage Assam.

Ola cabs was launched in Assam in 2014. The capital Guwahati is on the banks of vast Bramhaputra river and riverboats are a widely used mode of commute here. Ola is now looking ahead to bring machine operated boats which can be booked online, called on demand and even cancelled through a mobile app. The machine operated boats will be faster and safer than the conventional ones.

For the initial phase, Ola is planning to ferry high-speed river taxis in the Lachit ghat, Machkowda to north Guwahati route. The proposed taxis will bring down the time of commute to 2 to 5 minutes from the 45 minutes it takes by road.

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Within days of signing the MoU, Ola has already started route learning exercise on the Brahmaputra river channel. As per a report, Director of Assam’s Inland Water Transport (IWT) department Bharat Bhushan Dev Choudhary has stated that Ola had launched a one seater petrol vessel and once they finalise the route and come up with fares and other paperwork, the department will proceed with permission granting.

Ola is expected to start operating the river taxis within a week’s time. Terminal facilities at the pickup and drop off points will be provided by the IWT Department. The IWT Department is also planning a scheme “Jibon Dinga’ to extend subsidies and financial help to local youth who want to operate their own river taxis across the state.

The current river taxi proposal comes soon after another major step was taken by the Inland Waterways Authority of India when in December last year Union minister of shipping Nitin Gadkari had flagged of the first cargo transportation along the Pandu-Dhubri route along the Bramhaputra.

At the flagging off ceremony in Majuli island, the minister had declared that river transport is the next big step his ministry is working on their aim is to bring down logistics cost and time taken to transport. The Pandu Dhubri route falls under National waterway-2 which is a 891 KM stretch of Bramhaputra from Sadiya to Dhubri. He had also announced the construction of five bridges along the NW-2 and a roll-on roll-off ferry service in Majuli.

A similar project has now been announced for the National Waterway-1 which stretches from Haldia to Prayag on the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system.

Waterways in India are vastly underutilised. They can be a major source of revenue and business when explored and maintained properly. Assam has become the pioneer for Indian states in utilising its water resources for growth and economic prosperity.

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