08 Jan 2023  |   07:49am IST

Vested interests must answer why Goa’s image was allowed to be spoilt due to no mobility planning around Mopa

Vested interests must answer why Goa’s image was allowed to be spoilt due to no mobility planning around Mopa

An international airport is not just the airport building, the tarmac, and duty-free shops. An airport experience is all about convenience and it starts from the time you leave your home for a flight or to get to your home or hotel after a flight.

So, was Mopa only a land development project if passenger convenience wasn’t a priority?

For over a decade and across governments of both Goa’s main parties, the Mopa airport project has been all about the self-interests of politicians and politically connected and less about the travelling passenger and of course the common Goan villager who once lived where the airport now stands.

While the price of land in and around the Mopa airport will start soaring, there should be an interesting and thorough study on the pattern of land buying, in the outline areas of the Mopa airport project, and the rise in the rates. The inquiry should also cover the new owners, the rates at which they bought land and their value now.

This becomes all the more important because of the absolute neglect of the mobility and transport infrastructure connected to the Mopa airport, which is embarrassing Goa nationally and internationally.

This is from the first-hand ground-level reporting done by Herald, away from the press conferences and claims. The claim of seamless and adequate app-based taxi availability crashed within a couple of hours since the first flight landed on January 5. Even downloading the app became a nightmare as something as basic as hi-speed Wi-Fi needed for all booking services wasn’t available. The service purportedly provided through the Goa Taxi app which has now become a counter service has shocked many as taxi receipts of Rs 3,500 and over Rs 4,500 for journeys to South Goa went viral on social media.

It was a sad sight to see a taxi booking counter saying there was no availability on the first half of the first day of operations for an airport pitched as the pride of Goa and a gateway to Goa’s exponential tourism growth.

Mobility planning is complex and needs intelligent people who know and understand the subject.  Obviously, that talent is found wanting

There are no private national international app-based taxi providers.  Moreover, the current tourist taxi operators have refused to come under any app management because they were to rest after four hours, and yet nothing has been done to bring them in line with court judgments and a proper way of doing service-oriented business which is fair.

Can leaders of the past and present across party lines explain firstly the choice of the airport at one extreme end of the state (Goa is not a city but a State and this is a state airport, not a city airport), without any form of smooth and affordable connectivity?

Without connectivity, the airport has no meaning, and it is a recipe for disaster for South Goa’s tourism in particular. Former Congress leaders, many of whom were behind the Mopa project and at least did not object to it and stand with the people,  have now betrayed their people and joined the BJP for “development”. One needs to ask was it for their own development or the development of the people of Goa or for Goa?  These politicians are quiet now. Their interests are only self-interests.

Any project that is not people-friendly brings a negative image to the State and its leaders. The ambitious sky bus project in Goa literally crashed when the overhead sky bus travelling at higher speeds in a trial run crashed against a pole and killing one a seriously injuring two others.

It’s an irony that politicians who fail miserably and do not deliver ambitious projects, have their monuments on the beach whereas people who really fight for Goa are not honoured and remembered.

In most countries, mobility and connectivity are central to airport projects

From New York to London, Paris, Lisbon, and across Europe, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo to Australasia, all airports have trains running from the airports to destinations in the central business districts with parallel and interconnected bus and other transport, not to speak of a round-the-clock hailing, phone and app booking cab services across multiple providers. For the FIFA World Cup in Doha, Qatar, public transportation was free, freely available, and efficient. There was no question of any hesitancy or confusion regarding transportation.

THIS IS HOW CIVILIZED COUNTRIES WORK: Goa is decades behind other cities in seamless mobility for tourists

In most countries, modes of transport are linked on one app or card with one payment gateway.

Across all cities mentioned, one transport app or card which can be pre-loaded works seamlessly across all transport modes. They are also linked to tourist destinations, restaurants, and places of interest, offering discounts, etc. This makes the tourist arriving at the airport stay connected to the overall tourism universe. This is possible due to unified stakeholder engagement and a professional approach to tourism that is internationally needed and accepted. Many metros in India are also adopting similar practices.  However, what has been witnessed in the first few days at Mopa, gives us the impression that as far as seamless mobility as an asset to tourism is concerned, Goa is decades behind. And that is the sad story.

Moreover, abroad, from Prime Ministers to Ministers and other VIPS, all use public transportation in developing and developed countries. But our public servants and ministers who take decisions regarding mobility, themselves have very little current knowledge or experience of public transportation. Their fleet of cars will, in any case, be available, to drop and pick them up. Many of them are wary of mingling with the public not knowing when and if there will be backlash for their actions or inactions.

This deep disconnect has led to the lack of any mobility planning whatsoever for the Mopa airport. There was enough time to plan and execute a metro rail running down the route from Mopa to at least Margao with stops at Mapusa, Panjim, Verna and Margao, with bus and taxi last-mile connectivity, rather than push electric Kadamba buses into service in last minute panic just before the first flight landed. This is the difference between planning and ad hoc last-minute arrangements, known as jugaar in Indian parlance.

The Mopa airport was a great opportunity to showcase the functioning of Goan infrastructure that is beyond the airport. That great opportunity has been lost and politicians must clearly answer if this is good for Goa’s image. Land prices around Mopa may go up but is it worth it if the State loses trust and belief in efficient planning?