As toll roads face fire, Bandra-Worli sea link struggles for a profit

RTI reply shows the company collecting toll hasn’t even earned Rs 5 cr in nearly five years since it was opened

Written by MANASI PHADKE | Mumbai | Updated: May 7, 2014 8:29:06 am
The toll plaza at the Bandra-Worli sea link The toll plaza at the Bandra-Worli sea link

While there has been a lot of noise over the past few months over toll collection contractors bleeding the public, data shows that the landmark Bandra-Worli sea link, where toll charged is among the highest in the state, has hardly yielded any money for the company in charge of its toll collection.

More than 98 per cent of what Mumbai Entry Point Infrastructure Developers (MEPID) collected as toll over the last five years went to Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), which constructed the sea link, as fixed monthly payments as per the contract.

According to data obtained by Newsline under the Right to Information Act, MEPID collected Rs 315.39 crore by way of toll from July 2009 to January 2014. The company paid Rs 5.76 crore a month, totalling to Rs 311.04 crore, to the MSRDC till January 2014.

Mumbai Entry Point’s managing director Jayant Mhaiskar said, “We did lose a lot of money during the first year, but broke even over the next two years. The vehicular traffic has been flat. However, this is a high-visibility project for us. We are into this business and our name being attached to the Bandra-Worli sea link is good even if we necessarily don’t make money on it.”

The toll collected on the sea link was Rs 55.65 crore in 2009-10, Rs 67.05 crore in 2010-11, Rs 61.41 crore in 2011-12, Rs 77.85 crore in 2012-13 and Rs 53.43 crore up to January 2014. Of this, MSRDC’s share was Rs 69.12 crore every year.

Under the previous toll collection contract, Mumbai Entry Point didn’t have to look after the maintenance and surveillance of the sea link. However, under the new contract that was freshly negotiated earlier this year, the company is also expected to look after these aspects, Mhaiskar said. “The amount we pay to MSRDC per month is roughly still the same as it was under the previous contract.”

The Bandra-Worli sea link was constructed at a cost of Rs 1,634 crore, of which Rs 852 crore was for the actual bridge from the Bandra toll booth to Worli sea face, while the rest was for approaches and traffic dispersal measures. Charging a toll of almost Rs 10 per one kilometre, the 5.6-km sea link is one of the highest tolled roads in the state.

Monthly data from August 2012 to November 2013 shows that the average daily traffic on the Bandra-Worli sea link has been in the range of 45,000 to 55,000 vehicles.

“Initially, 65,000 vehicles a day were expected to use the sea link in 2009, but that did not happen. Since it was a greenfield project, even we didn’t really have the data to analyse,” Mhaiskar said.

A senior MSRDC official, who did not wish to be quoted, blamed the stagnant traffic figures on the Eastern Freeway.

“The Lalbaug flyover has not made too much of a difference, but the Eastern Freeway has ensured that traffic does not rise. Many commuters from south Mumbai who used to earlier use the sea link to exit at Bandra and then head to Chembur or beyond now take the freeway. Eastern Freeway was not in the picture when the sea link was planned,” he said.

The Eastern Freeway has been operational since June 2012.

As per the state government’s toll notification for the project, the toll tariff was revised once in 2012 to Rs 55 for cars, 80 for light-commercial vehicles and Rs 110 for trucks and buses. Till then, the rates were Rs 50, Rs 75 and Rs 100 for cars, light commercial vehicles and trucks, respectively. As per the notification, the toll will increase again from April 1, 2015. The sea link is to be tolled for a total of 40 years as per data from the MSRDC.

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