Even before construction of the passenger water transport terminals the bids for which were finalised last year could take off,the project cost has swelled by 60 per cent for the terminals on the west coast and by 124 per cent in case of the eastern coast.
When Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) invited bids for the project in May 2012,it had estimated the cost of the west coast project to be Rs 753 crore and that of the east coast to be Rs 356 crore.
The project,which promises to cut travel time with a transport network along the coast,has been in the pipeline for a decade. It has seen a few false starts. The west coast network will be from Nariman Point to Borivali,with stops at Marve,Versova,Bandra and Juhu. On the eastern coast,commuters will be able to travel from Ferry Wharf to Mandwa via Nerul. Once the terminals are ready,MSRDC will outsource the operations.
Apart from bidders quoting a higher price,cost escalation has been because of several changes in the design specifications as requested by the environment ministry. This has caused the cost to climb to nearly Rs 1,200 crore on the west coast and Rs 800 crore on the east, a senior state government official said.
For the west coast,the lowest bidders for the three packages in which the terminals were to be constructed had quoted Rs 915.3 crore,while for the east coast,the lowest bidders for the two packages had quoted Rs 440.47 crore.
In August 2012,the MSRDC board decided to go ahead with the lowest bidders. Subsequently,it submitted the proposal for ratification to the state government. Nearly a year later,the transport department,which is currently scrutinising it,is yet to clear it and put it up for discussion before the cabinet sub-committee of infrastructure.
The validity of the tenders was six months. We have given an extension,but the bidders are growing restless. However,no one has informed us officially that they want to back out, an MSRDC engineer said.
Shailesh Kumar Sharma,transport secretary,said scrutiny of such projects takes time,especially considering the cost escalation. The PWD had raised some queries about the project. Other state government agencies such as CIDCO and MMRDA are also contributing funds for the project. They will have queries about the cost escalation. The MSRDC replied to the queries only last month. We expect to take a decision soon, he said.
While the MSRDC was to fund the project on the east coast through bonds,for the west coast,the state government,CIDCO and MMRDA were to equally contribute over a two-year period.