Mumbai commute set for a spring in the step

There's good news for Mumbai’s harried commuters. In a few days,they can hit Navi Mumbai from Colaba in South Mumbai in a little over 30 minutes

Written by Shubhra Tandon | Mumbai | Published:May 28, 2013 2:42 am

There’s good news for Mumbai’s harried commuters. In a few days,they can hit Navi Mumbai from Colaba in South Mumbai in a little over 30 minutes,driving down the 16.8-km Eastern Freeway — connecting P D’Mello Road in South Mumbai to the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road in the eastern suburbs — most of which is complete. The final stretch,though,will take till December this year. Built at a cost of R1,265 crore,the drive will save commuters a good 30 minutes; the signal-free road will also ease the traffic on the Mumbai Port Road,providing quicker connectivity between the island city and its eastern suburbs.

By the end of the year,Mumbaikars can also drive down the 6.5-km Santacruz-Chembur Link Road — now four years

behind schedule — which would reduce travel time by half. That apart,the first 8.8 km of the monorail that connects Wadala to Chembur is likely to be ready in August.

However,bids for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL),between Sewri in south-east Mumbai to Nhava in Navi Mumbai – now ten years in the making – have been delayed again.

Unfortunately,Line 1 of the Mumbai metro,running from Versova to Ghatkopar – being built by Reliance Infrastructure – is running almost two years behind schedule,and its costs are up 30-40% already. The work on the first 3 km of the 11.4 km elevated tracks is complete and is expected to open for public in September 2013. The final stretch of 8.4 km from Andheri in the western suburbs to Ghatkopar in the east is expected to be operational by December 2013 end,which will cut the travel time on this route to 21 minutes from the present 90 minutes by road.

Line 2 of Mumbai Metro,a fully-elevated 32-km long stretch is,however,stuck due to pending environment clearance for a car depot planned to take care of maintenance works. There is no clarity on when this line planned to run between Charkop in North Mumbai and Mankhurd in the East,cutting through Bandra,will come up. The state government is understood to be also looking at alternative sites for the depot,which may change the alignment of the line completely and could lead to re-bidding of the project.

Bidding for the 22-km MTHL,which would connect Sewri in south-east Mumbai to Nhava in Navi Mumbai has got delayed by another six weeks. The around Rs 10,000-crore project,expected to be ready in four years after the contract is awarded,will cut the current distance between island city and Navi Mumbai by 17 km and reduce travel time by one hour. Navi Mumbai,home to Mukesh Ambani’s proposed SEZ spread over 3,500 acres,already has a population of nearly 10 lakh and around 2 million sq ft of office space and boasts of tenants like Capgemini,Hexaware Technologies,Cognisant and Accenture.

While financial bids were expected to have been submitted by May 24,2013,the project got delayed as potential bidders felt they needed more sops since,with the Navi Mumbai airport looking increasingly impossible to construct due to land acquisition delays,as much as a fifth of the traffic on the road may not materialise in the vital initial years of the project. The new deadline for financial bids is July 5.

Last year,in May,five consortia were shortlisted to bid for the project – GMR Infrastructure,Gammon Infrastructure,SREI Infrastructure,IRB Infrastructure and Tata Realty & Infrastructure.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) has been forced to modify the Request For Proposal (RFP) to ensure the project remains financially viable. “During the pre-bid meeting with the shortlisted bidders,they raised a concern that since 15-20% of the traffic to ply on the project was on account of the proposed Navi Mumbai airport and with time lines assumed on that project likely to get deferred,it may lead to a fall in traffic and the revenues in the project’s initial years itself,” said an official.

To address these concerns,MMRDA approached the government of India (GoI),which is also a partner in the project,and approved a 10% short-fall loan to the MTHL concessionaire. This will make the project “more bankable and financially more viable,” says MMRDA. This additional sop to the concessionaire would be available only in case traffic falls 20% below the estimate,in which case it can take an additional Rs 963 crore or 10% of the project cost as loan to service existing debt. In January,the central government had sanctioned Rs 1,920 crore in viability gap for the MTHL.

Mumbai’s history with infrastructure projects,of course,has been replete with delays. The Western Freeway aiming to provide connectivity between Bandra in the western suburbs and Nariman Point in south Mumbai was planned almost 10 years ago. It was only in 2009 that part of this freeway – Bandra-Worli Sea Link – was opened for traffic,after nine years of construction. The remaining two segments Worli Haji Ali Sea Link and Haji Ali to Nariman Point Sea Link are yet to see any progress. The Worli-Haji Ali Sea Link awarded to Reliance Infrastructure in 2010 never took off due to issues related to viability gap funding and the land for the casting yard,and was finally scrapped. Though that was 10 months ago,there is still no clarity on the alternative to that project. Even less is known about the fate of the Haji Ali to Nariman Point Link,with the government indicating that it may not take off at all.

A Rs 23,000-crore elevated rail corridor from Oval Maidan to Virar has also been in the planning stages for six years. It was first proposed in 2007 by the then railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav,and was formally announced in last year’s railway budget. The project is stuck at the draft state support agreement stage. The Maharashtra government is believed to have asked that the concessionaire not claim penalty from it directly in case of delays. Instead,the state government wants that the Indian Railways to bear that burden initially,which can later be reimbursed by the government.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

    Live Cricket Scores & Results