The Mumbai Monorail is facing a new crisis as the current contractor — the consortium of L&T and Scomi Engineering (LTSE) — has terminated the contract. The monorail is already mired in controversy after its services were stopped following a fire that gutted two of its coaches on November 9, 2017. This is likely to further delay the operations of the monorail.
“LTSE has reached an understanding that its contract with the MMRDA is over. They have written to us stating it. But we are contesting it and asking them to continue. Their contract with us is not over until the commissioning of Phase II,” said Sanjay Khandare, additional metropolitan commissioner, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).
With this, the monorail will have no contractor to operate and maintain the corridor. While the services have been shut for several months, the MMRDA proposes to begin operations of both the phases after getting a nod from the state government.
The MMRDA’s contract with LTSE had expired in February 2017, however, it was extended as they were expected to begin operations for the Phase II of the monorail. MMRDA had invited fresh tenders, in which, IL&FS Rail emerged as the lowest bidder by quoting Rs 1,340 crore for 10 years, which was 34 per cent higher than the estimated cost.
MMRDA is yet to decide if it will appoint IL&FS Rail to operate the monorail. Meanwhile, the MMRDA has also approached Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) to take over the operations. However, no formal discussions have begun in this regard.
The MMRDA had earlier mandated that LTSE should remain for at least six months after appointment of new contractors, to allow a smooth take over. “We are trying to convince them to stay. If they leave, we will have to take over from them directly and look for new operators. We will also have to see how we should cost it to them. We have their bank guarantee of Rs 264 crore of which Rs 62 crore has already been forfeited,” Khandare added.
Apart from the operations and maintenance, the contractors were also to provide spares and remaining rakes for the corridor. With it backing out, the MMRDA will have to procure them directly. “The rakes and their parts can be procured from the market. We have been asking LTSE to provide us these parts, but they have not done the same,” said a senior MMRDA official.
The MMRDA currently has only seven rakes to run its operations. According to MMRDA officials, they require at least eight rakes to run trains at a 15-minute interval. The contractor has also asked some of its staffers to not report to work. “Some of the staff have been asked to leave but the core group will remain,” said Khandare.
The completion of the monorail corridor has been severely delayed. While the Chembur to Wadala corridor was originally expected to begin operations by September 2010, it was opened to public only in February 2014. The Wadala to Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk corridor, which was to begin operations by March 2011, is yet to be opened to the public.