November 4, 2011 12:17:57 am
Preparing to kickstart the first stage of bidding for the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) early in December,the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has nearly finalised the Request for Qualification document,the first stage in the two-stage tendering process.
The MMRDA is also simultaneously working on various financial models to minimise the cost of the project to ensure that it is able to avail Viability Gap Funding from the Union government. Sources said a no-frills design would be among the top solutions considered to keep costs low.
Metropolitan Commissioner Rahul Asthana confirmed that the RFQ is almost ready and the advertisements would be published as soon as the state government obtains an in-principle approval from the Centre. He,however,added that while it is true that the MMRDA is looking at various designs to reduce the total cost of the project,this would not be at the expense of construction quality. There is no question of compromising on quality, Asthana said.
Asked if the consultants are working on a signature design for the 22-km bridge that will link Sewri in the island city to Nhava in the vast outback of Navi Mumbai across the harbour,the Metropolitan Commissioner said,A bridge is a bridge. If a cable-stayed portion is required we will definitely include it. He reiterated that the agency is looking to keep costs low,but not at the expense of structural stability.
The VGF cannot be more than 40 per cent of the total cost, he said,explaining that the Government of India norms on PPP projects are amply clear that the MMRDA – which will pay half the VGF – cannot offer to pay more than 20 per cent of the total cost. He added that the bids would be structured in a manner that costs are kept low including,for example,keeping the construction of interchanges out of the bids.
The MMRDA is trying to optimise the cost of construction without compromising on the quality,safety and security of the bridge. The agency is also trying to undertake a realistic traffic assessment while planning for good network connectivity, said Ajay Saxena,a Public-Private Partnership expert from Asian Development Bank who is working with the MMRDA on the MTHL project and bidding procedure. Various structures are being considered to make the project financially viable,Saxena added.
While the World Bank has shown interest in participating in the project,sources said the Banks funds could be used to provide soft loans to the consortium that is awarded the contract. While the cash-rich MMRDA can provide these loans itself,it expects to cash in on some improved cost benefits by passing on cheaper loans from the Bank to the concessionaire at rates that are lower than market rates but higher than the Banks rates.
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