The much-delayed Santacruz Chembur Link Road (SCLR),which is expected to be ready next year with the last major hurdle of Central Railway (CR) clearances,is set to cost the taxpayers dearly. The showpiece project has seen a three-fold rise in cost and a time overrun of almost four years.
The project cost has been revised several times since construction commenced almost nine years ago. It is finally estimated to cost Rs 435 crore compared with the original estimate of Rs 115 crore,a jump of 278 per cent. The 6.45-km road,which will enhance the east-west connectivity in the city,is being constructed as part of the World Bank-funded Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) and was scheduled to be completed in 2008.
The delay has driven up the cost but there have also been plenty of design changes that have led to cost escalations. For instance,the CR had recommended changing the material of the bridge over railway tracks to steel from concrete girders and that had a heavy impact on the cost, said Dilip Kawathkar,spokesperson of MMRDA,the nodal agency for the project. The MSRDC is the implementing agency.
This is the last time we are revising the project cost. We have spoken to both the contractors about it and they have agreed. We have asked them to complete construction before May 31,2013, Kawathkar said.
The MMRDA had been waiting for CR approvals to take the SCLR over the tracks on the main line and harbour line at Kurla for more than five years,and had to change the design of the bridges four times. The CR recently gave its approval for the construction methodology and launching scheme for one bridge,while approval for the launching scheme for the second bridge is expected shortly sorting out the last remaining hurdle for the project.
There is no accountability and coordination among the government agencies involved. We had met the railway chief engineer in charge of the project around four years ago and were told that he had 200 proposals like the SCLR to examine because of his wide jurisdiction. He said he couldnt make an exception for the SCLR and speed up clearances, said Jitendra Gupta of the Citizens Transport Committee,which has been following the project since its inception.
Gupta said the pace of construction was very slow due to delays in releasing payments to contractors. The SCLR,which will boast of Mumbais first double-deck bridge,was delayed due to various hurdles related to land acquisition,rehabilitation of nearly 3,500 project-affected people and approvals from the CR.
The World Bank had also blamed the delay on lack of clarity of roles of MMRDA and MSRDC,delay in design approvals and the lack of coordination with railways. The project had also suffered as one of the two contractors stopped work for several months last year asking for a hike in contract price.