Monday, May 01, 2006

Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (a.k.a. the missing link)

Two road projects promise to change the face of the city. The first is the Western Freeway Sealink linking up Bandra-Worli-Nariman Point and the second is the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL). However, unlike the BWSL, where progress is already visible across the Bandra Reclamation skyline, the MTHL is still pretty much on paper.

A cursory reading of the MSRDC’s web page on this, reveals the following

1970 - The idea was originally mooted as the “Mumbai-Uran Communication link”. The first committee appointed to look into this reported in 1972, and the second committee in 1980

1981 – A “steering committee” under Mr. J. R. D. Tata recommended priority of this project to the Govt, and appointed multi-national consultants for a feasibility study. Interestingly enough, it seems, the Govt will also name the bridge after JRD Tata.

1983 - Feasibility report by the consultants prepared

1996 - The project finally gets State Govt approval. MMRDA appoints consultants to update the earlier feasibility study.

2003 - MMRDA asks consultants to update their study to 2004 levels.

2004 – MMRDA floats global tenders

2005 – MMRDA opens a “request-for-quotations” (RFQ) and qualifies three groups of companies.

Phase 1 – Six-lane dual carriage-way linking Sewri to JNPT

Phase 2 – (From 2015 onwards) A double track rail link (Vashi-Kurla) to run parallel to the road link.

Cost – Rs4,000crores for Phase 1 and Rs6,000crores for Phase 2. Total cost – Rs10,000 crores (To put things in perspective, the total Bandra-Worli-Nariman Point Sealink is estimated to cost Rs4,800 crores, which is comparable to Phase I of the MTHL)

Length of the bridge – 22.5km (as against 21kms for the the B-W-NP-SL).

Time for completion – Four years

Current status
MSRDC informs us that environmental clearances (from Ministry of Environmental and Forests) and no-objection certificate from the Archaeological Survey of India have been received. A consortium of international consultants have also been appointed. Three groups of companies have been “pre-qualified” for the Build-Own-Transfer (BOT) operator status. These consortia are

(1) IIMC (consisting of IFFCO India, ITD Thailand, MAEDA Japan and Skanska link)

(2) L&T-Gammon-Sistema

(3) IL&FS – Sea King Infrastructure – John Laing Laing O’Rourke

And finally...
Doubts are already being expressed about the Govt’s capability to fund this project. This article quotes the MSRDC Chairman stating that MSRDC is awaiting the Maharashtra State’s “co-operation”, after which it will invite financial bids from the shortlisted bidders.

Just like the Mumbai metro, this grand project is still on paper, despite work reaching as far as the bidding level. Just like the Mumbai metro, the project's idea is more than 30 years old. And just like the Mumbai Metro, the city needs this link as well.

But my optimism takes the better of me again. The Mumbai Metro recently received a big boost with the Central Govt. saying that it will take care of the viability gap.

Clearly, it is time for both the State and Central Govt to do something about the MTHL. Otherwise, it will remain where it is - a missing link.

PS - For those interested in the flamingoes on Sewri coast, note this ardent group of flamingo-lovers demanding a re-alignment of the proposed MTHL bridge and declaration of the bay as a Bird Sanctuary.