Thursday, August 31, 2006

Doubts raised on Mumbai Transharbour link

The bid document with the final plan for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) has been released today and there are already issues in this US$1 billion project. (My first post on this freeway is here, with another follow-up here)

Today's HT carries this article citing various traffic experts who've pointed out flaws.

“The bridge isn’t wide enough to cope with the traffic needs,” said IIT professor S.L. Dhingra, who has been associated with several infrastructure projects in Mumbai.

Note that the earlier plan for the MTHL also had a rail component. In fact, the MSRDC's webpage on the project also states that the rail component will be added in Phase 2 of the project in 2015. However, the HT article states that this could be pushed away further.

“The project will be incomplete without rail connectivity,” said independent traffic specialist Arun Mokashe who’s worked on several infrastructure projects. “To provide better connectivity to Greater Mumbai, the railway component is a must.” Another senior traffic consultant and former top MSRDC official said the plan “totally lacked foresight”.

“In 1983, no one knew that a Special Economic Zone and an airport would come up in Panvel. So there is a serious need to rework the original blueprint,” he said.

It does appear that the Government, in a hurry to make a big bang announcement on yet another large project, has completely missed out on the larger picture. As the experts in the article above have pointed out, Mumbai and Navi Mumbai will be completely different cities when the MTHL finally gets constructed, thanks to the proposed SEZ and new international airport. Both projects can only raise the traffic numbers for the MTHL. Hence, any blueprint has to keep this in mind rather than base work on 30 or 40 year old transport studies.

If these issues (i.e. more lanes, an organised dispersal and the rail component) are not integrated within the project at the start, it could well be another case of short-sighted planning that leads to problems in the longer term. Case in point - the Bandra Worli Sealink, which will be completed before the Worli-Nariman Point link is built, and could hence result in traffic building up on Haji Ali (for more on this also read our interview with architect, Chandrashekhar Prabhu).

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