FM clears roadblock, bids to follow

Paving the way for invitating bids for constructtion of the showpiece Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL), the union finance minister Friday cleared bid documents and gave final approval for the viability gap funding (VGF) for the Sewri-Nhava link.

The FM's nod was the last regulatory step awaited. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) will now proceed with inviting technical and financial bids in a few days.

The five consortias shortlisted by the MMRDA, in May last year, will now have about four months to prepare and submit their bids.

"Once the consortia submit their bids by April-end, we will take about a month to evaluate the bids and award a contract. The idea is to start construction by year-end," said Ashwini Bhide, Additional Metropolitan Commissioner at the MMRDA.

As approved by the finance minister, the central government will bear 20 per cent of the project cost by granting viability gap funding of Rs 1,920 crore. MTHL will be built at an approximate cost of Rs 9,630 crore. The MMRDA also plans to ensure that the MTHL is used for public transport as well.

The project would be implemented as a public-private partnership, having an internal rate of return of 15 per cent. The concession period would be 35 years, which includes a time-frame of five years for the construction. The MMRDA expects the much-delayed 22-km link to be completed by 2018.

"The time taken for construction has been built into the concession period so that it would be in the interest of the concessionaire to expedite construction. We also reserve the right to have another bridge provided it is not within a kilometre of the present alignment to ensure that if the MTHL reaches a saturation we can read the signs in advance and try to expand capacity," said Rahul Asthana, metropolitan commissioner.

The MMRDA is also in talks with certain lenders to explore the possibility of providing the option of soft loans to the bidders with a view that the viability gap funding component, which is not more than 40 percent of the project cost, can come down.

The MTHL, touted to have the longest sea link in the country, will be 27 metres wide with three lanes on either side besides an edge strip and a crash barrier. The crucial connector between Navi Mumbai and the island city is likely to carry 62,000 vehicles in 2019 with an estimated annual growth of about 5 per cent.

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