Mumbai moves: First stretches of Metro, Monorail start this year

NAT

False starts

State planners had foreseen the city's transport predicaments decades ago and recommended several of these projects. What held them up were risk factors surrounding the big-ticket projects, disinterest among bidders, and politics.

The MTHL was conceived more than three decades ago, but it was only in 2005 that the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) invited bids. The bids submitted then by the Ambani brothers were considered unrealistic. Bids were re-invited in 2008 and 13 companies showed an interest, yet none submitted a bid. In 2011, the government handed the project to the MMRDA, which is now executing it through a public-private partnership.

The water transport system was proposed about a decade ago, but this too went through three failed rounds of tendering. This time, the MSRDC has finalised contracts in packages. Construction of terminals is due to start this year.

"All these projects were recommended many years ago. It is a colossal failure that these were not implemented earlier," said Ashok Datar, a transport expert in the city. "We wasted time on the wrong projects such as the Bandra Worli Sea Link, which was built at a very high cost but services very few people, when the simple projects should have got focus. It all comes down to lack of political will, nothing else."

Stalemate

The Worli-Haji Ali sea link, part of the proposed Western Freeway, and the Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd elevated Metro corridor have reached a stalemate due to reasons such as tiffs between the government agency and the concessionaire Reliance Infrastructure in both cases or even lack of clarity within the government.

The Western Freeway, along with the Eastern Freeway under construction, would have created a ring route around Mumbai. The idea was conceived more than 30 years ago. The MSRDC decided to make a corridor of sea links from Nariman Point to Versova, of which the Bandra-Worli sea link was one. In 2010, the agency awarded the contract for the construction of the next arm, the Worli-Haji Ali sea link, to Reliance Infrastructure.

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