Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link a step away from becoming reality

Union finance ministry panel okays viability gap funding for showpiece project.

Barely two months after an empowered institution of the union finance ministry recommended central funding for the much-delayed Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL), it also approved Wednesday viability gap funding, paving the way for the showpiece project.

The only step that remains now for implementing agency MMRDA to call bids for the 22-km Sewri-Nhava link is a nod from the finance minister himself.

"The empowered committee approved viability gap funding for MTHL retaining terms and conditions of the concession agreement decided at the October meeting. We hope to issue request for proposal documents by the end of this month after approval from the finance minister," said Rahul Asthana, metropolitan commissioner at MMRDA.

MMRDA shortlisted five consortia for the project earlier this year. These are likely to get four months to prepare and submit designs and bids. The consortium selected will get another six months for financial closure and construction of the longest sea link in the country across Mumbai harbour is expected to start by the end of next year.

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 project would be implemented as a public-private partnership having an internal rate of return of 15 per cent. The concession agreement will be for 35 years and will have a termination clause that will come into effect after the 30th year. MMRDA can invoke the clause if the capacity is higher than expected. Conditions will be reviewed in the 28th year of the concession period.

The finance ministry was earlier unwilling to grant funding as per the original terms of the concession agreement proposed by MMRDA.

They eventually reached common ground, with the ministry agreeing to treat the project as a bridge instead of a road contract.

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