Maximum City, minimum speed

Written by Shubhra Tandon | Updated: Aug 21 2013, 15:54pm hrs
Maximum City, Mumbai, is close to having one of the worst track records in project completion amongst its peers like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi and the National Capital Region.

The fate of some of the showpiece projects, put out for bidding in the last two years after being in planning for almost three decades, is still hanging. This include the Rs 9,630-crore, 22- km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), first envisaged in the 1970s. The other big project is the Rs 20,000-crore elevated railway corridor, proposed to run along the same alignment as the current western railway network, connecting the 80-km distance between Churchgate and Virar.

Beginning from Mumbai Metro to Indias first monorail project and even key flyovers-- Eastern Freeway (which has partially opened), Sahar Elevated Road and Santacruz Chembur Link Road (SCLR)--are all running way behind schedule, and with huge cost overruns.

In contrast, the key infrastructure projects in other cities have seen a better success rate. Lack of space, higher population density and challenging climate with four months of rain leave very little scope for any fast development of infrastructure in Mumbai, unlike Hyderabad or Bangalore. No other city in India has the kind of slum population that Mumbai has, so shifting of affected families from proposed project sites also adds to the challenges for authorities and developers undertaking infrastrcuture projects in Mumbai, says Ajay Saxena, PPP expert (Maharashtra), Asian Development Bank.

For example, Hyderabads 11.6-km PV Narasimha Rao (PVNR) Elevated Expressway was opened in 2009, only a year late. The project connecting Mehdipatnam, in the heart of Hyderabad, to the new Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad on the outskirts, is however facing some issues now in the completion of entry and exit ramps to the road--of the six planned, four ramps have been completed so far.

The first eight kilometres of the 72 km-long Hyderabad Metro project is to start operations in March 2015. Among the worlds largest PPP projects in the metro sector, this project saw its cost estimates go up from Rs 12,132 crore in 2008 to Rs 16,375 crore by 2011, but is not facing any delays related to clearance or approvals.

However, the same cannot be said for the Bangalores metro rail project, also referred to as Namma Metro, which has been mired in delays. The civil construction on Phase I started in April 2007, and after missing four to five deadlines, the first line of 6.5 km finally started operations in December 2011. The second line of 10.5 km is also about 10 months delayed and is now expected to open for traffic by end-2013.

On the other hand, the Maharashtra government is still undecided on the contract model for the MTHL, as the project did not get a single bid in the tender earlier this monththe third attempt in seven years. Meanwhile, for the elevated railway corridor, with the state support agreement (SSA) not in place and lack of clarity over land required, as well as bidders concerns over viability, the railway ministry had to float a fresh request for qualification this month . A senior state official told FE that there is still no consensus on the SSA, as the Centre has not yet specified the land requirement for the project.