Eight years after it was thrown open, the daily average traffic on the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link — or the Bandra Worli Sea Link — is smaller than a third of the original estimate. Data from MEP Infrastructure Developers — the toll collecting entity — shows an average of 37,336 vehicles use the sea link every day, way below the projection of 1,20,000 vehicles.
That has resulted in smaller than anticipated revenues; in the ten months to January 2017, MEP Infra collected just 84.73 crore whereas it should have mopped up close to Rs 260 crore.
In fact, the increase in revenues over the years — Rs 66.62 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 70.28 crore in 2011-12 and to Rs 71.04 crore 2012-13 — has been fairly small.
Nevertheless, in 2014-15, MEP Infra was able to eke out a small profit for itself of Rs 9 crore after paying MSRDC an amount of Rs 69.5 crore. In 2015-16, the profit went up to R14 crore after a payment to MSRDC of Rs 76 crore.
In 2016-17, MEP needs to pay Rs 82.8 crore and till January 2017, the company had collected Rs 84 crore.
Admitting that the traffic growth has been below estimates, Jayant Mhaiskar, V-C & MD, MEP Infrastructure Developers said: “I believe a 6.5% growth in traffic year-on-year is a realistic estimate but it also all depends on the mix of vehicles.” Transport expert Ashok Datar felt the rise in toll rates in April 2012 may have kept the traffic on the sea link subdued. The state government had hiked the toll rates for passenger vehicles from Rs 55 for a single trip to Rs 60. Monthly passes for passenger cars were also hiked to Rs 3,000 from Rs 2,750, an increase of Ra 250.
However, a bigger factor for the slower traffic could have been the creation of new flyovers — from central Mumbai towards the southern parts of the city.
Abhaya Agarwal, Partner, Infrastructure and PPP, Ernst & Young points out the lack of complementary infrastructure and poorly planned approaches at both ends could be another reason for traffic not having lived up to expectations. “Users possibly do not see enough benefits. If one is spending too much time at the interchange points, getting on and off the sea link that has to be the biggest reason for the traffic not being as heavy as it should,” Agarwal said.
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The sea link project was executed at a cost of R1,634 crore by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) which awarded the project to Hindustan Construction Company (HCC).
However, MSRDC is yet to receive about Rs 400 crore from the state government for the project which it, in turn, owes HCC.
In 2010-11, an average of 28,869 vehicles used the sea link every day and this increased to 30,220 vehicles in 2011-12. In 2012-13, average daily traffic fell to 28,018 vehicles before rising again for the next four years. Over the last four years, average daily traffic has grown from 28,513 vehicles to 37,336 vehicles.
Meanwhile, MSRDC has floated tenders inviting bids for operation and maintenance of the sea link as the term of the current operator, MEP Infrastructure ended last month.
The sea link is to be tolled for a total period of 40 years.
As per the state government’s toll notification for the project, the toll tariff was revised once in 2012 and again in 2015.
The toll rates are revised every three years as per a pre-decided schedule. The rates that last came into effect will be in place till March 31, 2018.