Traffic on Mumbai's Bandra-Worli sea link fell 13% in 2017-18, the first fall in five years, with the average daily number of vehicles that used the road at 32,312.
Traffic on Mumbai’s Bandra-Worli sea link fell 13% in 2017-18, the first fall in five years, with the average daily number of vehicles that used the road at 32,312. This is just a third of the original estimate of 1,00,000 vehicles daily and could leave revenues for the year stagnant. Toll revenues for the nine months to December 2018 came in at Rs 85 crore compared with Rs 112 crore in 2016-17, data from MEP Infrastructure shows. The one-way charge for passenger vehicles was raised to Rs 70 from Rs 60 on April 1, 2018. For the return journey the charge is now Rs 105 up from Rs 90 earlier.
Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) had built the sea-link at a cost of Rs 1,702 crore but since 2009, when the sea link was opened up, it has recovered less than Rs 600 crore as its share of the toll. MSRDC pays about Rs 204 crore annually as interest payments.
While several reasons have been put forward for the slow rise in traffic, the creation of alternative avenues across Mumbai — from central Mumbai towards the southern parts of the city — is believed to be a key factor. These roads have diverted traffic away from the sea link. Apart from the Santa Cruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) and the Eastern Freeway, two big flyovers — Lalbaug flyover and the Kings Circle flyover — have also been built. This has caused a change in traffic patterns.
Vishwas Udgirkar, partner, Deloitte, says predicting traffic on urban roads is particularly challenging because unlike in the case of highway projects there are no stipulations relating to additional capacities or alternate and competing routes. “Moreover, the increasing efficiency in the public transport would have caused people to shift from roads to the urban railway network,” Udgirkar said.
With Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) now more of a central business district rather than Nariman Point, and several large office complexes having sprung up in Worli and Lower Parel in central Mumbai, fewer people are traveling beyond Bandra compared with a decade ago.
The decline in traffic volumes on the sea link comes at a time when Mumbai is in the midst of a huge infrastructure upgrade of its roads and public transportation systems; roads, sea-links and metro projects entailing investments of close to Rs 2 lakh crore are in the works. As such, transport experts say the toll should be charged at reasonable levels, as Ashok Datar, chairman and trustee, Mumbai Environmental and Social Network (MESN), has pointed out. “The increase in toll rates in April 2012 may have kept the traffic on the sea link subdued,” Datar observed.
In the initial years, the lack of complementary infrastructure and poorly planned approaches at both ends of the sea link was cited as a reason for traffic not having lived up to expectations. “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,” Abhaya Agarwal, partner, Infrastructure and PPP leader, EY India, pointed out.