Mumbai coastal road project: Financial capital may become less congested; here’s how

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New Delhi | Updated: August 26, 2019 3:12:44 PM

As Manish Agarwal, partner, (infrastructure), PwC, explained, for a city like Mumbai, this is the only way to get a ring-road type structure.

Mumbai coastal road projectMumbai coastal road project: The increase in the toll over the last ten years has been marginal — from Rs 50 in 2009 to Rs 70 now for a one-way ride — and should not have worried users.

Mumbai’s 29.2-km coastal road project — from Marine Lines to Kandivali — may have hit an environmental roadblock but the debate on whether the Rs 14,000-crore project is worth it goes on. Those in favour say the gains from higher productivity — two hours of daily travel time saved — can be as high as Rs 4,000 crore. This estimate assumes a cost efficiency of about Rs 1,000 a day, an average of 1.5 persons per vehicle, and one lakh vehicles for 22 days a month for 12 months. The investment, therefore, is being recovered in less than four years. “The net savings could be close to Rs 4,000 crore annually on an investment of Rs 14,000 crore. And we are not taking into account savings on fuel, wear and tear, so this is significant,” Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, director, Crisil Infrastructure Advisory, pointed out.

There are of course the added benefits of decongestion because people can live further away from their workplaces and yet make it to office on time. As Manish Agarwal, partner, (infrastructure), PwC, explained, for a city like Mumbai, this is the only way to get a ring-road type structure.

“The objective for a city is not to reduce the number of private vehicles but to increase the share of public transport. Buses and other kinds public transport need more road capacity,” Agarwal pointed out.

To be sure, the estimated traffic for the coastal road of 1.3 lakh cars a day — increasing at an annual 2% — may be a stretch. Experts point out how traffic on the Bandra-Worli sea link today is just 35,000 cars a day, less than a third of the initial projection. Traffic has not crossed 40% at any point and has more or less stagnated, recording its first fall last year. Moreover, the project cost escalated from Rs 300 crore to Rs 1,600 crore — a 400% jump

The biggest reason for the lower-than-anticipated traffic on the sea-link is the shift of the business district to Parel in central Mumbai and Bandra East in the suburbs from Nariman Point in South Mumbai. The increase in the toll over the last ten years has been marginal — from Rs 50 in 2009 to Rs 70 now for a one-way ride — and should not have worried users.

No decision has been taken yet on the toll to be levied for the coastal road but commuters would be less concerned about the toll than theconnectivity from the coastal road through the interiors to business districts like the Bandra Kurla Complex or a Peninsula Park in Parel. The quality of the connectivity could make a difference to the traffic estimates, say experts, who point out that such factors are sometimes not taken into account, leaving traffic projections inflated.

For instance, the ridership on the first line of the Bombay Metro, operational since 2014, has never reached the initial projections of 5.13 lakh commuters by the end of 2016. The highest it has hit is just over 4 lakh in 2018; meanwhile, the project cost has nearly doubled over six years — instead of the original estimated cost of Rs 2,356 crore, the project cost for Metro jumped to Rs 4,321 crore.

MMRDA metropolitan commissioner RA Rajeev points out the Metro is not operating at full capacity of six coaches, but four. “Our projections are based on certain conditions being fulfilled. One line or two single lines can’t achieve 100% potential because forward connectivity is an issue. When all routes are ready and last-mile transport is available, more people will travel by the Metro,” he said.
The MMRDA projects a daily ridership of 8.7 lakhs for 2021 for its Phase 4 Metro line, and a ridership of 13 lakh for its Phase III line.

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