Wednesday 26th September 2018

    Mumbai getting its much-needed makeover.

    The ongoing Rs 2 lakh crore infrastructure build-out in Mumbai, will improve connectivity within the city for the next 20-30 years. It will also improve productivity and if the projects are executed aesthetically, will further raise Mumbai's profile as a tourist destination, what with a huge programme already ongoing to develop the eastern seafront to attract the largest cruise liners in the world. While the bulk of the expenditure of Rs 82,000 crore, has been earmarked for metro projects, there are some showcase projects such as a 22-km long Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) costing Rs 17,750 crore, connecting the mainland to Navi Mumbai. Read On ..

    While the bulk of the expenditure of Rs 82,000 crore, has been earmarked for metro projects, there are some showcase projects such as a 22-km long Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) costing Rs 17,750 crore, connecting the mainland to Navi Mumbai. Then, there is an ambitious Rs 15,000 crore plan to reclaim land all along Mumbai’s coastline to construct a 30-km long coastal road running from its southern tip till the suburbs in the north. A plan has been mooted for another cable-stayed bridge, estimated at Rs 7,500 crore, to connect Bandra with Versova, similar to the Bandra-Worli sea link. An eight-lane, super communication expressway, the first of its kind in India, estimated at Rs 46,000 crore, proposes to connect Mumbai with Nagpur.

    There has been little or no addition to the city's existing road network of 2000-km for over a decade while the population, over this time period, has grown at half a million every year, and is currently estimated at over 21 million. The number of vehicles, too, have increased at about 3-4% annually, and there are an estimated 30 lakh vehicles today, with 3000 more being added on a daily basis, according to data from the motor vehicles department. Now, after an expenditure of about Rs 5 cr each on three different concept plans for Mumbai, by various consultants over the years, Mumbai is getting its much-needed makeover.

    The blueprint, though, that is being followed, is currently driven out of the Maharashtra Chief Minister's office, monitored closely by the aptly titled “war room”, given the war footing on which it has taken up about 30 different projects across the state, including the mega urban transport projects within Mumbai.

    The first thing that the war room addressed when it was set up was what it believed to be the core issue of the city – that of public transport infrastructure. Projects that were doable and were either on the drawing board or stuck, were revived. The rest were scrapped. The focus was on execution for both road and rail.

    With a group of 12 people and operational since May 2015, the war room has got things moving with 170 km of metro lines tendered and work already having commenced on three lines. In comparison, it took about a decade for the existing metro line (between Versova and Ghatkopar) to come up and even then, it is still surrounded in litigation. Kaustubh Dhavse, joint secretary and officer on special duty to the Chief Minister, who also heads the war room, said, "The idea now is to incorporate best practices from around the world, such as from cities like Melbourne and London, while retaining the rich cultural fabric and heritage of Mumbai."

    With the upcoming metro projects, the city authorities expect a de-congestion of the city's roads, with reduced traffic on the Metro Line III corridor alone by about 35%, or by 4.5 lakh vehicles. The present travel time from Cuffe Parade in south Mumbai to the international airport at Andheri is estimated to come down to just under an hour from an hour and forty minutes.

    Vinayak Chatterjee, an infrastructure consultant and chairman, Feedback Infra, points out cities have to gear up with a burst of infrastructure because of the huge migration from rural to urban India. Indeed, among all states in India, Maharashtra has taken the lead with respect to raising finance from multilateral agencies to fund such infra projects. A number of the projects, though, have attracted criticism over their viability. However, Chatterjee pointed out, "The issue of viability, is, in some sense, an artificial construct, because a major part of developmental activity is based on infrastructure development. It has, what is called in pure economics, huge “externalities”. These “externalities” make many other things viable including economic development. It is difficult to quantify but in the context of Mumbai and India, to build roads, bridges, improve connectivity, I don’t think we should get too hung up on viability." While user charges and fees should be collected wherever possible, many such projects need not be viable but that does not mean that the state should not spend, he said. “After all, taxes are being collected for this sort of development,” he added.

    Abhaya Agarwal, Partner & PPP Leader, EY India, believes that while the tax to GDP ratio must improve, he says that tolling in urban areas is not the answer as it leads to congestion. He adds that large infrastructure projects add significantly to the GDP, the typical multiplier being 2.5 to three times for developing countries like India. "When an urban area or congested city becomes de-congested, of course, it is much higher," he said.

    No wonder, for businessmen, the big road projects are a welcome relief. Areef Patel, vice chairman, Patel Integrated Logistics, says he would like the government to build the sea link not just till Versova, but well beyond, right up to Marve, in the western suburb of Malad. Patel, whose company owns a fleet of trucks, is also upbeat about the Nagpur-Mumbai expressway. He expects his company will be able to run at least another shift daily, due to the improved speeds. "Today, Mumbai to Nagpur takes at least about 45 hours or more. I expect this to improve by about five-eight hours," Patel said.

    Kshitish Nadgauda, senior vice president and managing director, Asia, at Louis Berger, believes the projects, once completed, will be similar to New York City’s easy flow of traffic, facilitated by expressways on either side of Manhattan, coupled with a good public transportation system. He said, "This will restore the glory of the urban districts of Mumbai, and improve the quality of life for its citizens. Typically, cities opt for a ring-road arrangement to carry vehicular traffic around the city with various radial cross roads providing connectivity to the downtown areas. The proposed Mumbai coastal road and Bandra-Versova sea link (BVSL) would form a similar high-capacity road network around Mumbai, the only difference being the unique geometry of Mumbai forces us to build part of this ring-road system out at sea."


    - TradeBriefs Bureau

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