With indications that work on the proposed Worli- Haji Ali Sea Link (WHSL) may have hit a roadblock, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) may choose alternate means to get the project off the ground. These options include floating tenders to grant upfront toll collection rights for the Bandra Worli Sea Link (BWSL) and using that money to extend the sea link from Worli to Haji Ali on cash contract basis by jettisoning the project in its present form.
Sources said a formal decision in this regard is expected after the report of the mediator, Justice (Retired) BP Singh, is tabled before the MSRDC’s board soon.
The Rs4,550crore project sought to extend the sea link from Worli to Haji Ali as part of the Western Freeway project to ease traffic flow to South Mumbai from the suburbs. The Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) and Hyundai consortium was selected to execute the project in February 2009 and the work order was awarded the next year. The project envisaged construction of a 3.4km main bridge with 2.6km-long connectors. The BWSL toll collection was also to be handled by RInfra for the next 40 years.
But, differences cropped up over issues like the grant of Rs1,392 crore viability gap funding (VGF), inking the state support agreement, vacating the mortgage on the BWSL and non- availability of the casting yard (used for the BWSL earlier) at the Bandra end. When RInfra failed to start work on the project in the stipulated time, MSRDC eventually slapped penalties on it, which in turn was contested by RInfra, and a mediator appointed.
A senior MSRDC official said that they could call for tenders for granting the toll rights of the BWSL and use that money for building the new sea link on a cash-contract basis. The MSRDC could also call for tenders for conducting work on the WHSL project again through the build operate transfer (BOT) route.
“However, the same issues may crop up once more in case we try the BOT route,” he pointed out. “The way forward will be decided in the board meeting,” the official said.
Another MSRDC source said it would be prudent for both sides to work towards an “honourable exit” to call off the project, which had turned out to be a non-starter and begin the process afresh. While the state was mulling over the coastal road option, it was still at the nascent stage and hence, the construction of the sea link was more viable in the present circumstances, the source added.
When contacted, minister for public works (public undertakings) Jaydutt Kshirsagar refused to comment on the matter unless the MSRDC board took a decision in this regard. He, however, indicated that a few options were being considered for getting the project off the ground. “The contract is in existence and so, unless there is no decision… it will not be correct to say anything on it,” said Kshirsagar.
RInfra too declined comment.