Maharashtra to build Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, Ambanis out (Lead)

June 25th, 2008 - 11:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, June 25 (IANS) The Maharashtra government Wednesday decided to engage a state-run agency to construct the proposed Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL), envisioned as one of the world’s longest sea bridges, rather than choose one of the two remaining bidders - Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani. The decision came at a meeting of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Infrastructure, presided over by Chief Minister Vilasrado Deshmukh.

Confirming the development, Public Works Department Minister Anil Deshmukh told IANS that the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) will construct the 22-km bridge, which will link Sewri on the Mumbai island with Nhava on the mainland across the Arabian Sea.

Deshmukh said the earlier tender process for MTHL has been cancelled, as the bids of the Ambani brothers were “unrealistic”.

“Both the bids were found to be unrealistic, and hence it was decided to cancel the tender process. Now, within a fortnight, MSRDC will come up with its proposal for the project and then work will be taken up by year-end,” Deshmukh said.

MSRDC will jointly execute the project with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and is expected to complete it within five years, he added.

The prestigious project was originally estimated to cost Rs.600 billion, but is now expected to cost around Rs.750 billion, according to an official.

The squabble between the Ambanis led to a delay in initiating the project, which was envisioned nearly three decades ago.

When constructed, the 22-km cable-stayed MTHL will rank among the world’s top sea bridges, next to the 36-km Hangzhou Bay Bridge of China and the 26-km long King Fahd Causeway in Saudi Arabia.

When the global tender for the project was floated by the MSRDC, six domestic and international consortiums responded by filing pre-qualification bids.

Apart from the Ambani brothers, the others were Dywidag-Shapoorji Pallonji Co. Ltd, Affcons, China Harbour Engineering Co, Larsen & Toubro-Sistema-Russia-Gammon and IFFCO-MAIDA-Japan-Italian-Thai Development Corporation-SKANSA.

Of them, only the L&T-led consortium and the Ambani brothers had finally pre-qualified for the project.

While the L&T-led consortium fell out in the next stage, there was a legal battle following which the Ambani brothers’ bids were evaluated this year.

The Anil Ambani group sought toll collections for a period of nine years and 11 months, while the Mukesh Ambani group asked the same for 75 years. The state government found both these bids “unreasonable”.

Once completed, the MTHL will help decongest Mumbai, which now has a population of nearly 15 million. The design would comprise the main bridge across the harbour with approaches on both sides, a 15-km dispersal system in Mumbai and a 35-km dispersal facility on the mainland.

It would be an intelligent superhighway with a 4×4 road bridge and a corridor railway bridge equipped with sophisticated systems, multi-storey parking lots, shuttle bus services and other facilities.

It will also prove to be a boon to a slew of economic activities coming up in the satellite township of Navi Mumbai and neighbouring Raigad district, including Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport.

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