Work on Mumbai Metro's second corridor to start in January 2009

The Maharsahtra state government has finally set December 2008 as the deadline to issue work orders for the second corridor of the Mumbai Metro project. It was irked with the authorities over procedural delays and a seemingly endless debate over an appropriate model to build the corridor.Chief secretary Johny Joseph has asked nodal agency Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to ensure that the bids are finalised by October-end and work begins January 2009, “at any cost”, a senior official said.MMRDA has opened the technical bids for the corridor and consortia led by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries (RIL) and Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure have submitted their offers, among others. “The chief secretary has asked MMRDA to abide by this deadline so that there is some visible progress on the much-delayed project. We cannot afford more delays on the pretext of changes in design or selection of a proper model or funding,” the official said.A major reason the state wants MMRDA to get cracking on the project is that the Congress-NCP government faces an election next year, sources said. The official pointed out that frequent delays at all stages of the first and second corridor of the Metro project could push the entire project way behind its original schedule. The project may comprise nine corridors in three phases. The first phase, spanning three routes, has a deadline of 2012. A consortium led by Anil Ambani’s REL Infra is building the first corridor between Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar at Rs 2,356 crore. “The first corridor itself has been witnessing frequent delays at all stages. It has to get commissioned by 2009-end, which looks unlikely,” said an MMRDA official, on condition of anonymity. The entire project is supposed to be completed by 2022.The 38 km-long Colaba-Bandra-Charkop corridor, estimated to cost Rs 12,000 crore, was the longest single corridor in the Rs 21,956-crore Mumbai Metro project when the first master plan came out. In the original master plan prepared by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), this was the second corridor of first phase of the Mumbai Metro, and was linked to the 13.57-km third route between Bandra-Kurla-Mankhurd pegged at Rs 6,000 crore. But the MMRDA has carried out several changes in the alignment and design of these two corridors since then. In addition, there has been a prolonged debate over choosing an appropriate model for the two costliest corridors. Earlier, the MMRDA preferred a public-private partnership (PPP) model like the special purpose vehicle (SPV) between REL Infra and MMRDA for the first corridor. The huge cost involved has reduced the possibility of viability gap funding (VGF) from the Centre since the urban development ministry has put a cap of 20% of a project cost as maximum VGF. This possibility prompted MMRDA to propose a DMRC-like model and float an entity called Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to execute the second corridor earlier this year. But in a show of endless flip-flops, the MMRDA declared again in July that it had not discarded the PPP model for the second corridor.

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