After nearly a decade of delay , the Navi Mumbai airport project has finally taken off. The civil aviation ministry has set the process of inviting tenders for the airport's construction into motion by clearing the revised tender document Cidco had prepared.
The new government moved swiftly to okay the document, and what could not be accomplished in years was done over a weekend, officials said. The plan to construct the Navi Mumbai airport was first mooted in 1998. In 2000, the project cost was pegged at Rs.5,000 crore. Today , it is Rs.14,575 crore. In early 2013, Cidco had submitted the initial draft of the tender document they had prepared for inviting bids. In March this year, they submitted the revised draft to the UPA government. Then, on Friday , they met the new civil aviation minister and resubmitted the revised draft. Cidco babus were in for a surprise when three days later, on Monday , the ministry cleared it.
The revised document has brought significant changes.For one, under the old draft, airlines could hold a maximum of only 10% stake in the private consortium that bid for the airport. Now the airline stake has been capped at 26%. Foreign airlines too can bid, after acquiring a security clearance from the government.
This would be the highest ever stake any airline will have in the country in an airport's development (at Cochin, Air India, Airports Authority of India and Bharat Petroleum Ltd together have 8.8% stake).
The bidding airline may base its hub in Navi Mumbai, thus giving flyers the option of direct flights to several destinations. The increase in supply could bring fares down.
Thus, for Mumbaikars, the new airport could spell a relief from steep airfares as the existent airport in Mumbai has long been saturated and the new airport is seen as the only solution to meet the increasing demand for more seats out of the city. In all, 74% stake will be held by the private consortium, while Cidco will retain the remaining 26%.
“But the bidder who offers Cidco the highest share in the project, that is, more than 26%, will win the contract,“ sources said, adding Cidco would like to have as much of a share as possible even though 26% is assured. The project will be the biggest Greenfield airport in the country with the capacity to handle 60 million passengers per annum.
Cidco’s share is pegged at Rs.2,375 crore in the project, while the remaining Rs.12,220 crore will be investment from the private sector that includes developers, domestic as well as foreign-based, and airlines. The maximum period for recovery of investment for private entities has been hiked from 30 years to 60.
“One of the eligibility criteria is that the private bidder (airport operator) will need to have had operated an airport for a period of three consecutive years from 2004 onwards. The airport should have handled more than 10 million passengers per year, and the operator should hold a ranking (within 100) in either the SkyTrack or Airports Council International ratings systems,” said officials.
The Centre wants Cidco and the state to speed up connectivity projects such as the transharbour link, water transport between Ferry Wharf and the airport area and Metro rail from Ghatkopar to Mankhurd and from Mankhurd to the airport.
“The bidders will have to submit their qualification bids by September 2. After this, the qualified bidders will be shortlisted and asked to compete to bag the final contract by submitting their respective proposals. The process is expected to take eight months, by which time Cidco will have to ensure total acquisition of land,“ Mantralaya sources said.
MIAL, a GVK-led joint venture, has `right of first refusal' in the tendering process. It may win the contract even if its bid is not less than 10% of the highest bidder.
As it accorded clearance to the tendering process for appointment of a developer to construct the Navi Mumbai airport, the Centre also asked the state government to expedite the projects that will offer people faster connectivity to the new airport.
Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Shipping and highways minister Nitin Gadkari were instrumental in ensuring clearance to the project bid documents overnight, considered a crucial move in setting up the airport. The move has surprised even the bureaucrats in the state, who have now swung into action. Raju also insisted that the state would now have to develop connectivity between the existing airport and the proposed airport.
Experts closely working with the state infrastructure agencies said the renewed push for the new airport would now give a boost to several Mumbai-Navi Mumbai links such as the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) over the sea to connect Sewri and Nhava, a waterway between Ferry Wharf and the airport, and the Metro rail routes, one up to Mankhurd from the existing airport either via Bandra or Ghatkopar, and another between Mankhurd and Panvel airport.“The scope of the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Metro link will have to be checked now,” an expert said. “The ongoing project to extend existing Harbour line from Seawoods up to Uran via the airport area would also get a push.” A senior official said the Centre and the state authorities wanted these projects to come up faster so that these are in place before the first phase of the airport comes up by the projected deadline of 2018. “Putting these projects into execution mode is the top priority for both the state government and the Centre now,” the official said.
In the case of the passenger water transport from Ferry Wharf to Nerul and the new airport, the contractors have been shortlisted already for construction of terminals. “It has been more than a couple of years the files are pending with the infrastructure sub-committee and awaiting clearance. There is no development in terms of appointing contractors for operating catamarans and hovercraft. Now it is time to look at the proposal seriously,” a source said.
A Metro corridor from Andheri to Bandra via the existing airport will come up as part of the Colaba-Seepz Metro, but the Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd portion is yet to get clearances.“Other than speeding up the Bandra-Mankhurd section, MMRDA can extend the existing Metro from Ghatkopar to Mankhurd. Beyond Mankhurd, Cidco has to take the Metro up to the airport. Both the projects will have to be put into the execution mode now,” a source said.
The state government has eight months to get the core area for the proposed airport ready so that construction can start after a developer is selected. The Centre on Monday gave the nod for the process to select the developer in the next eight months. Cidco has now acquire 200 hectares of the core area. “We have received the consent of 40 land-owning project-affected persons out of the total 350,“ a source in the state government said. “We expect more by August 15 as PAPs have been offered the highest-ever compensation package in the country so far.“After acquiring land, Cidco will have to start work to level the ground by demolishing the hillocks and by shifting the mangroves.