The numbers tell the story of the Bandra-Worli Sealink: 2,983 days, 2.57 crore man hours, 3,000 men from 11 countries, a bill of Rs 852 crore, innumerable delays and controversies. And don’t forget the 46 years it took to go from idea to reality.
The story begins in 1963, when US-based planning firm Wilbur Smith, in a report titled Planning of Road System for Mumbai Metropolitan Region recommended a road through the sea from Versova to Nariman Point.
But that report met the same fate as countless other forward-looking documents do — it was kept in cold storage due to the high cost projection.
It was only in the late ’90s that it was discovered by the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
The alliance’s plan to build 55 flyoves and the Mumbai-Pune Expessway went smoothly, but the construction of the Bandra-Worli Sealink was announced only by the newly sworn-in Congess-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government on October 1, 2000.
The Ajit Gulabchan-helmed Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) bagged the contract for Rs 400 crore, but by this time the litany of woes that have beset the sealink had begun.
The site was handed over to HCC only in May 2001, by which time environmentalists and fishermen had moved court against the project.
The sealink’s basic design was changed and the Worli end was pushed 150 mt into the sea, away from a fishing village. The main Bandra cable-stayed part was changed from a single-towered, eight-lane bridge to double-towered, with two four-lane bridges.
With 80 per cent of the design changed, the cost escalated to Rs 815 crore.
The government, however, rejected the new price and the haggling delayed construction till July 2004.
Even after work began, construction was stopped at various times due to differences between the government and HCC, who claimed that the government was not supplying enough money.
It was only this month that the 5.6-km bridge was finally completed.
The sealink is a state-of-the-art alternative to the Mahim Causeway, a 1930s colonial-era bridge that is today the main link between Mumbai’s sprawling, prosperous western suburbs and its southern business heart.
Motorists had to endure a 40-minute drive and 23 signals to reach Worli from Bandra. The sealink will provide a smooth 15-minute zip and is expected to carry 90,000 of the 1.3 lakh vehicles that travel from the suburbs to South Mumbai.