The Surface Transport Ministry at the Centre that lays down road transport policies has promised monetary support for the 22 km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) but wants state agencies to come together to implement the ambitious project.
At a meeting at the state secretariat on Monday, surface transport secretary Brahm Dutt asked the state government to review the business model of the Rs 7,600 crore project. The ministry wants public agencies like the MMRDA, MSRDC and even the City and Industrial Development Corporation to pool resources and form a special purpose vehicle to implement the project instead of seeking private partnership.
Chief Secretary J.P. Dange, who presided over the meeting, however said, “The final decision on how to implement the project rests with the state. The Centre has agreed to provide monetary support.”
The state had sought 30 per cent viability gap funding (VGF) – a grant to make the project commercially viable – from the Centre. The state this year decided to execute the project on a Public-Private-Partnership basis. MMRDA and MSRDC, two agencies that enjoy political patronage from different sources, have staked claim over the project and submitted competitive plans.
A cabinet committee on infrastructure led by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is yet to decide who gets the project.
“The tussle was between Chavan, who heads MMRDA, and the Nationalist Congress Party, which heads the MSRDC. The Centre wants all public utilities to come together to fund the project. This may delay the project,” said a bureaucrat.
MMRDA has been asked to review the project again, taking the surface ministry’s suggestions into consideration, and submit a proposal.
The government rejected bids of the Ambani brothers as unrealistic in July 2008. It then decided that MMRDA and MSRDC would jointly implement the project without any private participation. But the state took a u-turn this year, with MSRDC deciding to go back to the Build-Operate-Transfer model. MMRDA also sought to implement the project on its own.