The city’s Metro project, which is meant to provide a much-needed relief to Mumbai’s harried commuters, is giving officials of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) sleepless nights.
Alarmed by the fact that no private entities would be willing to invest in such a capital-intensive project, the MMRDA has now decided to alter some of the originally proposed Metro routes and even drop some routes to make the project economically viable.
First on radar is the 3.5 km route between Sewri and Prabhadevi, costing Rs 2,187 crore, which the authority plans to drop.
This underground route was supposed to be the costliest Metro line with each kilometer costing Rs 624 crore as compared to Rs 210 crore per kilometer for elevated lines.
The MMRDA is also changing the alignment of two Metro routes. The Hutatma Chowk-Ghatkopar-Mulund line will now become Carmac Bundar-Wadala-Ghatkopar-Mulund-Thane line and there are plans to extend the Andheri (East)-Dahisar (East) line up to the airport.
“We have already asked our consultants to work out the various options through which the routes can be altered,” said Metropolitan Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had in 2000 suggested nine routes for Mumbai’s Metro lines, with the total length of routes being 146.5 km, of which 32.5 km is to be underground.
However, with passage of time, as MMRDA started implementing the plan, the authority realised that the project was highly capital intensive and they could face problems luring private enterprises to take up the project on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.
Even though the Centre has assured to provide viability gap funding (VGF) of 40 per cent of the project cost, MMRDA officials claim that the VGF component required for underground lines is more than 40 per cent.
VGF is the amount provided by the government to a private company, which is constructing public infrastructure, to make the project commercially viable.
MMRDA officials have even met the urban development secretary in New Delhi, asking the government to raise the 40 per cent VGF limit.
“Changes in the alignment are necessary as apart from making the project financially viable, we will also have to see that maximum passengers benefit from the project,” added Gaikwad.