Multiple issues mean monorail unlikely to be launched this year

  • Saurabh Katkurwar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 27, 2016 01:00 IST
The 8.8-km Chembur-Wadala phase began operations in February 2014; its original deadline was December 2010. (File photo)

It is unlikely that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) will be able to launch the second phase of the Mumbai monorail – the 11.2-km Wadala to Jacob Circle route – this year, as it had promised. Currently, the city’s monorail — the first in India — operates only from Chembur to Wadala.

The project to build the second phase is in trouble as Scomi Engineering— a partner in the consortium that is building the monorail — is unable to manufacture a key component, called a track changing switch. The project has already been delayed by almost five years, and delays in procuring these switches is likely lead to further delays as signalling and trial runs cannot not be carried out until they are installed.

MMRDA commissioner UPS Madan said, “We have learnt that Scomi is in financial trouble, because of which there have been delays in manufacturing the component. We have come to know that Scomi is going to tie-up with another company, which is expected to improve its condition. We are hopeful that the project will be completed at the earliest.”

The L&T-led consortium has not been able to procure four track changing switches. According to a source, two are stuck in customs and the other two are still being manufactured in Malaysia. Despite several attempts, no official from Scomi Engineering was available for comment.

The monorail’s list of woes does not end here – MMDRA has entered into arbitration with the consortium to sort out differences over increases in the project’s cost.

MMRDA and the consortium appointed three members — former PWD secretaries Anand Kulkarni and Jayant Nashikkar, and railway officer SD Limaye — to the arbitration tribunal two months ago, according to PRK Murthy, chief of MMRDA’s transport department. The tribunal held a meeting about a fortnight ago.

“The consortium claims that changes to the plan and design of the project have added to its cost. They say it is our issues with land acquisition that have delayed the project,” said Madan. According to MMRDA officials, the consortium has been paid about Rs2,000 crore so far. The cost of the project has been pegged at Rs2,800 crore.

The MMRDA is keen to complete the Wadala-Jacob Circle stretch quickly as it hopes to attract more commuters. The agency is losing up to Rs 10 lakh a day on the first phase – Chembur to Wadala – as hasn’t proved popular with commuters.

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