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Brace for bumpy ride on Mumbai highway, Maharashtra officials, firm fight instead of repairing it

Mumbai city news: A private firm in charge of repairs said the state’s failure to pay its dues after tolls were scrapped has hampered ongoing work

mumbai Updated: Jul 10, 2017 09:48 IST
Manasi Phadke
Manasi Phadke
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,ion-Panvel highway,Sion-Panvel highway
A PWD official said about 3.6kmof the 24.89-km highway is in a shoddy state.(HT File Photo)

Taking the Sion-Panvel highway anytime soon? Brace for a bumpy ride.

The arterial highway, which links the Mumbai-Pune expressway to the island city, is now in a state of disrepair owing to a feud between the state and the firm in charge of its maintenance.

Officials from the state public works department (PWD) blame Sion Panvel Tollways Pvt Ltd, a consortium of IVRCL Assets and Holdings and Kakade Infrastructure, for neglecting to maintain the road. On the other hand, the concessionaire said the government’s failure to pay the firm’s dues after tolls were scrapped has hampered ongoing work.

Government sources said they owe the firm Rs17 crore to Rs18 crore and payment has been pending since February.

A PWD official said about 3.6kmof the 24.89-km highway is in a shoddy state, especially at the Vashi signal, the vehicular underpass at Vashi, the Turbhe flyover ramps, the slip lane at Kharghar and the Kalamboli junction.

“Despite being responsible for the road, the concessionaire refuses to take up any maintenance work. As this is a build, operate and transfer project, we don’t have the right to call for tenders and get the road repaired. After much futile correspondence between the state and the concessionaire, the government authorised us to take up repairs last week,” said a PWD official.

He said it was difficult to get contractors to agree to repairs, which are part of the private firm’s contract and are carried out by the state on a risk and cost basis. “Last year, we undertook most of the repairs on the road. However, we haven’t been able to pay the contractors fully,” he said.

A spokesperson from Sion Panvel Tollways said the company has been carrying out repairs, but pending dues on account of toll exemptions, which have severely reduced its revenue, is making it difficult for the concessionaire to service the loans it took for the project.

“Despite constraints, the concessionaire continues to maintain the road. The PWD has violated the concession agreement and has not paid him the nominal monthly amount it told the high court it would. The amount would have helped us cover maintenance costs,” he added.

The former Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government awarded tenders for the Rs1,220-crore project, which involved widening the road and making it partially signal-free, to Sion Panvel Tollways on a build, operate, transfer basis with a concession period of 17 years and five months. The company was to collect toll and maintain the road.

After much opposition to an additional toll on an already heavily-tolled road, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government scrapped it for most categories of vehicles from June 1, 2015, agreeing to pay a monthly compensation in return. The project is embroiled in litigation between Sion Panvel Tollways and the Maharashtra government. The anti-corruption bureau is investigating alleged irregularities in awarding the tender.

First Published: Jul 10, 2017 09:47 IST