Toll exemption planned for Kamothe locals, govt fears backlash from others

September 10, 2014

MUMBAI: The government plans to exempt local residents from paying toll at the plaza that has just come up at Kamothe on the Sion-Panvel Highway. This is probably for the first time that such a move is being contemplated in the state, though the government fears that it could lead to a clamour for similar exemptions from people living near other toll posts in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Since the assembly polls are near, the ruling Congresss-NCP combine want to avoid controversies.

The residents of Panvel, Kamothe, Khanda Colony, Kalamboli and nearby areas, who commute daily to Mumbai and Thane via Airoli, want the Kamothe toll post to be removed or their vehicles to be exempted from paying toll. The Vashi and Kamothe posts charge Rs 30 each for a one-way journey, and the two-way total for both amounts to Rs 120 a day.

A panel led by chief secretary Swadhin Kshatriya has submitted the toll exemption recommendation for Kamothe locals to the government for chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s approval. The panel was set up by the CM following
an agitation by local residents led by legislator Prashant

A source said the CM may prefer to buy time. Around eight lakh people live around the other five toll posts on Mumbai’s entry points, and the government fears that covering all of them before the polls will be a headache.

The toll policy that was approved by the state recently has allowed monthly passes for those living in a 5km periphery of a toll post, the rate being 10 times the one-way toll charge. Thus, each motorist living close to a toll naka needs to pay Rs 300 a month.

If the Vashi toll post is taken into consideration, the monthly payment for a motorist living in Panvel to enter Mumbai would amount to Rs 3,600 once the Kamothe post starts operating.

Source:Times of India

Wetlands being reclaimed for realty projects and parking lots: Maharashtra forest dept

July 30, 2014

Mumbai: The wetlands in the coastal belts around Mumbai are being killed to make way for development, the Maharashtra forest department has told the Bombay high court.The court, while hearing a PIL by NGO Vanashakti in March, had banned all development on wetlands and instructed chief conservator of forests (mangrove cell) N Vasudevan to inspect the eight sites where the PIL said wetlands are being ruined. Vasudevan’s damning report, submitted last week, confirmed the continuing destruction despite the ban: the ecologically-significant wetlands around Mumbai are being reclaimed for parking lots and real estate projects.

In Dive-Anjur village, a 1.5-km-long road (with 22m width and 7m height) has been laid on the wetland off the busy Thane-Bhiwandi Road, cutting off the flow of tidal water to 300 hectares of wetlands. “It is noticeable from the highway and shows the audacity of the perpetrators of this environmental outrage. Real estate developers have already put up signboards announcing their intention to take up building projects,” states the report. In Mumbra “the scale of destruction is outrageous,” the report says, pointing out that reclamation of nearly 20 hectares of wetlands by multiple agencies is currently underway.

Vasudevan’s team visited eight sites at Dahisar Link Road, Bhuigaon village in Vasai taluka, Owala village in Bhayander, Ghodbunder Road, Dive-Anjur village, Diva village and Diva Sabegaon village, Vikhroli-Mulund Road and Targhar village in Uran.

At Dahisar Link Road, close to the slum Ganpat Patil Nagar that is settled on a CRZ area, the wetland abutting the road has been reclaimed and converted into a parking lot for private tourist vehicles. When the court-appointed team visited the site, illegal sand mining was in full swing. Scores of trucks were lined up to transport the loot away and the water from the wetland was being drained using diesel pumps.

At Targhar village in Uran, the team discovered reclamation of the privately-owned wetland being carried out despite the HC ban. The owners told the team that they wanted to develop garages, container godowns and parking lots on the site.

At Diva village, a 4-hectare site was first ravaged by sand mining. Then to fill the pit the Thane municipal corporation converted it into a dumping ground. And now the soil is being filled and the land levelled for other purposes, said the report. Similarly, at Diva-Sabegaon village, the wetland has been become the site of waste-dumping and construction of slums and chawls. Near Owala village, a 6-storey residential building has come up on the wetland. A housing finance company is offering loans for 1BHK flats, which are being sold for Rs 35 lakh, and 2BHK flats, which cost Rs 50 lakh.

Vasudevan points out in the report that wetlands are of tremendous ecological significance. They are rich repositories of bio-diversity and storehouses of water.

Source:Times of India

New CCTV tech to record number plates at 5 spots

July 30, 2014

MUMBAI: The traffic police intends to slow down speedsters in the city with advanced cameras which will be equipped with the ability to read number plates of vehicles. Traffic police have identified dangerous stretches in the city that are used for speeding or racing and have written to the agencies concerned to install cameras equipped with ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) technology.

The Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL) is likely to get the technology by the end of this year. The other locations identified for the advanced cameras are Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), Godrej Junction at Vikhroli, Marine Drive and JJ flyover in south Mumbai.

ANPR rules out manual intervention and is used in most developed countries to detect traffic violations. “We conducted a study of locations across the city where cameras equipped with ANPR are becoming a necessity. Godrej Junction at Vikhroli is a cause of concern due to maximum fatalities. We have been in talks with a company to join hands with the agency which maintains the stretch,” said Quaiser Khalid, additional commissioner (traffic).

Instances of speeding are witnessed frequently on the iconic BWSL. “Motorists tend to speed after reaching the centre of the bridge. In September last year, a 54-year-old businessman from Kemps Corner had a narrow escape when his car hit the divider and turned turtle. It disrupted traffic for over half an hour,” said a traffic police official.

“A work order has been given out for cameras equipped with ANPR technology and they should be installed by the end of this year. One lane going towards Bandra and the other towards Worli will be fitted with the cameras. They will be positioned in such a manner that they cover maximum lanes. We have also asked for data on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway to study the feasibility of having advanced cameras there,” said a senior MSRDC official.

Two-wheelers are banned on both the BWSL and JJ Flyover. “Between 2002 and 2010, JJ Flyover witnessed 254 accidents, among which 183 involved two-wheelers. Of the 33 people killed in this period, 31 were motorcyclists. This prompted the ban but motorcyclists tend to flout it at night when traffic personnel aren’t around,” said a traffic official. “Several instances of racing were observed at BKC, a business district deserted after office hours,” he added.

ANPR technology uses optical character recognition on images for reading vehicle registration plates. Some can even be configured to store a photograph of the motorist. The information will be stored at the traffic police headquarters and using the RTO’s database, challans will be sent to the speeding motorist’s address. Earlier this month, the MMRDA announced plans to install 12 ANPR-equipped CCTVs on the Eastern Freeway.

Source:Times of India

Contractors cheated BMC out of crores

October 19, 2013

Hemali Chhapia & Bhavika Jain, TNN


MUMBAI: An internal audit by the BMC of its road and traffic department has revealed that in many road projects standard procedures were not followed, rules ignored and costs escalated beyond permissible limits.In one instance, the civic corporation paid Rs 9.7 crore above the contract cost of Rs 121.7 crore for the construction of a road overbridge in Jogeshwari. The contractor argued the fatter bill by claiming price escalations. But why the civic body consented is unknown given that, as per rules, the maximum price variation can be 5% of the contract cost-—which in this case comes to Rs 6.1 crore.

RTI activist Vihar Durve demanded strict action against errant officers. “Compliance with earlier inspection reports is pending. For 1996-97 and 2000-01 periods, no explanation has been furnished on why undue benefit accrued to contractors. In many cases, final bills have not been submitted. Such tardiness is unacceptable,” said Durve. Some officials conceded that departments ignore auditors’ remarks and do not take corrective action. Additional municipal commissioner S V R Srinivas, who is in charge of the roads department , said on Friday that he cannot comment on the inspection report until he reads it.

Others, however, argued against the specific points in the audit. They said that contractors are paid extra for transportation of debris, despite the job being part of their contracts, if the distance from the work site to the dumping ground is high. Also, they said, roads dug up by multiple utility agencies can be rebuilt within their guarantee period.

Prithviraj Chavan seeks Central funding to fix Maharashtra roads

November 28, 2011

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has urged the Centre to allocate funds under the Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojna to enable Maharashtra to fix state roads.

Chavan indicated that large funds which were allocated to other states under the scheme was not availed by the state for several years leading to a disadvantage. The state was denied the funds as it had already declared 100% connectivity and good conditions using state funds.

However, in the last 15 years, the state had managed to make little investments in the road sector. A majority of the new projects which were envisaged and implemented related to built-operate and transfer basis (BoT).

An official in the ministry of planning and finance said, “If we compare the funds allocated to states like Andhra Pradesh, then we lost almost Rs3,000 crore per year. Between 1999 and 2009, the state should have pressed for at least Rs15,000 crore from the Centre to be undertaken in phases.”

The poor allocation of funds from the Centre was also on account of lack of political will to pursue the matter with the Planning Commission. In the 1990s, having attained almost maximum connectivity, the state focused on new projects but the investments required formaintenance was overlooked.

Now the senior NCP minister for public works department (PWD), Chhagan Bhujbal has decided to mobilise resources through public and private partnerships to fix state road infrastructure. The PWD has already undertaken major projects worth Rs33,000 crore through private-public partnership in phases.


Mumbai transport infra upgrade to cost Rs 2,70,000 cr: CM

August 29, 2011

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Thursday said the state government would have to spend Rs 2,70,000 crore to beef up Mumbai’s transport infrastructure over the next 20 years to keep pace with rising demand.

The state government’s 2031 plan based on a feasibility study by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) includes metrorail, mono rail, sea link and water transport. Chavan was addressing a gathering at a conference on “Infrastructure Development in Mumbai Region” organised by the Indian Merchant’s Chamber here.

“The estimated investment of $50 billion ( Rs 2,70,000 crore) is based on a comprehensive transportation study conducted by MMRDA. The total cost of the infrastructure projects comprising metrorail and monorail, currently undertaken by MMRDA is over Rs 26,000 crore,” said Chavan.

The study focuses on infrastructure in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Out of the total projects planned, 80 per cent will be used for transportation that includes 450 km of road, 250 km of suburban railway and another 1,700 km of roads. Chavan said the Coastal Road Project, one of the most ambitious project in Maharashtra, is also on the anvil.

Chavan said Relief and Rehabilitation (R&R) was the most important challenge for infrastructure projects. He said 40,000 families had been rehabilitated under various projects of MMRDA. Apart from environment issues, Chavan said financial restructuring was a problem, especially with issues like Viability Gap Funding (VGP) involved. “The strength of the city is its human resources. For maintaining their quality of life, a good transportation system is of utmost necessity.”

Throwing light on some of the prominent infrastructure projects, Metropolitan Commissioner of Mumbai Rahul Asthana said the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) flagship project, which was bid unsuccessfully twice, would be put for bid again in May 2012. The contract would be awarded by a estimated cost of Rs 10,000 crore.

“MMRDA plans to compensate the build operate transfer (BOT) operator of the proposed MTHL project in case of low toll collection against the projections. However, in case of higher toll collection, the BOT operator needs to share benefits with MMRDA. Besides, MMRDA proposes to provide long tenure soft loan to BOT operator and also compensate L2 and L3 bidders for the cost of bidding. This is to encourage more players to participate in the bidding process.”

Chavan said the Mumbai Metro Rail project, having nine lines will be implemented in three phases at a cost of Rs 47,000 crore. The first phase of the project in he Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor, is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2012, at a cost of Rs 2,356 crore. The Metro Line 2, Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd, which entails an investment of Rs 7,660 crore, has achieved financial closure on March 14. The civil work is expected to begin from October. Metro III is now extended upto airport from Colaba where the entire stretch will be underground and would cost Rs 18,000 crore.


Mega six-lane projects in offing

March 10, 2008

With access-controlled expressways attracting massive investments, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has decided to conduct the feasibility study for more such expressways.

  Construction companies eyeing the access controlled, six-lane expressway projects of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) are likely to get investment opportunities for at least four such projects spread over 495 km over the next few months.They are Chandikhol-Jagatpur-Bhubaneswar (70 kilometre length, estimated cost Rs 761 crore), Delhi-Hapur (47 km, Rs 474 crore), the 198-km stretch of Vijayawada-Elluru-Rajamundri (Rs 1,602 crore) and the 180-km stretch on Delhi-Agra highway (Rs 1,918 crore). The feasibility reports for these projects are already completed and the work is likely to be awarded in about six months, said NHAI officials.Toll collection  These projects are for widening the current four-lane highways into six lanes and operating them for certain durations.Companies would have to bid competitively for these projects on a revenue-sharing basis. Thus companies would have to bid on the extent of toll revenue that they are ready to share with the Government if they are allowed to operate the roads.Since these highways are already four-lane stretches, the road operators can start toll collection even during the project construction phase from an ‘appointed date’ (within six months of winning the project), mutually decided by NHAI and the road operator. The toll revenues will be routed to an escrow account.Recently, the NHAI awarded four such mega projects of 882 km length, which are likely to cost an estimated Rs 10,912 crore.From the NHAI perspective, these projects have emerged as money-spinners, with companies willing to foot the entire construction cost and part with two per cent to 48.06 per cent of their revenues in the initial leg of the project.At the end of the concession period, which is about 12 to 15 years duration, the winning firms have agreed to part with 12 per cent to 59 per cent share of toll revenues.More studies  The feasibility reports for another ten projects of similar nature are under preparation. They are: Kishangarh-Udaipur stretch (315 km, Rs 2,205 crore), Udaipur-Ahmedabad (235 km, Rs 1,645 crore), Varanasi-Aurangabad (190 km, Rs 1,330 crore), Nellore-Chilkaluripet (184 km, Rs 1,288 crore), Krishnagiri-Walajapet (148 km, Rs 1,036 crore), Pune-Satara (145 km, Rs 1,015 crore), Ludhiana-Chandigarh (85 km, Rs 595 crore), Belgaum-Dharwad (80 km, Rs 560 crore), Samakhiali-Gandhidham (56 km, Rs 392 crore), Indore-Dewas (55 km, Rs 385 crore).With access controlled expressways attracting massive investments, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has decided to conduct the feasibility study for four such expressways between Delhi-Meerut, Chennai-Bangalore, Vadodara-Mumbai and Dhanbad-Kolkata. This was decided by the Road Ministry officials at a meeting with State Government authorities recently.Source:

DF govt to spend Rs 3000 cr on road to power

March 3, 2008

Though its four-year rule in Maharashtra is yet to bring a visible change in the state, the Democratic Front (DF) government now wishes to make amends during its final year in office.

For the 2008-09 fiscal, the state will witness large-scale road construction works, senior officials of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and Public Works Department (PWD) told ET. The two agencies, which have been keeping a low-profile during the DF rule, compared to the 1995-1999 Shiv Sena-BJP government’s period, want to make up for the lost time. “We will have many more projects to showcase before the people,” Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had said earlier.

Road works amounting to more than Rs 3,000 crore have been initiated by these two agencies across the state. All projects are being undertaken on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis and the state agencies are collaborating with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Such is the project’s volume that the PWD, MSRDC and NHAI would upgrade around 900 km of roads across Maharashtra.

“Most of the roads under construction would be completed in a year or so. We are following a strategy of aggressive development in the road sector, which is one of the main drivers of socio-economic growth. Roads not only connect but also bring investment,” PWD secretary DB Deshpande told ET.

The state is using the Rs 2,000-crore grant sanctioned by the Union government to upgrade the corridors of national highways, which pass through Maharashtra. This allocation has to be used in the 2008-2009 fiscal. The work includes six-laning of the 90-km corridor between Dahisar-Talasari on Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway, the 275-km corridor between Satara-Karad-Kagal, which leads to Bangalore, the 86-km stretch between Igatpuri and Pimpalgaon and construction of an elevated 5.5 km long corridor bypassing the Nashik city.

“Maharashtra has always been regarded as the leading state as far as quality of road is concerned. But good roads have utility beyond the obvious connectivity point of view. The World Bank has estimated that an investment of Rs 20 lakh in road works creates one perpetual job.

We are looking at employment generation and economic potential of roads, which would be give an edge to Maharashtra in these industrially competitive times,” an MSRDC official said. Lot of action is also visible on the state highways. The PWD has got Cabinet approval for the Rs 800-crore four-laning of Shirur-Nagar-Pune-Aurangabad state highway, which is 300-km long. “Work has started on this project and should be completed by May 2009,” Mr Deshpande added.


Mumbai sea link banks on ultra-high traffic flows

February 23, 2008

Reliance Energy has quoted a concession period that has taken even MSRDC by surprise.

The Reliance Energy-led consortium’s ambitious bid, which helped it emerge the preferred bidder for the Rs 6,000-crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, has set a new performance benchmark in the infrastructure business.

The consortium has offered to build the 22-km six-lane bridge, which will connect Sewri and Nhava Sheva (see map), by 2013, recover the costs from revenues and hand it back to the nodal agency, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), in just nine years and 11 months.

In technical parlance, this is known as the concession period.

To put this in context, the Mukesh Ambani-controlled Sea King Infrastructure, which was the only other bidder, quoted a concession period of 75 years.

Significantly, in 2004, MSRDC itself estimated a 35-year concession period for the sea link project. For the Mumbai-Pune expressway, the period was 30 years.

Indeed, Parvez Umrigar, managing director of Gammon, said his construction engineering company had decided to opt out of the sea link project because of the “frightening equation of risk and return”. Umrigar declined, however, to comment on the Reliance Energy bid.

So what made the Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Energy quote a concession period that has taken even MSRDC by surprise?

Reliance Energy declined to comment on the issue.

In its 2004 study, the MSRDC had projected a traffic of 50,000 passenger car units (PCUs) a day when the bridge was completed.

But back-of-the-envelope calculations show just to break even, the Reliance Energy consortium would need a minimum of 1,09,589 PCUs a day paying an average toll of Rs150 for around 10 years.

A passenger car unit considers one truck as 2.5 passenger cars to calculate the overall traffic.

An industry expert said the operational cost for the project will be at least Rs 500 crore over 10 years.

Besides, the usual debt-equity ratio for such infrastructure projects is 70:30. Assuming a conservative 5 per cent interest rate on the debt, the interest cost for a 15-year loan would be around Rs 3,000 crore.

If the consortium wants just a 10 per cent return on its investment, the traffic requirement on the bridge would easily be around 250,000 PCUs a day — five times the MSRDC’s traffic estimate.

MSRDC, however, said the traffic demand has changed a lot since 2004 and the figure is expected to be much higher in 2013, when the bridge is operational.

“The construction of the special economic zones (SEZs) by Reliance and the new airport in New Mumbai will increase traffic demand hugely,” said Vijay Garva, chief engineer for the link at the MSRDC. He, however, did not give any fresh traffic estimates.

The MSRDC officials added that a lot of traffic on the Mumbai-Pune route would also be diverted to the bridge. The sea link will also ease pressure on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, National Highway-4 and Mumbai-Goa Highway, where traffic is expected to increase.

The MSRDC is asking for a Rs130-crore performance guarantee to be kept with MSRDC so that the bidder sticks to the construction time schedule of five years.

Nitin Gadkare, state BJP president and former public works minister, said Reliance Energy is obviously banking heavily on the new airport at Panvel and the SEZ.

However, the calculations may go awry if any of these projects gets delayed, he said.

Gammon India, however, is not expecting an exponential rise in the traffic from south Mumbai to Nhava Sheva, which is the gateway to traffic from Mumbai to Goa and Pune. Besides, there is already a link bridge in Vashi connecting south Mumbai to New Mumbai.


Reliance Energy is top bidder for Mumbai trans-harbour link project

February 20, 2008

A consortium led by Anil Ambani group company Reliance Energy Ltd (REL) has emerged top bidder for the Rs6,000 crore Mumbai trans-harbour link project.Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) today opened financial bids for the 25-km six-lane project. However, no confirmation could be obtained from either MSRDC or REL.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries group was also in the race for the project to build a trans-habour link between Sewri in Mumbai and Nava-Sheva across the creek in Navi Mumbai.

Sources said the REL-Hyundai combine quoted a lower concession period for the build-operate-transfer (BOT) project of nine years and 11 months as against 75 years quoted by the Mukesh Ambani-controlled Sea King Infrastructure.

Phase-I of the project will comprise a six-lane dual carriageway linking Nhava to Sewri and Phase-II, which is expected to be added in 2015 -18, will consist of a double track rail link that will run parallel to the road link on the north side.

The Rs6,000 crore project is slated for completion in five years. The REL-led consortium can charge Rs250 per heavy vehicle and Rs120 for cars and light commercial vehicles as toll charges.


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