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'Low toll on new Vashi bridge may lure commuters away from Trans Harbour Link'

IT appears that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is worried that the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation’s (MSRDC) plan to construct a new Rs 600-crore bridge passing over the Vashi creek on the Sion-Panvel highway would cause a decline in the number of vehicles using the Rs 9,630-crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) built by them, which connects Sewri with Nhava Sheva. 


Soft protection: An artist’s impression of the areas connected via the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL). File Pic

MSRDC officials last year had asked MMRDA to fund its project, but the request was turned down.

At a recently held meeting in New Delhi, MMRDA officials informed central government officials that bidders for MTHL feel that the bridge over Vashi Creek will reduce the number of motorists using MTHL, as toll on the Sion-Panvel highway will be half of that levied on motorists using the MTHL.

The bidders also demanded they should be issued a soft loan of 10 per cent if traffic falls below 80 per cent, a condition to which the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) agreed.

Metropolitan Commissioner UPS Madan said that some of the bidders had told the MMRDA that they should be given a soft loan in case traffic on MTHL is less than 80 per cent than what it was projected. “The issue was discussed with the Empowered Committee of the DEA and they have approved 10 per cent shortfall loan to the MTHL concessionaire.”

Several transport experts think giving a soft loan is nothing but a waste of public money.

Transport Expert Jitendra Gupta said, “I personally feel that giving soft loan to the bidder if they are suffering losses due to fewer vehicles is wrong, as its taxpayers’ money that will go into this project.”

MMRDA officials claimed that the soft loan would ensure the bankers’ debt service obligations are met with, should the traffic on the link fall below the expected mark, especially during the initial seven years of operation. It is expected that about 60,000 vehicles will use the link daily.

“This is a crucial decision as far as bankability and economic feasibility of the MTHL is concerned,” said Ashwini Bhide, additional metropolitan commissioner. “This will also help the state make available vital infrastructure for better communication and connectivity to the city and the development of the surrounding area.”

It was after the DEA gave an in-principle approval to the Viability Gap Funding in January that the MMRDA held a couple of pre-bid meetings and a site visit for the five shortlisted bidders. It was here that the bidders, bankers expressed their concern over a fall in the number of motorists using the link. 

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