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Metro cost escalation: MMRDA snubs MMOPL, refuses to pay Rs 2,000 cr

MMOPL asked MMRDA to shell out money to meet massive cost escalation, but they refused to pay up, saying, ‘increase in cost is a risk factor that contractors are aware of'

A disagreement over who should bear the cost overrun of the city’s first Metro line is causing discontent between the MMRDA and the Reliance Infrastructure-led MMOPL, which is implementing the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG) Metro project. MMRDA has refused to pay the Rs 2,000 crore cost escalation demanded by MMOPL, making it clear that there is no way it would pay them.

One of the main reasons cited for the Metro project delay was the construction of a bridge that passes over the railway tracks at Andheri. File pic
One of the main reasons cited for the Metro project delay was the construction of a bridge that passes over the railway tracks at Andheri. File pic

“As per the concessions agreement, it is the job of the contractor (MMOPL) to complete the project and the increase in cost and escalation is a risk factor that any company takes into consideration while bidding for the project and so the question of paying them for the escalated cost does not arise,” said a senior MMRDA official, on condition of anonymity.

The trial run of a Metro train
The trial run of a Metro train

The cost of the delayed project has risen to over Rs 4,500 crore, up from its original cost of Rs 2,356 crore. “A few months ago after MMOPL informed us that they want the government to bear the cost, we had told them to provide us with the break up of the cost escalation, but till date they have not submitted any documents in this regard,” said Metropolitan Commissioner UPS Madan.

The Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS), P S Baghel, began inspecting the Versova-Andheri Ghatkopar (VAG) metro rail yesterday
The Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS), P S Baghel, began inspecting the Versova-Andheri Ghatkopar (VAG) metro rail yesterday

“MMOPL had even requested us that in order to recover the escalated cost, MMOPL was of the opinion that the Metro fares should be revised and increased, which MMRDA refused.”

Final inspection commences
The Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS) P S Baghel yesterday began inspecting the 11.04 km-long Versova-Andheri Ghatkopar (VAG) metro rail at 10.30 am, which continued till 6 pm.

Speaking to mid-day, Baghel said, “I started the inspection from the Metro car depot at D N Nagar at 10.30 am and it went on till 6 pm. I inspected the rolling stock and the inspection will continue till April 28.”

The VAG line has already received approval from RDSO, the research wing of Indian Railways, and is only awaiting clearance from CMRS, after which the line can be thrown open to the public. The CMRS will inspect the entire Metro system, which includes rolling stocks, workshop, depot, OCC, corridor, stations, track and OHE.

2010 letter pins blame on MMOPL
Trouble started brewing after MMOPL officials began saying that the reason for delay was the inability of MMRDA in providing the required Right of Way (ROW) and other permissions in time, as promised to them.

One of the main reasons cited by MMRDA was the delay in the completion of the metro bridge that passes over the railway tracks at Andheri. But a letter written by MMRDA Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad to MMOPL Director K P Maheshwari in the month of October 2010 tells a different story.

The letter states: “For a long time you (MMOPL) led me to believe that the railway is not clearing the bridge design when the compliance of design issue was still pending with you (MMOPL).”

It further states: “You (MMOPL) had made us (MMRDA) believe that the project will be completed in July 2010. We were naturally very jubilant and informed the public through media about the completion of the project ahead of schedule.

Afterwards we were informed that the project would be completed by December 2010.The target now given to us is 2011. From this it appears that you have developed a habit of foxing a target and subsequently not adhering to it. I suggest you get serious this time and adhere to the current target of the project.”

MMOPL says
According to a MMOPL spokesperson, “All infra projects in Mumbai have escalated because of various reasons. The increase in cost is because of inflation, change in design, etc. For example, we had to execute 220 types of design as against the original 20.”

He further added, “The Andheri steel bridge over the Western Railways was built under the most adverse conditions in less than two years, which includes the monsoon months. The bridge was built without affecting any railway movement thereby causing no inconvenience to commuters.

The entire construction work was undertaken only for four hours every night. The bridge was assembled on site through a rare combination of over 1 lakh pieces of nuts and bolts, specially manufactured to withstand the Mumbai weather and to ensure train movement at more than 90 kmph.

The safety record of the construction is outstanding and for the first time in Mumbai, permission from the Commissioner of Railway Safety was obtained to carry out underground work between live railway tracks.”

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