MSRDC can't fix roads, but... F1 plans on track

Oct 10, 2011, 08:03 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Cash-strapped road development corporation that cannot repair our potholed roads has invited bids to build a grand prix racing track 'to enhance Mumbai's global image'

Cash-strapped road development corporation that cannot repair our potholed roads has invited bids to build a grand prix racing track 'to enhance Mumbai's global image'. 

Going by the expression of interest the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has floated to invite bids for an F1 racing track, the benefit from such a venture is that "it will enhance Mumbai's global image." 

One certainly hopes it does, for the MSRDC's endeavour at maintaining roads, a fundamental duty it has regularly shirked, does nothing but shoot holes in that image.

In an irony of ambition, while most roads and flyovers owned by the MSRDC are yet to be repaired, the cash-strapped corporation wants to construct a Formula 1 racetrack, and add to that, affordable housing, in Panvel.

Here's the plan
In September end, MSRDC invited tenders from interested bidders to develop the racing track in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

As per the conditions set out, it will be the responsibility of the bidder to scout for around 400-500 acres of land for the track.

The trailblazer: Onetime Grand Prix racer David Coulthard kicks up some
dust as he zips down the Bandra Worli Sea-Link at blinding speed two
years ago, leaving crazed fans in his wake. MSRDC had then said that
the sea link road was of the finest quality, and Formula 1 racing cars
could be easily driven on it. The resounding success of the event is the
inspiration for the F1 track, officials said. File pics

Once the land is finalised, MSRDC, along with a consortium of consultants, will develop a world-class car-racing track on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis.

After selection of the BOT operator, the corporation will ink an agreement with the operator to safeguard both their interests.

You would know all of this if you have been browsing the body's EOI notices in the print media.

The corporation has already appointed the consortium, consisting of international consultants, for the project -- Capita Symonds Ltd (UK & India), Populous Ltd (UK), and Delhi Integrated Multimodal Transit System Ltd (DIMTS).

Officials say they got the brainwave after then Red Bull driver David Coulthard's speedy manoeuvres on the Bandra Worli Sea-Link in October 2009.

"The idea to construct an F1 track popped up in our head after we saw the passionate response we had received for a major car-racing event on the BWSL," said an MSRDC official on condition of anonymity. "Many major international players had participated in it. Given the enthusiastic reaction, MSRDC feels that if by developing a world-class car-racing track, such events are organised regularly and, that too, at international level, it would be a good resource to transform Mumbai into a major tourist-cum-sports destination. It will further enhance the city's global image."

MSRDC, which is responsible for the construction of roads and highways in the state, has also decided to enter low-cost housing sector. It has invited tenders for the appointment of consultants for planning and implementing the project -- which involves "comprehensive master planning, developing, designing and constructing residential complex under public housing (low cost housing) scheme" -- at Lodhivali village in Panvel in Raigad district.

Long road ahead: Critics say smooth roads for Mumbaikars are a
greater necessity than a grand plan to develop an F1 track (like the one
in Singapore seen above). file pics for representation

'Tad too ambitious'
However, some insiders say the corporation is overextending itself, and that its Grand Prix track plan is grandly out of order, given its track record. "Rather than constructing an F1 track and low-cost houses, MSRDC should first concentrate on and improve the condition of roads lying in disrepair. It should look at implementing its earlier projects which have been in limbo for a long time, namely the Worli-Haji Ali Sea Link and the water transport on the city's west coast," said an official.

During Ganeshotsav, the MSRDC was panned by devotees and citizens alike, for bumpy roads and flyovers falling under its jurisdiction. Later, it invited tenders for the maintenance of its flyovers -- at Elphinstone, Love Grove in Worli, and the JJ flyover.

Not just about money
Experts said there is not that wide a gap between the cost of making a Formula 1 race track and a good quality tar road. They feel the only difference between the two is that while the former needs high quality tar material, and special care to see that the road surface is ultra smooth. F1 track is evenly leveled unlike a regular road.

Finish what you started first
In 1976, MSRDC was formed with an aim of constructing good quality roads and flyovers in the state in the interests of safer and faster transportation. In the past it has been observed that rather than completing or concentrating on projects it has already signed up for, the corporation keeps coming up with new ones.

Further, every time MSRDC invites tenders, it either gets a lukewarm response or has to cancel the entire bidding process. It was after the body failed to attract bidders for the ambitious Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project -- connecting Sewree to Nhava Sheva -- that it was transferred to MMRDA. The water transport on the city's west coast, connecting Nariman Point to Borivli, is also in limbo.

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