CM asks MSRDC to evaluate bid realistically

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Mumbai, Jun 12 (UNI) Describing the 22 km-long Mumbai Trans-harbour link between Sewri and Nhava Sheva as a dream project for the state, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh today ordered the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to evaluate the bids for the country's longest sea link 'realistically and responsibly'.

Chairing a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructural projects, Mr Deshmukh said the sea link, when completed, will connect south Mumbai to the Navi Mumbai area at a much faster pace. A car travelling from Mantralaya will take just 30 minutes to reach the proposed airport in New Mumbai. It will also be the fifth largest sea link in the world.

Mr Deshmukh said the project is a vital link in development of Mumbai. 'It will be Maharastra's pride to have this sea link', he said.

''The project should not suffer due to hostilities of rival business groups,'' he observed.

It may be noted that a tender was floated for the project in early 2007, but the matter went up to the Supreme Court. Two bidders were in the final run. One is a consortium led by IL&FS, while the other is Reliance Energy-led consortium. Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani are the real players behind these bids.

The sea link would be extremely beneficial for the twin Special Economic Zones, being developed by the senior brother, while the younger brother is bent upon getting the contract to build, operate and transfer the vital sea link.

The Committee was apprised by PWD Minister Anil Deshmukh about the options available for the government in this regard. The PWD Minister suggested that the government could go for granting the work to Anil Ambani group, who happen to be the lowest bidders. But the hitch is that the REL-led consortium has offered to build the bridge with right to collect toll for nine years, 11 months and one day only, while the IL&FS consortium, led by Mukesh, has said that they require a period of 75 years of toll collection to recover their investments. Now the government has directed the MSRDC to correctly scrutinise these totally opposing claims and come back to the Cabinet sub-committee within a week's time.

The alternative would be that the whole tender and bid process be scrapped and fresh bids be called for. There is also an option that the government can construct the bridge through MSRDC and collect the toll for a suitable period, sources said.


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