Loopholes in Mumbai metro an example of failed PPP model

First phase of Mumbai metro covers a distance of 11.4 kilometers
The first day of monsoon in Mumbai not only exposed the ill-preparation on the part of civic authorities, but also highlighted the poor condition of recently launched metro service in the city. As the showers lashed the city on Wednesday, photos and videos showing water leakage at different places inside metro stations including train compartments went viral on social networking sites.

The incident was reported in Ghatkopar-bound metro train where rainwater started leaking from the AC ducts inside the compartment. Though metro staff is holding technical fault responsible for the mess, several other incidents of water-leaking inside metro stations are raising questions on service of metro which was inaugurated with much fanfare on June 8 this year.

A baggage-scanning machine had to be closed off as there was water leaking near it at the Ghatkopar metro station, not only this, water leaking from the roof, even at the concourse level (below the platform) at some spots was reported. This caused problems to commuters who were standing at the platform to board the metro train.

Be it cost or delay: Mumbai metro always hit headlines

The construction of first line of metro began in 2008, and the corridor was supposed to be operational by 2010-end but it missed almost 10 deadlines. Among other reasons for the delay was the unavailability of land for construction of the metro corridor. In addition, unavailability or poor records of underground utilities forced the developer to change the design of the corridor on several occasions, further leading to delays. The time taken in getting various other clearances also contributed to missed deadlines.

Apart from the delay of almost 4 years, the cost of the project increased from Rs 2356 crores to Rs 4321 crores. Repeated delays and rising cost of raw material has caused construction cost of the Mumbai metro project to shoot up by 84%.

Are the lapses pointing to the failed PPP model?

The Mumbai metro project is India's first public private partnership metro project in which all the three phases (construction, operation and maintenance) were given to a private player (RIL). The project is being operated by Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), which is a joint venture company between RIL and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).

Cost of Mumbai metro project increased from Rs 2356 crores to Rs 4321 crores.

The world class metro service which was aimed at reducing traffic congestion in the city and supplementing the existing Mumbai Suburban Railway network has been surrounded by controversies since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid its foundation stone for first line of metro service in June 2006. Be it making land available to the private developer or consensus on layout plan, both the MMRDA and RIL had face-offs on a number of issues. Recently, CM Prithviraj Chavan even threatened to skip the inauguration ceremony on the fare hike issue. In fact, State run MMRDA has taken RIL to court in a dispute over which of them has the authority to set the fares. Chavan has also admitted to some disputes between the Government and the developer Reliance Infra (R-Infra) project. "The developer in metro I project is asking for major hike in tariff and advertising rights etc. We are not sure how this will work out. One option is to go into arbitration and the other is to negotiate. If it gets worse, we may think of even taking over the metro project. It is now clear that Mumbai's metro II project will now not happen,"he was quoted as saying recently.

Why MMRDA didn't learn lesson from DMRC-RIL mess ?

It is not the first example of public-private mess up which caused inconvenience to the people. In January 2008, the DMRC (Delhi metro Rail Corporation) awarded a 30-year build-operate-transfer PPP contract to the Reliance Infrastructure Limited (RIL) to build the Delhi Airport metro express line. It was scheduled to be open in August 2010 for Commonwealth Games, but missed four deadlines before it became operational in February 2011, months after Commonwealth Games was over. Later, because of a dispute over who will fix defects in the operation - which caused suspension of services for six months, the DMRC took over operations of Airport Express line in 2013. MMRDA didn't learn from Delhi Airport express line fiasco and handed over all the three phases of construction, operation and maintenance to the private player (RIL).

After going through rough patches, the first phase of the Mumbai metro, the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line which covers a distance of 11.4 kilometers is operational now but it has pointed to a failed private-public partnership. Its not been even a month and number of issues like Wednesday's water leak or earlier door malfunctions have marred its image. The said issues clearly highlights infrastructural loopholes in Mumbai metro which was an honest attempt to make this financial capital of India a world class city.

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