Rahul Wadke

Mumbai, March 17

MOTORISTS in Mumbai city can look forward to a hassle-free drive to the business district of Nariman Point and Ballard Pier with the completion of the Bandra Worli Sea Link (BWSL) by December 2007.

Work is in full swing for the Rs 1,306-crore project, which is estimated to save fuel and vehicle operation costs to the tune of Rs 100 crore a year. Moreover, motorists using this bridge will save about 30 minutes of travel time, largely at 23 traffic signals along the route. The project, being planned on a build-operate-transfer basis, will have a six-km link between Bandra (at the beginning of the Western Express Highway) and Worli. The sealink is a "cable-stayed" bridge, with eight-lane traffic exclusively for fast moving four-wheelers. Advance surveillance systems and emergency support systems are also being incorporated into the sealink.

Mr Anil Deshmukh, Minister of Public Works (Public Undertaking), Government of Maharashtra, told Business Line that nearly 20 per cent of the construction was over, December 2007 being the cut-off date for project completion.

"The Government is keen on the project, and we want to open the link by the scheduled time. The sealink will comprise 600 piles, of which 289 have already been completed," Mr Deshmukh said.

The sealink, recommended by successive studies on Mumbai transport for the last many years, will increase route options for passengers travelling between the island city and the western suburbs, leading to decongestion of the Mahim causeway and western corridor. At present, the biggest traffic bottleneck is at the Mahim causeway, which connects the northern mainland with the southern island city.

With 1,20,000 vehicles crossing the causeway every day, it is a nightmare, especially during morning office hours when traffic flows to the south Mumbai business district. At peak time, it takes nearly an hour to travel the eight-km stretch between Mahim and Worli, as the causeway is the only link connecting the western suburbs with the island city.

Said Mr Arun Mokashi, a former Transport Specialist with World Bank, "The sea link between Bandra and Worli is much needed. The roads around Mahim and Bandra are highly congested; the bridge will ease the congestion. The saving in terms of fuel, vehicle wear and tear and man-hours once this link is put up would be immense. The project cost will be fully recovered by charging toll on the bridge use."

The sealink has been designed so that there is a 20-metre clearance between the base of the bridge and the sea below, ensuring uninterrupted sea transport. The other facet of the project is a toll plaza with 16 lanes at Bandra, equipped with an automated toll collection system.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 18, 2005)
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