Govt cash for sea link

Mumbai, Jan. 18: The Union finance ministry has sanctioned 20 per cent government funding for a proposed 22km sea bridge in Mumbai, setting the stage for five consortiums to bid for the prized public-private partnership project.

The Centre will be shelling out Rs 1,920 crore as "viability gap funding" for the Rs 9,630-crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project.

A viability gap funding means the government meets a portion of the project cost to attract private investment. Such funding is usually needed for projects that are economically significant but not revenue-generating enough to draw profit-seeking investors.

"This (finance ministry) decision will now pave the way for the bidding process to start," said a senior official of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, which will carry out the project.

The sea link is expected to be complete by 2019. It will reduce commuting time between Mumbai and its satellite Navi Mumbai by connecting Sewri on the city's north coast to Chirle village near the port zone of Nhava Sheva.

It will also allow faster travel to Nashik, Panvel, Pune and southern India. Mumbai's second such project after the Bandra-Worli Sea Link is expected to boost the economic growth of neighbouring Raigad and raise real estate prices in the region.

"The 22km link will be 27 metres wide and provide three plus three lanes besides an edge strip and crash barrier. To meet environmental requirements, the link will have noise barriers near the Sewri mud flats and view barriers at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre," an official said.

"The sea link is expected to carry an estimated 62,000 passenger cars with an annual projected growth of five per cent."

The finance ministry clearance comes three months after the Prithviraj Chavan government granted clearances in October 2012.

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