Realigned Oval Maidan-Virar Elevated Rail Corridor to reduce financial burden on Govt.

The revised alignment of the now 60.3-km long Elevated Rail Corridor (ERC) from Oval Maidan to Virar on Western Railway line provides for significantly larger land parcels for the concessionaire and much reduced need for land and property acquisition.

The revisions were undertaken 10 months after the ERC, originally conceived to be 63.27-km long, failed to take off pending the state support agreement with the Maharashtra government.

The revised alignment, now estimated to cost Rs.22500 crore, will go completely underground from Bandra to Jogeshwari via Bandra Terminus, resulting in minimal land acquisition by the concessionaire. The earlier bid documents required the concessionaire to acquire land along the 2.2 km Air Funnel Stretch between Santacruz and Vile Parle since the alignment of the line was at grade and height restrictions were imposed by the Airport Authority of India. This has now been eliminated with the alignment going underground from Bandra to Jogeshwari.

A senior WR official said, “Though taking the corridor underground in the stretch will increase the cost of the project eventually, the near-zero land acquisition will ensure timely execution and prevent cost escalation.”

The ERC, whose project cost has risen by Rs.1500 crore, is estimated to be completed in six years from the day construction begins.

The concessionaire will have to now acquire only 13.11 hectares, 51 per cent lower than 26.52 hectares that need to be acquired earlier. Of the 13.11 hectares, private land constitutes just 2.23 hectares. Further, acquisition of properties has been pared by 96 per cent, to a mere 2.04 hectares from 56.7 hectares earlier. Of this, private property is just 1.17 hectares.

“A major portion of the private land to be acquired is beyond Borivali. There are no multi-storey buildings that need to be acquired up to Borivali, bringing down rehabilitation to a great extent,” said a senior WR official.

While the demand for land and property acquisition has been drastically cut, land parcels being made available to the concessionaire have increased. Railways is now offering over 41 hectares, three times more than 13 hectares offered earlier. Additional plots have been identified at Mumbai Central, Grant Road, Lower Parel, Santacruz, Andheri, Jogeshwari and Borivali.

Among finer details, changes have been made in the criteria for evaluation of bidders. A clause of refunding Rs 30 lakh paid by the applicants and subsequently bidders has been added to generate more confidence among private players. An applicant pays Rs.10 lakh to purchase the Request for Qualification (RFQ) form and later Rs.20 lakh for the bidding documents. As per the new clause, if the Ministry of Railways annuls the bidding process or postpones the bid beyond the second anniversary of the application date, the applicant can avail of a refund without interest in both stages.

Similarly, the criteria for evaluation of prospective bidders has been “improved”. According to another senior railway official, “Not many companies in India have experience of building an elevated rail corridor. The criteria for experience in elevated rail projects have been improved so that more companies with related work experience can bid for the project.”

A repeated suggestion from previous applicants for providing more funding options has also been incorporated with the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) being officially involved in the project. The IRFC is likely to provide subordinated debt of 10 per cent of the total project cost; 75 per cent of the equity of the concessionaire or Rs.3,000 crore, whichever is lower.