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Mumbai Trans Harbour Link inaugurated: How the country’s longest sea bridge will cut travel time

Context- Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Atal Setu Nhava Sheva Sea Link, also known as the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, on Friday. This 22 km sea bridge, the longest in the country, was first envisioned six decades ago. The completion of this bridge will reduce the commute time between Sewri and Chirle to less than 20 minutes.

The new sea link

  • The Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) is a 22-km bridge that connects Sewri in Mumbai to Chirle in Raigad district. It includes a 16.5 km sea link and 5.5 km of viaducts.
  • The project aims to enhance connectivity in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and foster economic growth by reducing travel time between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, and easing congestion on the existing Vashi bridge route.

From 1963 to 2024

  • The concept of a bay crossing linking Mumbai to the mainland was first proposed in 1963 by Wilbur Smith Associates, an American construction consultancy firm. The project was revived in the late 90s, and the first tenders were issued in 2006.
  • In 2008, Reliance Infrastructure, led by Anil Ambani, was the preferred bidder, promising to construct the bridge and recover the costs through a public-private partnership model.
  • However, Ambani later withdrew from the project. After several unsuccessful bidding processes, the project was handed over from the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.
  • The project gained momentum when the MMRDA secured funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which agreed to fund 80% of the project cost. The remaining cost was covered by the state and central governments.
  • The deal was finalized and work began in early 2018 after the tendering process was completed in December 2017. The total expenditure on the project was Rs 21,200 crore, with Rs 15,100 crore being a loan from JICA.

How MTHL will help

  • The Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) is projected to reduce the average travel time between Sewri and Chirle from 61 minutes to less than 16 minutes, according to a study by MMRDA and JICA.
  • It is anticipated that about 40,000 vehicles will use the link daily in its first year (2024). The project is expected to enhance the economic integration of Navi Mumbai with Mumbai, benefiting areas like Panvel, Alibaug, Pune, and Goa.
  • It will significantly improve connectivity between South Mumbai and the under-construction Navi Mumbai International Airport, the Mumbai Pune Expressway, the Mumbai-Goa Highway, and the main hinterland. The project will also improve access to Jawaharlal Nehru Port.

Some questions remain

  • While the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project is expected to boost the development and prosperity of Mumbai and its surrounding areas, there are concerns about its utility for daily commuters between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
  • The Rs 250 toll for a one-way crossing is considered high. Additionally, the bridge’s landing points on the mainland side, Shivaji Nagar in Ulwe, and Chirle, are over 10 km away from major residential areas like Vashi, Nerul, Sanpada, Juinagar, and Seawoods, which could increase commuting costs.
  • Furthermore, no public transport facilities, such as dedicated bus lanes, have been announced for the bridge yet.

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