China’s second-largest construction company is competing with at least six international builders, including two each from Japan and Korea, for $2.7 billion worth of contracts to build the largest road bridge in India.
The 22-kilometer Mumbai Trans Harbor Link has attracted bids from China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group Co. Ltd., Japan’s IHI Infrastructure System Co. Ltd., and Korea’s Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. and SK Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. among others, according to U.P.S. Madan, the chief of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority. The global construction majors have bid in partnership with Indian companies including Larsen & Toubro Ltd. and the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, he said.
The project, which aims to shrink traveling time between the island city and its mainland suburbs, was first conceived about 40 years ago, according to Madan, but then delayed for various reasons. It is an integral piece of the plan to develop transport links in India’s financial capital where congestion often leaves the 20 million people that live in and around Mumbai in hours-long traffic jams and makes light of the city’s dream of rivaling Shanghai as a business center.
“Fortunately, it has come to a stage where now it is going to take off,” Madan said. The project will bring economic development to the so far underdeveloped eastern suburbs of Mumbai and reduce the load on infrastructure in other parts, he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the trans-harbor link in December. The bridge will also offer connectivity to a new airport planned in Navi Mumbai district and to the manufacturing hub of Pune. On completion, it will be the longest road and sea bridge in India.
“Mumbai has not been able to grow in every direction, the growth has mainly been in the South and North,” said Jaijit Bhattacharya, partner, infrastructure & government, KPMG India. “The linkage will spread growth to the mainland, de-congest heavy Mumbai traffic, cut travel time.” This is one of the country’s largest projects to garner so much interest from international companies, he said.
The trans-harbor link will cost about 178 billion rupees ($2.7 billion), with nearly 85 percent of that coming from the Japan International Cooperation Agency as a soft loan to be repaid over 30 years, Madan said. He expects tenders to be finalized in April and work to begin this year given all the regulatory approvals have been received. The agency plans to complete construction by 2021.
China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group is a subsidiary of China Railway Group Ltd., the world’s second-largest infrastructure builder. Since two phases of the trans-harbor link go over the sea, the MMRDA has laid out strict criteria for those portions of the bridge, with Indian companies needing to tie up with more experienced and technologically-advanced foreign peers to qualify.
India this year announced record spending of 3.96 trillion rupees to build and modernize its railways, airports and roads as Prime Minister Modi aims to upgrade the strained infrastructure in Asia’s third-largest economy.