Mumbai: Nearly five months after the much delayed and contentious Mumbai monorail was fully completed and opened to commuters, authorities running the line are still struggling to get enough rakes and spare parts to improve the service’s frequency and punctuality.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), in charge of monorail operations, has been trying to procure 10 new rakes since March. But it has been facing difficulties in getting a bidder despite extending the deadline on two occasions. The authority has now diluted the eligibility criteria to draw more companies. A separate tender for spare parts was floated earlier this year but that too failed.
“The last date for bid submission is now July end and about two companies have shown interest as of now. But we are still not sure if their bids will go through, qualify as per the eligibility criteria and so on,” said a senior MMRDA official who did not wish to be named.
Even if the bidding process is successful this time, it will take at least a year for the MMRDA to get the rakes as the trains will have to be specially manufactured as per the specifications of the Mumbai monorail. Moreover, with the Mumbai monorail being the first one in India, there are no domestic players who have the required experience in manufacturing monorail spare parts and rakes and successfully running them.
The struggle to operate
The 19.5-km monorail, which runs from Chembur to Jacob Circle via Wadala, was fully opened for commuters only in March, almost 10 years after its construction started. In 2014, the MMRDA had opened the first phase of 8.8 km from Chembur to Wadala.
The route, however, did not attract much ridership, impacting the operation and maintenance of the line. The development authority eventually terminated its contract with Larsen & Toubro and Malaysia’s Scomi Engineering, which built the monorail and were in charge of running it.
The MMRDA was hoping that the ridership on the corridor will pick up once the second phase, from Wadala to Jacob Circle, was opened to commuters as it passes through key areas such as Dadar and Lower Parel that draw the office crowd.
“The ridership remains at 30,000 a day though we were expecting it to ramp up to one lakh a day once the entire corridor was commissioned. Because we don’t have enough rakes and spare parts to service the rakes, we are operating at a very poor frequency due to which people don’t choose to opt for the monorail,” said another MMRDA official on condition of anonymity.
He said the frequency on paper is 22 minutes per train, but in reality the wait can be much longer.
Shortage of rakes and spare parts
According to MMRDA officials, Scomi Engineering supplied only 10 of the 15 monorail trains that it was supposed to. Of these 10, currently only four are actively in operation, one more is on standby and the rest are under maintenance.
Procuring spare parts is challenging as they have to match the specifications of the trains supplied by Scomi Engineering.
For procuring new rakes, the MMRDA has, after taking suggestions and objections from companies that attended a pre-bid meeting, relaxed the eligibility criteria, hoping to get a bidder this time.
For instance, previously the MMRDA had said that for bidders to qualify, the company’s average annual turnover over five years for any engineering manufacturing business should be a minimum of Rs 400 crore. It has now slashed this requirement to Rs 150 crore.
Similarly, on the operational performance criteria, the earlier condition was that the bidding company should have a minimum 20 monorail cars that have successfully completed revenue operations in any one country anywhere in the world for the past 24 months. The MMRDA has now changed this to 20 months.
“Earlier this year, we got some spare parts from Scomi Engineering as we had some balance payment pending with the company. Now we have engaged Singapore’s SMRT Corporation to give us a whole project report on how we should go about procuring spare parts,” said the first official quoted above.
“As for the additional rakes, we can only hope that the bidding process is successful this time,” he added.
Also read: The failure that is India’s first monorail
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