The above tribute continues with rain pouring down like confetti on the bridge. On concrete lanes suspended over the ocean, a long train of motor vehicles streak past like tiny blips endowed with a spirit of freedom never seen before.
Thanks to Bandra Worli Sea Link (BWSL), Mumbai’s traffic woes stand somewhat diminished. On a daily basis the bridge offers a clear channel for some 37,500 vehicles, half the pre-opening estimate of 70,000.
The metropolis has therefore not yet fully said goodbye to the long standing grouse of clogged road arteries. Experts have now safely veered to the view that total benefits are expected to accrue when the subsequent phase of bridge development – the Worli-Haji Ali and the Haji Ali Nariman Point linkages – is delivered.
Despite that, and but for a few vehicular smashups or the odd power trip, rides on the bridge so far have been fairly smooth.
The new link attracts great optimism. UPS Madan, Project Director, Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU), the umbrella body of the Maharashtra government which ensures coordination and collaboration between various agencies implementing key projects, is led to say, “BWSL has had a huge impact on transforming the city with respect to transport infrastructure. Apart from providing a faster and smoother alternative route for travelling north-south, it has become a new icon for the city.”
Admittedly the bridge, a happy marriage of aesthetics and utility, has given the Mumbaikar something to crow about.
“The Sea Link is not just a great transport value addition and a time and cost saver, but is also fine architecture, a visual delight,” says Pramoud Rao, MD, Zicom Securities who has found his commute to and from the city become much easy.
Ratan Batliboi of Ratan K Batliboi Architects Private Ltd, the Mumbai firm which played a key role in the general alignment and traffic management of the project, says, “BWSL is a benchmark in terms of technology and construction quality. For the city and its people, it is an aspirational iconic structure of international standards, a grand expressive gesture and pride emoting symbol.” The role of the company also included specific design and development of landfills as public open space and the design and detail of all the buildings such as toll station and plaza, and the traffic monitoring and control centre.
Adds Batliboi, “At a practical level, the bridge provides a high speed corridor for public transportation. Though we are bringing in international technology, there is still a section of society which is not well-versed in the appropriate car driving culture which is at best, sporadic. Therefore, the entire drive experience over the bridge has to have interventions like speed breakers, rumble strips and cat’s eyes to ensure public safety until proper driving habits are uniformly instilled.”
Batliboi, however, because of shortcomings such as delay in completion of the project, is not willing to characterise BWSL as a ‘success’.
Raj Kalady, Managing Director, India, Project Management Institute, however presents a different angle to the BWSL saga. “Traditionally, Project Management success has been defined by the ability of project managers to complete projects as per schedule, cost and time. However, infrastructure and social projects also need to be evaluated on the basis of post construction success. On that count, the Bandra Worli Sea Link qualifies as a mega success given the reduction in commuting time, savings on fuel and lowering of carbon emissions. In addition, it also has become an architectural landmark and a must visit tourist destination.”
Admittedly, the BWSL – the first cable-stayed sea bridge in India – is symbolic of a larger, aspirational India, a nation looking to sustain a 9-plus percentage economic growth and trying to match the gigantic strides of China. Interestingly, a recent report mentioned China is building six cable-stayed bridges in the same time it took to construct BWSL!
However, Swiss Structural Design and Construction Analysis Expert Pascal Klein, who worked on the BWSL project, remains gung ho about the Indian capabilities. “India has unlimited development possibilities. Designs like the Bandra Worli Sea Link in Mumbai will stimulate construction culture across the country enormously.”
Significantly, construction industry analysts are wont to see the bridge as a precursor of more ambitious projects to come. It is expected to speed up the implementation of must do transportation projects both in the city and across the country. The impact of the BWSL is being felt in the real estate values in the immediate periphery of the bridge. The Sea Link is seen as a great support system for the success of central business districts like the Bandra Kurla Complex.