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Bandra Worli Sea Link RGSL 2nd Carriageway inaugurated, presence of BIg B draws protest

The second carriageway of the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link (RGSL) opened here Wednesday with some Congressmen protesting the presence of megastar Amitabh Bachchan at the inauguration.

Mumbai Pradesh Congress Committee chief Kripa Shankar Singh termed Bachchan's presence as "improper" and claimed that the party was not consulted before inviting the superstar as one of the guests at the event.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who threw open the second carriageway, making the RGSL as an 8-land bridge in the Arabian Sea, brushed off the controversy with some light-hearted remarks.

Chavan said that he was happy that a prominent citizen like Bachchan was present at the inaugural function.

Stressing that Mumbai was for all people, Chavan urged the need "to make Mumbai a global city and Maharashtra a global state".

Despite repeated attempts, Singh remained unavailable for his views on the matter, while Bachchan, who was seated in the front row with other VIPs, did not interact with the media.

However, some other Congressmen in the city feel that the presence of Bachchan - who is out of favour with the Gandhi family - did not augur well for the party.

Moreover, the entire Bachchan family is close to the Samajwadi Party which has been vehemently opposing the Congress at the Centre and in the state, they pointed out.

Later, a group of classic vintage cars were the first vehicles which winded their way across the newly-opened (south-north) carriageway even as thousands of onlookers clapped and cheered.

"With the opening of the second carriageway, there will be a drastic reduction in accidents on the 5.6 kilometre sea link. The ride will be faster and more comfortable," Maharashtra State Roads Development Corporation (MSRDC) Chief Engineer S.M. Sabnis told IANS.

Head-on traffic on both sides will be eliminated, he said.

A single carriageway (north-south lane) of the sea link was thrown open to traffic last June. It became an instant hit with Mumbaikars.

Since the opening of the sea link, built at a cost of Rs.1,600 crore, the travel time between Bandra to Worli - a distance of eight kilometre - has been cut down from 45-60 minutes to seven minutes.

Billed as an engineering marvel, the sea link is India's first cable-stayed sea bridge with two 128-metre towers on which the cables are supported.

Public Works (Undertakings) Minister Jaidutta Kshirsagar said the work on extending the sea link to Haji Ali (in south) will start in November this year by a Reliance-Hyundai consortium.

Work on the Rs.4,300 crore, 3.8 kilometre 8-lane bridge is likely to be completed by April 2014, he said.

Besides this, the government is reviewing the nine kilometre sea link extension from Haji Ali to Nariman Point and Cuffe Parade in south Mumbai which is expected to cost around Rs.5,500 crore.

Similarly, the government is studying a proposal to extend it 10 km in the north between Bandra and Andheri at a cost of around Rs.2,700 crore, Kshirsagar said.

With a view to decongest the road and rail networks, the state government has called for bids to start water transport on the western coast of Mumbai, connecting Nariman Point (south) with Borivli (north), a distance of around 45 km, with jetties at Bandra, Juhu, Versova and Malad.

MSRDC managing director Sonia Sethi said that so far, 19 companies have purchased bid documents ahead of the April 15 deadline. (IANS)

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