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Eastern Peripheral Expressway-Flip-flop delays crucial expressway

Postby yadav_ajay » Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:30 am

News Article From TOI dt 9th Aug'11
"Flip-flop delays crucial expressway"

NEW DELHI: The Eastern Peripheral Expressway, an ambitious project to decongest the city by diverting traffic through national highways, is still hanging fire.

The Supreme Court set up a panel to monitor progress, procedural clearances were given by central agencies, but the man at the helm - the minister for highways - is still sitting on the files. Shockingly, the project which was scheduled to be completed by November this year is still to be awarded to any firm. And while Union minister CP Joshi is "considering" the case before financial bid is issued for the 135-km highway project, killer trucks continue to run amok in the city.

The government's seriousness can be gauged from the fact that the SC-appointed monitoring committee for the project has not met since January. The court had mandated holding of meetings once every two months.

The expressway was planned to connect Kundli (NH-1), Ghaziabad (NH-24) and Palwal (NH-2). It will take at least three-and-a-half years to complete the project after it's awarded. This means, till 2014, Delhi has to live with the killer trucks and clogged roads.

The project, which is aimed at easing traffic flow, has been deferred or delayed by subsequent ministers for highways since October 2008. This was when the National Highways Authority of India floated the first tender. Though six infrastructure firms were qualified to bid (then costing Rs 2,335 crore), only one player submitted the financial bid in December 2008. This after the bidding deadline was extended five times. "NHAI wanted the project to be awarded as in other cases where only single bids were placed. But the then minister, Kamal Nath, scrapped the bidding process in July 2009. Then the process of restructuring the project under new toll rules began," an NHAI official said.

The project cost was also hiked to Rs 2,699 crore. After C P Joshi took over as minister, NHAI moved the proposal to invite tenders. But the Planning Commission swung into action and favoured developing this stretch as a bypass. Official documents available with TOI show that the Plan Panel pushed the argument of charging a toll - one-and-a-half times more than on any national highway.

The panel had justified this in a letter to the Union ministry on April 13. But the ministry dismissed it on the ground the project was a normal highway, not a bypass. The ministry also stated that if toll rates are high, traffic will move out to the western peripheral expressway, the other half of the ring,

The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, which had considered the proposal on April 20 had approved the project and directed the Public Private Partnership Accounts Committee (PPPAC) to take a final decision on the toll rate.

The PPPAC finally gave a go-ahead to bid the project as a normal national highway in June this year. "Then we invited tenders and 24 bidders have been qualified. The document for financial bidding is ready. But until we get a go-ahead from the minister, the process can't start," said a National Highway Authority of India official.
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