The 5,846-kms Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) highway project, the dream project of successive governments, has been beset with cost overruns of about Rs 12,000 crore and a delay of over two years. About 225 kms, at different sections, are yet to be completed.
The project to connect Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai began in 1999 and was set for completion by 2005 under the first phase of the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP). As a result of the cost overruns, the GQ that was targeted for completing at an estimated cost of Rs 60,000 crore at 1999 prices would now cost Rs 72,000 crore and would be complete only by the end of next calendar year.
According to an official, the delays in completion of the project have been primarily due to delays in land acquisition, especially because of political interference. Rebidding, the monsoons and the law and order problem in Naxal affected stretches of Bihar and the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border have also contributed to the delay.
For instance, the official said a 15-kms section of the GQ in Tamil Nadu was rerouted and started afresh as local leaders did not allow a statue on that particular stretch to be removed simply because according to them it was the last of the statues to be garlanded by the late Rajiv Gandhi.
"The contract we sign with wining bidders very clearly state that the land acquired by the National Highway Development Authority for development of the highway would be free of any encumbrances. A majority of delays in the GQ have been primarily due to delay in land acquisitions," the official said.
In certain sections, the poor quality of work execution by contractors that have been black listed, which in turn has required fresh bids have contributed to the time and cost overruns, the official added.
According to data available, 100 per cent of the 1,419 km of the Delhi-Mumbai stretch of the GQ has been completed, while a 115-km stretch on the 1,684 km Kolkata Chennai and a 75-km stretch on the 1,435 km Delhi-Kolkata section and around 40 km in different sections on the GQ were yet be completed.