After a prolonged delay, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has listed seven bidders for the three underpass projects on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway. The highways authority is expected to award the work next month after the bids are analysed.
The construction of three underpasses at Iffco Chowk, Signature Tower and Rajiv Chowk is a complex project as construction needs to be done on a high-speed corridor without interrupting traffic. The underpasses are aimed at decongesting the expressway.
Although the technical evaluation of bids is on, there is strong apprehension that if the project is awarded to the lowest bidder, the work could suffer. The highways authority has received bids from L&T Ltd, ILFS, Supremo Infra Ltd, Valeccha, GR Infra Projects Pvt Ltd, Dinesh Chandra Agrwal and Gawar Infratech.
Experts say that the NHAI should take into account its mistakes in building the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, and give contract to a firm that has sufficient project management and execution skills. The listed firms are a mix of large and small contractors, and unless the NHAI selects a company with top project management skills, there could be chaos, they say.
The project has already been delayed as the NHAI had first considered getting the underpasses built by separate firms. But, given the complexity of work, it decided to club the work so that major construction companies could be roped in. The highway authority has pegged the construction cost at Rs 657 crore and the entire project is expected to cost Rs 1,004 crore.
Prof. Sewa Ram from the School of Planning and Architecture says that the highways authority should select a construction company based on past experience, qualification of the project team and leadership, and project execution ability. “During construction, the traffic will have to be managed. So we need a management plan. Also, there has to be a safety audit and plan for such a complex project,” he said.
The complexity of project can be gauged from the fact that Gurgaon has no alternative for the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, and the parallel old Delhi-Gurgaon road is in bad shape. Prof Ram says that the builder will have to incorporate advanced technology such as precast construction to expedite construction. “The government can reject the lowest bidder but it has to justify the same to auditors,” he said.
Urban transport expert Amit Bhatt said that the tendering system in India is based on lowest cost bid, but the authorities can weed out those who do not have the capabilities required during the pre-qualiification bid. “This is a complex urban environment and this work will be very challenging,” he said.
Sources said that while the NHAI has managed to acquire 90% of land for construction of underpasses, it is still waiting for a patch of land that is owned by the forest department. Until the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon verifies the forest land, the NHAI cannot apply for clearance from the environment ministry.