Plan to build the first concrete expressway of the state, the four-laning project of the national highway from Zirakpur to Bathinda, is in limbo as for the second time no bidder has turned up for the project.
The 215 km-long highway, which is termed as the lifeline of Malwa, connects Zirakpur with Bathinda, via Banur, Patiala, Bhawanigarh- Sangrur, Dhanula, Tapa and Rampura Phul.
The widening was divided into two parts - Zirakpur to Patiala and Patiala to Bathinda - which will cost nearly Rs 2,000 crore. Call it higher gravel and sand prices in the state, the PWD department has drawn blank in response to its tenders floated for the construction of the first part of the national highway from Zirakpur to Patiala.
Ironically, the project is hanging fire since 2008 when it was first planned. In 2010, the project was awarded on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis to a private company that left the project as the sand and gravel prices skyrocketed in the state.
"Earlier, a contractor left the project after getting tender even before initiating the work on ground level. Now, no one is coming to bid for the project," said a PWD official.
The state government has already paid Rs 2,000 crore as compensation for acquiring land for widening of the national highway-64, which is one of the most busy roads in the state and costs many lives because of accidents. Already one lakh trees have been axed for widening of this highway.
PWD minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said, "In fact, the tenders were floated second time on direction of the centre as it is required to float the tender twice and if no bidder turns up, then the central government will fund the project."
He said now the centre would fund the project on the Engineering-Procurement-Construction (EPC) mode. The centre would collect the toll from the commuters. He said he would personally take up the matter with the centre to speed up the project.
Centre okays Rs 1,000cr for roads
The PWD minister said the central government has approved Rs 1,000 crore for the construction, widening and repair of inter-linking roads in the state. He said the state has to contribute Rs 250 crore, as state's share to get this grant from the centre.
No plan to remove toll plazas
The PWD minister said there was no plan to remove any toll plaza in the state. Responding to queries that the BJP-led Haryana government has removed seven toll plazas from its roads, the minister said there was no such plan in Punjab. He said there was need to collect user charges to provide quality services to commuters.