7 years on, Ludhinana-Talwandi Bhai four-laning project still in limbo
MOGA The four-laning of the 78-km stretch on National Highway 95 from Ludhiana to Talwandi Bhai in Ferozepur, which began in 2012, is still incomplete despite missing several deadlines. The project was to be latest completed by 2017. The project has alone missed three deadlines in 2017—March 31, July 31 and December 31. Around 15% work of the project is still to be completed.
Despite many extensions, the construction company failed to complete the project and roads constructed by the company have also been found faulty. The construction company was asked to repair the road after it failed to adhere to safety norms. The newly constructed portions of the road bear hundreds of potholes with hardly any uniform gradient on the flyovers. Service lanes have not yet been constructed at many places while works on grade separators were also found incomplete at many locations. Also, a bigger portion of railway over bridge (RoB) over Dagru crossing is yet to be constructed. The work on RoB is laying standstill due to pending approval from railway authorities.
Meanwhile, as the company ran into a financial problem, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) recently sanctioned ₹13.50 crore to the private company as one-time settlement for completing the project.
“The private company is facing financial crises, due to which work on the highway has been delayed. NHAI has decided to fund the company. An amount of ₹13.50 crore has been approved, which would be provided to the private firm soon,” said Bhupendra Chouhan, NH 95 project director, NHAI.
Moga deputy commissioner (DC) Sandeep Hans said that the NHAI has sanctioned ₹13.50 crore to help the private firm complete the pending works. “Repairing of faulty roads will be also done soon,” he added.
Reason for delay
The main reason behind unnecessary delay in completion of the project was dispute between the contractor and sub-contractors. The project was awarded to PAN India for ₹692 crore in 2013 which further handed over the job to Varaha Infrastructure. The passing of the work almost kept the project in standstill for two years—October 2013 to July 2015. Later the project was again taken over by the Essel.
The four-laning project worth ₹480 crore was envisaged by the NHAI in 2010. The letter of appointment (LoA) in this regard was issued on December 6 the same year. The project was awarded to Essel Ludhiana Talwandi Toll Road Private Limited and the agreement was signed on January 20, 2011 between the private company and NHAI. The construction work commenced on March 26, 2012, and deadline was set for September 2014.
The project was handed over on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis and all rights of the stretch were shifted from the NHAI to the entrusted firm and in return the firm has to provide every facility to the commuters until the end of the concession period, which was 29 years from the appointed date. The entrusted firm was allowed to collect money from the two toll plazas.
It is also learnt that the construction company had decided to collect money from the commuters taking the two toll plazas, located near Mullanpur and Mahesari village, from this year, however, it could not realise toll tax in absence of no objection certificate (NOC) due to incomplete construction.
Killer stretch claims 900 lives
The stretch passing through Ludhiana, Moga and Ferozepur districts is one of the most dangerous roads in the country. The worst part of this “killer” stretch is in Moga district, which alone has claimed over 900 lives in the past five years.
As per the police record, 908 person have died and 519 sustained injuries in road accidents on the NH 95 in Moga between 2014 and 2019. Delay in construction work of the Ludhiana-Talwandi Bhai highway is stated to be one of the important reasons behind the fatalities.
Moga bar association president Ranjit Singh Dhaliwal has filed a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana high court seeking monetary compensation for the family members of accident victims and to fix a deadline for completion of the project.