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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

NHAI looks to cut cost of Akshardham-EPE road

Tenders for the Rs 2,820-crore project, which is part of the Centre’s ambitious plan to decongest Delhi, were floated in January this year.

delhi Updated: Oct 15, 2019 05:07 IST
Risha Chitlangia
Risha Chitlangia
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The highways authority is now exploring possibilities to bring down the project cost of the six-lane, access-controlled corridor, which passes through some of the most-congested areas in east and northeast Delhi, such as Geeta Colony, Shastri Park and Khajuri Khas.
The highways authority is now exploring possibilities to bring down the project cost of the six-lane, access-controlled corridor, which passes through some of the most-congested areas in east and northeast Delhi, such as Geeta Colony, Shastri Park and Khajuri Khas. (Virendra Singh Gosain/ Hindustan Times)
         

Nine months after Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone for the 31.3-km-long corridor between Akshardham (Delhi) and the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE), the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is assessing its “financial viability”, and exploring options to bring down the cost.

Tenders for the Rs 2,820-crore project, which is part of the Centre’s ambitious plan to decongest Delhi, were floated in January this year.

The exercise is being done following directions from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to prioritise highway projects after evaluating them financially, a senior NHAI officer in the know of the development said.

The decision comes after the Prime Minister’s Office, in August, expressed concern about road infrastructure projects becoming financially unviable.

The highways authority is now exploring possibilities to bring down the project cost of the six-lane, access-controlled corridor, which passes through some of the most-congested areas in east and northeast Delhi, such as Geeta Colony, Shastri Park and Khajuri Khas.

Of the total length of 31.3km, 14.75km is in Delhi of which 6.5-7km will be elevated.

“The project cost is high as large part of the corridor is elevated—of the 31.3km, 19km-stretch is elevated. We are assessing its financial viability and exploring remodelling options to bring down the cost,” the officer said, adding that the project one of the many being scrutinized.

“The financial viability of the project is being assessed along with that of other 300-odd new highway projects under the Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I. A report in this regard will be submitted to the ministry in a month or two,” he added.

Though the bids were invited in January, the last date to submit the bid was extended five times—most recently in September—as the project does not have the financial clearance from the ministry. “Initially, the bid submission date was extended as it didn’t have financial clearance. But, in August we were asked to assess its financial viability,” another senior NHAI officer, who is a part of the project, said, explaining that the cost of highway projects is recovered from toll. “In this case, the cost of toll per vehicle is working out to be very high,” he said.

One of the remodelling options under consideration is to reduce the number of lanes from six to four on the 13km elevated section between Delhi-UP Border to EPE. “Reducing the number of lanes is one such option, which will bring down the cost substantially. We are exploring all options to make the project viable,” the officer said.

The corridor is part of the 155-km-long National Highway-709B project between Akshardham and Saharanpur Bypass (UP) to provide seamless connectivity between Delhi and UP. The ₹4,405-core NH-709B project is divided in four packages—Akshardham-Khajuri Khas/UP Border, Khajuri Khas/UP Border-EPE intersection, EPE intersection-Shamli Bypass and Shamli Bypass-Saharanpur Bypass.

Work on the EPE intersection-Shamli Bypass section started in February this year, while the Shamli Bypass to Saharanpur Bypass work started last month.

The Akshardham-EPE Corridor was announced by Gadkari at a mega event in January in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, after North East Delhi MP and Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari sought his intervention to decongest east and northeast Delhi. While announcing the project, Gadkari had said that the Centre has planned ₹50,000-crore projects to decongest the national capital.

The proposed corridor is aimed to take the traffic load off the Pushta Road, which has a peak hour traffic volume of 7,000-9,000 PCU (passenger car unit). Pushta Road sees high traffic volume as it is flanked by densely-populated residential areas on either side. The road is also one of the main entry/exit points for traffic heading towards Loni and neighbouring areas in Uttar Pradesh.

As per the initial plan, the elevated portion of the corridor was to start from Geeta Colony in east Delhi.

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