Three years gone, key flyover to ease traffic in South Delhi only 36% complete
More than 16 months after it was supposed to be finished, only 36% work has been completed on a three-lane flyover parallel to the existing Rao Tula Ram (RTR) flyover that is the primary link between south Delhi and the airport, according to senior officials in the Public Works Department (PWD).
The project began in November 2014 with a budget of Rs 278 crore. More than three years later, nearly two-thirds of the flyover is yet to be completed at an average speed of less than 1% per month. Since that time, the officials said, the cost of building the flyover has escalated by 19% to Rs 330 crore. The average pace of flyover construction in Delhi is 4-5% per month, according to experts. The delay has a big impact on traffic in south Delhi every day, leading to a longer run to and from the airport and heavy congestion on the Outer Ring Road in the morning and evening rush hours.
The officials said penalties that have been imposed on the firm hired for the project — Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) — has been told it would be blacklisted if there were further delays.
“We have now increased the levies (penalty for delay). Now it will be Rs 2.8 crore per month. We have shown our intention,” said one of the officials quoted above.
“The progress of the project is slow because of financial problems with the company... such companies have global issues,” said another PWD official associated with the project.
The company, however, said the project was dogged by “reasons beyond the purview” of the contractor. “The project is running behind schedule mainly due to delays in handing over the land, shifting of utilities, and delay in tree cutting. The flyover work is progressing well as 100% of piling, piers and pile caps has completed and superstructure work being fast-tracked,” said an HCC spokesperson.
In his budget speech on March 22, Delhi finance minister Manish Sisodia had announced that the flyover would be completed by the end of June, but officials suggest the deadline will not be met.
“Even if the speed of construction increases to between 2% and 3% every month, it will take another 30 more months to complete the project. We need at least 7-8% growth per month,” said a PWD official, requesting anonymity.
According to the plan, the 2.7km flyover is supposed to start from the Munirka petrol pump and end just before National Highway 8, close to the army hospital at Subroto Park.
When contacted, Delhi PWD minister Satyendar Jain said that delays were triggered by late permission for cutting of trees, shifting of utilities (cables, water lines etc), residents’ opposition, and heavy traffic.
“We can increase the work speed three times if we close the traffic on the stretch completely but we cannot do that. We cannot put huge machinery and carry out work on a big scale at the site because of non- availability of space and heavy traffic,” he added.
The existing 900-metre RTR flyover was opened to the public in October 2009. Officials say it was part of a series of flyovers planned between IIT Gate and Munirka.
But these planned bridges had double carriageways and the design of the RTR flyover was altered due to opposition from residents. Consequently, the facility was reduced to a single carriageway, resulting in traffic bottlenecks.
Later, it was turned into two-way corridor allowing vehicular movement in both directions, but it did not help traffic congestion and work on a parallel flyover was started to tide over the problem.
“Around 1.8 lakh to two lakh PCU (passenger car units) pass through Munirka stretch so the way congestion is building up here, the flyover should have been opened by now. The court-related matter has been solved and other reasons being given for the delay are just lame excuses,” said Velmurugan, senior principal scientist in the traffic engineering and safety division at the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).
“The existing flyover is not able to carry the vehicular load. Every day, we have to deploy 18 to 20 personnel there to manage traffic. Additional delays will make the situation worse,” said joint commissioner of police (traffic) Garima Bhatnagar.