Pune-Satara highway: Incomplete work takes its ‘toll’ on commuters
Even though the road widening work of the highway is yet to be completed, National Highways Authority of India has now hiked toll ratespune Updated: Mar 26, 2018 15:28 IST
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has hiked toll rates of the Khed-Shivapur and Anewadi toll plazas on the Pune- Satara highway, despite the fact that the road widening work of the 140-km long highway is yet to be completed. The road widening work has missed four deadline extensions in almost eight years and the increase in toll rates is causing inconvenience to commuters.
The road widening work of the Pune-Satara highway, commissioned in 2008, started on October 1, 2010 and was supposed to be completed by March 31, 2013. Even though NHAI extended the deadline four times, Reliance Infra, the company responsible for carrying out the project, has once again applied for an extension till December 2018.
While the contractor has cited issues such as land acquisition, lack of permission for cutting trees and untimely funding as reasons for the delay, NHAI officials said that these issues have been sorted out. “Now, Reliance Infra should deploy more labourers and machinery to complete the project in time,” said a senior NHAI official on the condition of anonymity.
RTI activist Vivek Velankar, who has been raising the issues associated with the delay in the road widening work, said,"I don't know why NHAI is silent on the serious issue of delays in the project. Though NHAI is pinning the blame on Reliance Infra, they are not taking any strict action against the contractor. NHAI should have insisted that the work be completed on time."
Velankar added that it was unfair that NHAI has decided to increase the toll rates even though the road work is yet to be completed. This is causing a lot of inconvenience to commuters, he added. “They are planning to increase the toll charges at Khed-Shivapur and Anewadi toll plazas even before the road work is completed. Why should we pay if the contractor has not completed the project?” said Velankar.
BK Singh, assistant manager at Reliance Infra, said,"The project was delayed because of the hurdles in land acquisition with many residents opposing the project. We have completed almost 90 per cent of the work and will complete the remaining work as soon as possible."
"Reliance Infra has demanded for one more deadline extension till December 2018. Our head will take a decision on it, but we have completed all procedures from our side, including the approval of all necessary permissions. Hence, we are expecting Reliance Infra to complete the project before the monsoon season," said Suhas Chitnis, project director, NHAI.
NHAI had sanctioned the proposal for expanding the Pune-Satara highway into a six lane highway in 2008 and had earmarked ₹1,984 crore for the same.The contract was given to Reliance Infra. The deadline was set for March 2013. However, the contractor managed to complete only 40 per cent of the project in three years and sought additional time on various occasions. Though the last deadline given was March 31, 2018, Reliance Infra said that only 90 per cent of the work has been completed, a claim discarded by activists.
According to police records, the work on the stretch has also led to a large number of accidents. In December 2013, the traffic branch of the city police had submitted a report to the NHAI listing 20 accident-prone areas on a 34-km stretch of the highway from Kiwale to Katraj.
"Reliance Infra is acting highly unprofessional. At this stage, we cannot cancel their contract, but the work would be completed before the arrival of monsoon," said Saurabh Rao, Pune district collector .
At the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Chandani chowk flyover, minister Nitin Gadkari had said that Reliance Infra was a black spot on NHAI and had demanded that they be blacklisted. But after six months, nothing has happened and Reliance Infra is ready for another deadline extension.
According to NHAI officials, weekly review meetings are being conducted with company representatives. The company has already been asked to submit a revised planning programme, according to which the decision on the deadline extension will be taken.