Work on the 135.6 km long expressway, officially called the Western Peripheral Expressway, was started in 2006 and was planned to be completed by July 2009. The objective of building the expressway was to connect the three towns of Haryana by providing free-flowing traffic connectivity through the state, without entering Delhi. The purpose was to free traffic congestion in Delhi that was caused by trucks and other heavy vehicles that were merely transiting through Delhi. With this expressway, the trucks will bypass Delhi completely, thereby saving both time and precious fuel.
Unfortunately, the completion of the road is already five years behind schedule and in a recent press conference, the Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, K.S Gurjar said that he had asked the Haryana government to resume work within two months and expedite the remaining work, failing which the Centre would hand the project to NHAI for completing the remaining part.
The tardy progress made on part of the concessionaire, KMP Expressways Limited, which is owned by DS Construction Ltd, can be seen by the fact that in the last eight years only 70% of the project has been completed, while the estimated cost of completing the project has exceeded the original estimate of Rs. 1,915 crore by Rs. 800 crore. Rs. 1,200 crore has already been spent on the project.
Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC), the executing agency for the project has appointed M/s Feedback Infra Pvt. Ltd. to suggest options for going forward. Feedback on its part has suggested seven options available with the government that include cancelling and transferring the project to another agency. IDBI Bank, the lead banker to the project has already served a substitution notice to the concessionaire. The transportation and logistics access to several states will be positively impacted once this expressway opens, therefore it remains to be seen how HSIIDC proceeds in the matter and how soon the project is completed as the opportunity cost of the project running five years behind schedule is already very high.
The State government must accept responsibility for not exerting adequate pressure on the concessionaire during this period, after all DS Construction Ltd. is the same company that was responsible for building and managing the Delhi-Gurgaon toll plaza on NH8. The company had been blamed for poor project execution and management of the toll plaza which ultimately led to the toll plaza being removed.
It's been seen that a major reason for delays in infrastructure related projects is acquisition of land. Projects often get delayed due to lengthy litigations by land owners that result in project cost overruns. Similar situation is prevailing on the Delhi-Jaipur Expressway that is way behind its schedule and is causing huge losses, due to traffic congestion on the highway.
Unless all state governments co-operate with the Centre in working out suitable land acquisition laws and ensure that all land is acquired prior to commencing the project, crucial infrastructure projects will continue to suffer at the cost of the exchequer.
It is time that both the central and the state government take stock of all pending projects and immediately resolve issues that are causing delays.
Reference: Media reports