Hazaribagh road clears Cabinet bump

August 6, 2009

Ranchi, July 31: The Union Cabinet has finally cleared the project to widen the Ranchi-Hazaribagh stretch of NH-33, considered the lifeline of the state, making it the first project in the region — including Bihar — to be executed under build, operate and transfer (BOT).

The Cabinet sanctioned Rs 688 crore yesterday for four-laning 71km of the highway which means that a consortium of IL&FS Transportation Networks Limited (ITNL) and Punj Lloyd would now be awarded a contract by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).

According to the terms of the BOT-annuity plan, the project will have to be completed in two and-a-half-years. The consortium would be paid Rs 64.08 crore every six months for the next 15-and-a- half years.

In all, the government would be paying the consortium approximately Rs 1,900 crore, the funds for which would be sanctioned in future. The consortium will, however, be responsible for maintaining the road for 18 years from the date of awarding of the contract.

“Now NHAI will issue a letter of intent following which a contract agreement will be signed with the consortium. This will be the first project in Jharkhand and Bihar to be executed under BOT-annuity basis,” Lt Col Chandan Vatsa, the NHAI general manager (BOT), told The Telegraph from Delhi, sounding relieved that the project had crossed its final hurdle.

Four-laning of the Ranchi-Hazaribagh stretch was in phase III of National Highway Development Programme’s (NHDP) which was cleared by the Centre in 2005. But it was held up as the past three attempts to invite bids did not yield results.

Vatsa, however, warned that the state, now under president’s rule, had a lot more to do so that land acquisition, forest clearances and other permissions were speeded up.

“Only about 48 per cent land required for widening the road is under NHAI’s possession. As per the Model Concession Agreement approved by government of India, at least 80 per cent possession of land is mandatory before a contract cab be awarded. So now the state administration must pull up its socks,” the NHAI official said.

NHAI has also provided for a 4.2km bypass in the Kujju area of the highway to avoid the fire zone that has already made commuting in the stretch dangerous. The by-pass, that would run on a new alignment, has been included in the proposed four-laning project.

The total length of the Ranchi-Hazaribagh stretch of NH33, including the bypass, would work out to be 71.16km.

“The new proposed alignment will avoid the existing fire zone in and around Kujju. It could well be the safest zone. But once the project starts we will need to conduct soil, bore hole and other geological tests to assess the exact magnitude of the underground fire,” Vatsa added.

M.K. Pandey, the manager (technical) of NHAI, said they have apprised Delhi about the situation at Kujju. “After conducting the geological tests, the authorities may even decide to alter the alignment of the Kujju bypass once work starts, ” he said.


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