More than 10 years have passed since the four-laning work on 78km stretch of National Highway 95 between Ludhiana and Talwandi Bhai (Ferozepur) via Moga had begun. After missing several deadlines and despite the financial assistance provided by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the project is still far from completion.
Moga deputy commissioner (DC) Kulwant Singh has now directed NHAI officials to complete the work on National Highway 95 by April 2023.
The project was to be completed by 2017 and has since then missed six deadlines. About 10% of the work is still pending. Despite multiple extensions, the construction company failed to complete the project and the roads it built also turned out to be of substandard quality. Most of the pending work is on the stretch between Moga and Talwandi Bhai.
NHAI has been given additional one-year extension and asked to complete the four-laning work in four phases. One-month deadline has been set to repair the rainwater harvesting system along the 10km stretch passing through Moga city and pending construction of the drain should be completed by June end.
A two-month deadline is fixed for the incomplete flyover at Ghal Kalan, while April 2023 deadline has been given to complete the rail over bridge (ROB) at Dagru.
“The construction work on the National Highway 95 is still incomplete. The administration has now given fresh deadlines to NHAI to finish this project. The incomplete highway has resulted in a number of accidents in the area. NHAI has already floated a tender for the pending work of Ghal Kalan flyover. The status of construction work at ROB will be reviewed every two months,” the DC said.
He has also set a May-end deadline to install streetlights on the entire stretch.
An official of NHAI, seeking anonymity, said since the company which was allotted the project left midway, the highways authority will float separate tenders to complete work. “Right now, some approvals for the completion of pending work are pending. So far, no company has been decided as the tender process is ongoing,” the official added.
The main reason behind the unnecessary delay in completion of the project was the dispute between the contractor and subcontractors. The project was awarded to PAN India for ₹692 crore in 2013, which further handed over the job to Varaha Infrastructure. The passing of the work almost kept the project at a standstill for about two years — October 2013 to July 2015. Later, the project was again taken over by the Essel Group.
The four-laning project worth ₹480 crore was envisaged by the NHAI in 2010. The letter of appointment in this regard was issued on December 6 the same year. The project was awarded to Essel Ludhiana Talwandi Toll Road Private Limited and the agreement was signed on January 20, 2011, between the private company and NHAI.
The construction started on March 26, 2012, and deadline was fixed for September 2014. The project was handed over on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis and all rights of the stretch were shifted from the NHAI to the entrusted firm and in return, the firm had to provide every facility to the commuters until the end of the concession period, which was 29 years from the appointed date. The entrusted firm was allowed to collect money from two toll plazas.
In December 2019, when the company ran into financial troubles, NHAI sanctioned ₹13.5 crore to it as one-time settlement for completing the project. As newly constructed portions of the road had hundreds of potholes with hardly any uniform gradient on the flyovers, only repairing work was done with the sanctioned amount.
When the company expressed its inability to fund the project further, NHAI allowed it to operate a toll plaza near Mullanpur in Ludhiana. The daily collections of toll plaza were supposed to be used for the pending construction work, but it was closed during the stir against now-repealed farm laws.