Dangerous Ramban-Banihal stretch turns major challenge for NHAI

Arteev Sharma. Updated: 10/3/2022 12:13:13 PM Front Page

No progress on tunnels along landslide-prone stretch; no penalty on any contractor firms so far; Chances of meeting 2025 deadline bleak

Jammu: The treacherous 36-km-long Ramban-Banihal section on Jammu-Srinagar national highway continues to pose a major challenge to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in executing the widening of existing Jammu-Srinagar highway into four-lane road as work on some dangerous patches is yet to begin.
According to the details shared by the NHAI, Ramban-Banihal stretch has been divided into five packages out of which work on only three packages were in progress but that too was being executed at snail’s pace due to difficult terrain and less working space.
“Work on two tunnels—one is between Maroog and Digdol (under package one), and another between Digdol and Panthyal (under package two)—are yet to start. Only three percent physical progress was achieved on Makarkote to Sherbibi viaduct (package III) till August this, while about 10 percent physical progress was there on Banihal Bypass stretch,” the NHAI said in response to an RTI application filed by Jammu-based activist Raman Sharma.
It further stated, “Only 15 percent physical progress was achieved on the balance work of Ramban-Banihal stretch (under package four) till August 2022”.
Going by the pace of work on this dangerous stretch, the NHAI is unlikely to meet its deadline of completing the widening of Ramban-Banihal project by June 2025.
Pertinently, the NHAI had submitted a detailed project report (DPR) worth Rs 2,000 crore to the Centre for re-alignment of 14-km four-laning road stretch on Ramban-Banihal section to bypass half-a-dozen “killer spots” to make it an all-weather road. The re-alignment of road was finalized between village Marog and Makarkote in Ramban.
A total of 14 tunnels are being constructed on the 79-km-long Udhampur-Banihal stretch comprising three tunnels between Udhampur and Ramban section and 11 along Ramban-Banihal stretch to ensure all-weather road connectivity to Kashmir Valley.
The NHAI also revealed that it has achieved around 88 percent physical progress on Udhampur-Ramban except identified slip and slide locations, while only three percent physical progress was achieved on identified slip and slide locations of Nashri, Dhalwas and Mehar to Cafeteria Morh.
Furthermore, three extensions have been given to Gammon Engineers and Contractors Private limited for the stretch of Udhampur to Ramban for which NHAI has set the deadline of December 2023.
No extension to other contractor companies has been granted to any other contractor companies. Similarly, no penalty has been imposed on any contractor firms so far, notwithstanding the fact that these two treacherous stretches—Udhampur-Ramban section and Ramban-Banihal sector have recorded 100 percent cost overrun.
The total revised cost of the 43-km-long Udhampur-Ramban section has now been pegged at Rs 2233.65 crore while it is Rs 2885.35 crore for the most difficult Ramban-Banihal section. The initial estimated cost of the project for Udhampur-Ramban section was Rs 1238.68 crore, while the project cost for Ramban-Banihal section was Rs 1331.66 crore.
What is more disappointing for highway users is that they will have to wait till 2025, as per the deadline set by NHAI, for the completion of a four-laning project which was scheduled to be completed by 2016 at the time of its start.
Work on highway widening was started in 2011 and it was targeted to be completed within five years from its commencement.
Updated On 10/3/2022 12:15:52 PM

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