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Posted at: Jun 12, 2019, 7:35 AM; last updated: Jun 12, 2019, 7:35 AM (IST)

Zojila tunnel project fails to come out of bidding process

Executing agency hopeful of clearance of bottlenecks, early start of work
Zojila tunnel project fails to come out of bidding process
The PM inaugurates the work on the Zojila tunnel. File photo

Arteev Sharma

Tribune News Service

Jammu, June 11

Asia’s longest bi-directional Zojila tunnel project, connecting Kashmir’s Sonmarg with the Gumri area in Ladakh’s Kargil district, has failed to come out of the bidding process till date.

This is despite the fact that it holds utmost strategic importance and is considered the lifeline of the arid Ladakh region.

The executing agency, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), has now pinned high hopes on the new government at the Centre “for clearance of all bottlenecks to ensure the early resumption of the work on the project”.

On January 15, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had terminated the contract with the beleaguered agency, M/S IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd, which executed nearly 7 to 10 per cent ground work. On February 13, the 14.31-km-long project was offered for rebidding. The IL&FS was awarded contract on January 19, 2018.

“We are still in the re-bidding process and hopeful of some positive development with regard to the project as the new government has taken over the reins in the country,” said a senior official of the NHIDCL.

The official said, “Our apprehensions of losing an entire working season in awarding contract to another company seem to be coming true. We are yet to complete the bidding process. The evaluation of financial as well as technical bids will be a lengthy process. In the process, the possibility of losing the entire working season is quite high as no work is executed in the region after October 15.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation of the project on May 19 last year. This project holds strategic and socio-economic importance for the Ladakh region. It will help India to keep a check on the growing influence of aggressive China and Pakistan in Ladakh.

Besides, it will reduce the travel time to cross Zojila from 3.5 hours to just 15 minutes and ensure round-the-year connectivity to the region which remains cut off from the rest of the country for almost six months in a year.

As per the agreement with M/S IF&LS Transportation Networks Ltd, the construction period of the project was 2,555 days ie seven years, which was to be reckoned from the date of commencement of the construction. The total capital cost of the project was Rs 6,808.69 crore.

Zojila, considered a lynchpin of all-weather connectivity to Ladakh, is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Leh highway and is the fourth highest pass in the country.

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