Sluggish public works, a norm rather than an aberration, is shooting up cost of projects, besides torturing road users and residents in various areas.

Be it black topping of roads, construction of overbridges or pipe-laying works, delay and the subsequent hassles even cause accidents. The recent being the inability of PWD (NH wing) to repair and resurface the Kundanoor-Thevara bridge.

Unpardonable delay

The work on the one-km-long crucial and busy stretch should have been over by mid-March, as per deadline. As on Tuesday, the agency is unsure of when the work will get over.

The bridge has become a pain in the spine for motorists because the surface has been scrapped off, exposing the expansion joints.

Motorists are forced to take longer routes through the Aroor-Thopumpady Road and SA Road, worsening traffic congestion on the two roads and junctions en route.

Another project that encountered a delay of over five years is the construction of the 25-metre rail portion of the Pullepady overbridge.

Cost doubled

Four-laning of the Vyttila-Aroor stretch on NH 47 Bypass was held up for over three years after the contractor shortlisted by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) abandoned the work.

Subsequently, there was a delay in finalising a new contractor.

This in turn more than doubled the project cost from Rs 80 crore to about Rs 190 crore.

The delay also worsened traffic snarls. Now, the NHAI is collecting toll as per the revised project cost.

The inability of a contractor fixed by the PWD (NH wing) to construct the Edappally overbridge resulted in the project cost rising from Rs 18 crore to Rs 36 crore.

The agency took over four years to find a new contractor to complete the project, by which time the cost of materials and labour skyrocketed.

Despite advancements in technology, a small project like constructing a culvert across a six-metre wide service road at Vyttila is putting people to much difficulty. The work is not over, over 40 days since it began.

“The concreting work is over and the curing process will take another 20 days,” said sources in Kochi Corporation.

The delay by Roads and Bridges’ Development Corporation of Kerala in completing the Ponnurunni overbridge works has put road users, including school children, in a miserable situation.

Heaps of metal stacked at Kochi Corporation-owned Subhash Bose Road is yet another example of how delay in executing works poses risk to the life and limb of road users. A similar situation prevails along the three-km-long SA Road, where dozens of huge pipes dot the road shoulders and even footpaths.

The Kerala Water Authority has not begun laying them, over six months since the pipes were unloaded.

Contractors blamed

A PWD official blamed contractors for the delay in executing works. “They must plan better and deploy workers efficiently. Unlike yesteryears, contractors are now paid on time.”

The PWD has begun levying fines – one per cent of the project cost or Rs 30,000 — for a delay of three months.

Officials blamed

The Kerala Government Contractors Association has blamed ‘unwarranted’ interference by officials deputed by the Finance Department for works getting delayed.

“Its permission is required even for minor modifications in the work. A tender is awarded after 64 officials, including those from the chief technical examiner’s office, examine it. Many of them are not technically qualified. This delays works and also increases corruption,” said Varghese Kannampilly, president of the association.

He suggested delegation of powers to officials and stringent punishment to those who indulge in corruption. “Steps must also be taken to give periodic training to officials and contractors, to help update their knowledge. This will ensure speedy and professional execution of works.”

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