Accolades are pouring in for the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, better known as DMRC, for completing A.L. Jacob overbridge two months ahead of the 18-month deadline.
The agency adhered to its deadline, despite delay in obtaining sanction from the Commissioner of Railway Safety to lay a 46.80-metre-long steel girder weighing 330 tonnes over electrified railway lines. “Being the longest girder used in any railway road overbridge in Kerala, it was a logistical nightmare to push it into place,” said sources associated with the project.
Meticulous planning and adoption of good construction practices too helped.
The bridge’s inaugural function saw dignitaries pour praises on the efficiency of DMRC and the efforts taken by its Principal Advisor E. Sreedharan to ensure prompt and quality work. The MLA representing Ernakulam constituency Hibi Eden spoke of how the PWD NH wing took about 15 years to complete the 600-metre-long Edapally overbridge on NH 17, as compared to the 425-metre-long A L Jacob bridge that was readied in 16 months.
The delay resulted in Edappally bridge’s project cost doubling from Rs 18 crore to Rs 36 crore, while the DMRC could complete the A L Jacob bridge as per the estimated cost of Rs 25 crore.
DMRC as an exception
Former Union Urban Development Secretary M. Ramachandran, who closely monitored DMRC’s Delhi Metro works, blamed time and cost overrun as the bane of most projects in India. “The DMRC is an exception since it gives a detailed schedule of each project and demands funds from the government. It has also evolved a system whereby the public are not put to difficulty during the construction phase,” he said.
Its reputation also counts, since the DMRC makes its intention to deliver projects on time very clear. Commission and bribes are the norm in many government works and this further affects the pace and cost of projects. “The DMRC has also delegated powers to officials at middle and lower rungs, which checks unnecessary interference from higher-ups, Mr. Ramachandran said.
Sources in the PWD said the DMRC was able to go ahead in full steam since it insists on money in advance for projects. “They are not bound by treasury rules and the PWD manual. Delegated decision making powers helps and government departments have much to learn from the DMRC.”
They spoke of how the State government took two years just to decide on hiking the project cost for the Edappally bridge, after the contractor stopped work citing steep hike in price of steel.
The pace of A.L. Jacob bridge’s work is often contrasted with the tardy pace at which the Roads and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala (RBDCK) is constructing the Ponnurunni overbridge. While the construction work for Ponnurunni bridge began in June 2011, the work for A L Jacob bridge began in November 2011. The contractor for both the projects is the same.
The MD of RBDCK A.P.M. Mohammed Hanish said the delay in obtaining sanction to build the railway portion and in acquiring land held up the works. “The bridge will be ready for commissioning in July.”
Similarly, NHAI’s delay of about three years in completing the Aluva flyover caused many a hassle to commuters along NH 47. The 524-metre-long flyover at Bakery Junction in Thiruvananthapuram was commissioned in 2010 though work began in 2005 and was expected to be over in 18 months. The contractor stopped the work midway because of delay in land acquisition, procedural problems and disputes with the State government.
Kochi Corporation has not begun land acquisition for overbridges at Atlantis, Pachalam and Vaduthala despite the projects being mooted over a decade ago. The Rs 48 crore that the government had earmarked for compensating land owners in Atlantis is yet to be disbursed.