Firm widening the highway from Talapady to Kundapur runs out of money

If Navayuga-KPCL Consortium had stuck to the deadline, on April 1 you could have zipped from Talapady to Kundapur, that is around 110 km, in 80 minutes. That turned out to be an April Fool’s joke because all that whooshed by was the March 31 deadline.

The men and the machines engaged in the four-laning of National Highway 66 between Kundapur and Talapady vanished at least six month ago. Sources say Navayuga Udupi Tollway Pvt. Ltd (NUTPL) — the special purpose vehicle formed to implement the Rs. 671-crore project — has run out of money.

The Hyderabad-based Navayuga bagged the contract for the 90-km road work to facilitate movement of vehicles at speeds ranging from 80 to 100 km per hour. The 90-km stretch comprises the road from Kundapur to Surathkal, and from Nanthoor Junction to Talapady. It started the work in September 2010. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had taken up the widening work under phase III of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) on build, operate and transfer (BoT) basis.

According to sources in the NHAI, only 47 per cent of the project — which includes road work, construction of bridges and culverts — have been completed.

NUTPL officials admit it is facing a financial crisis, which has affected the work. It had raised funds from banks apart from investing its own money for the project. The officials did not reveal if the cash crunch is because of banks not extending loans or NUTPL is not able to stick to its end of the bargain.

However, financial crisis is not the only reason for the tardy progress of the project. Sources in the NHAI and NUTPL say that of 126 hectares of land required for the project the highways authority is yet to hand over nine per cent of the land to NUTPL. The NHAI had to face 29 cases opposing the land acquisition in the Karnataka High Court. Of them, four cases are still pending.

There were demands by some elected representatives and organisations to change the scope of work at certain stretches, and pro and anti-demands for bypass roads and flyovers.

The officials say that pressure by elected representatives to revise the plan of flyovers at Shastri Circle in Kundapur and Mahaveera Circle (Pumpwell Circle) and Thokkottu in Mangalore delayed the commencement of work. Now the plans have been revised and work would have to be taken up according to it. Instead of embankment-based flyovers, stilted flyovers would be built at three places.

According to an NUTPL official, the project is likely to resume in April as “some arrangements” for funding the project is under progress. Sources in the NHAI say they have no knowledge about it.

The NHAI officials say that agreement with NUTPL is unlikely to be terminated as it involves many legal issues. The agreement with it is valid for 25 years from September 5, 2010. The agreement period covers building the project and maintaining it till September 2035.

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