Highways Department to call for tenders again as contractor pulls out owing to problems in land acquisition

Having yearned for years for a road-over-bridge across the railway gate that often delayed their daily commute, residents of Lalgudi had rejoiced when the Highways Department broke ground for the project in 2010. But little did they imagine that the project will run aground within two years and put them into more trouble every day.

With less than 50 per cent of the work having been completed, the project had come to grinding halt last year because of problems in land acquisition, a clutch of litigations, and finally the contractor’s decision to pull out. The series of pillars that have been built for the project on the Lalgudi Main Road only compounds the agony of the road users.

The bridge with 19 spans would run for 500 metres and provide an important link between the bus stand and the southern parts of the town. Traversing this arterial road has become a tortuous ride, much worse than the trouble of having to wait in long queues whenever the railway gates are closed on the busy Tiruchi-Chennai section. Traffic snarls have become the order of the day, especially during peak hours, regret residents.“This has become a major traffic problem for us. As many as 44 trains pass through Lalgudi and every time the gate is closed for nearly 15 minutes. We were hoping for an early solution to this problem, but the delay in the bridge work has only added to our woes,” says G. Kanagasabai, a senior citizen and president of the Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare sociation.

Several villages are located to the south of the railway gate. With the LNP Girls Higher Secondary School right in the middle of the project site and the government boys higher secondary school on the Tiruchi Road, schoolchildren are the worst affected.

Controversy had dogged the project right from the beginning with a section of people not in favour of the bridge. But a former Transport Minister, who represented the constituency previously, pushed ahead with the proposal.

A section of the traders opposed the acquisition of their land for a traffic island to be built near the bus stand as part of the project. The traders even observed a three-day bandh in the town last year opposing the acquisition. Fourteen cases were filed in the court.

Highways Department sources said that all the cases had been disposed of now, but the project could not resume yet.

For, the contractor had pulled out of the project, opting for foreclosure, after the 24-month project period, apparently owing to the problems in land acquisition and the cost escalation owing to the delay.

The Highways Department had decided to call for a re-tender for the unfinished project, but not before much red tape.

“We have received clearance from Chennai to call for re-tender. The tender process is expected to be completed within three months. The project could take about a year’s time to be completed from the date of resumption,” a senior Highways Department official told The Hindu.

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