The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has cancelled the bidding process for the Rs.550-crore Ennore Manali Road Improvement Project (EMRIP) stating that some of the stakeholders have failed to bring in their contribution.

A communication to this effect was sent to some of the stakeholders on Thursday, even as Chennai Port Trust officials termed it as an ‘arbitrary' move by the NHAI, as only the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) had the authority to cancel the bidding process. However, the letter did not pinpoint who failed to bring in their equity portion.

The EMRIP covers four important roads in north Chennai — Tiruvottiyur-Ponneri-Panchetti (TPP) Road, Ennore Expressway, Manali Oil Refinery Road and the northern portion of the Inner Ring Road from Madhavaram to Manali.

The NHAI, Chennai Port Trust (ChPT), Government of Tamil Nadu and Ennore Port Ltd (EPL) are the major players. The ChPT's contribution to the equity would be Rs.139.80 crore and loan/debt Rs.110 crore and EPL's contribution would be Rs.34 crore. Tamil Nadu Road Development Company, the managing associate, floated the tender in June this year and received 11 bids. Price bids were to be opened this month and eight bids had qualified at the technical stage.

ChPT Chairman K. Subhash Kumar sought to know how the letter cancelling the bid process could be sent even before the process could be completed. “How can NHAI cancel it without placing it before the SPV board,” he asked.

Talking to The Hindu, he said if bids were called for again, these firms may not show interest. “Since the tendering process had not been completed, the question of paying our share did not arise,” he said. The matter has been taken up with the Ministry. NHAI sources in Delhi said the bidding process had been cancelled as the ChPT had not paid its equity or given confirmation that it would pay.

“Once they pay the board can recall the tender process. We are writing to the Port Trust reminding them about their contribution, which has been delayed for quite some time,” an official said.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Minister for Highways and Minor Ports Vellakoil Saminathan has written to the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath urging him to expedite the project as it was a major corridor used by hundreds of heavy vehicles daily. He also asked the Centre to convene a meeting of all the stakeholders to sort out the issue amicably.

At a meeting in February, Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan pulled up the stakeholders for delaying the EMRIP. The project cost had risen from Rs.150 crore to Rs.600 crore.The meeting was attended by Shipping Secretary K. Mohandas, Mr.Saminathan and NHAI officials among others. “The price bid has been cancelled, which means that we have to undergo the entire process again and we have turned the clock back by three years. The project has been in limbo for the last 12 years. Nothing has moved apart from the papers,” said a port user.

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Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012