Already delayed, project suffers cost overruns and is likely to be completed only in 2017-18: CAG

Already way behind schedule, the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla-Rail Link (USBRL), aimed at connecting the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country with an all-weather route, is likely to run into further complexities and higher cost overruns, says the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In its performance audit, the CAG observed that the national project, scheduled to be completed in 2007 at an estimated cost of Rs. 3,077 crore, was now expected to be completed only in 2017-18 at a cost of Rs. 19,565 crore.

The report, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, said poor planning resulted in time delay and cost overruns. The progress was just 12-14 per cent till July 2012.

Deficient planning affected land acquisition and finalisation of design and drawing. There were major changes in the scope of work as field investigations were taken up during construction. Geo-technical investigations of the proposed alignment were not conducted before the commencement of work, but were done simultaneously, resulting in uncertainty in progress and that impacted finalisation of land acquisition, the design and drawing of bridges and tunnels, and construction contracts, most of which were awarded even before ground investigations were concluded.

This was noted particularly in the Katra-Qazigund section, forcing abandonment of work already executed and termination of contracts, inflicting a Rs. 1514.40-crore loss on the taxpayers as the project is being funded directly from the Consolidated Fund of India.

The report expressed doubts over completion of tunnels that collapsed (T-1) and were waterlogged (T-3) as per the revised schedule by March 2013.

The more critical section between Katra and Banihal was likely to counter complexities during execution and it would push the final cost manifold, the CAG warned. It pointed out that the final local survey was yet to be completed.