Re-bidding date extended till March 19
State Times News JAMMU: Clouds are looming large over Asia’s longest bidirectional Zojila tunnel as the Centre has terminated contract with the beleaguered executing agency, IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd. After completion, Zojila Tunnel will be one of the major projects of Asia connecting Kashmir’s Sonmarg with Gumri area in Ladakh’s Kargil district. As per sources, there is every possibility of losing an entire working season in completing the exercise of awarding the project to another company for execution. Though the Union Ministry of Surface Transport and Highways has gone for rebidding of the 14.31-km tunnel project, official sources said and added, “This is the most difficult and challenging contract not only in India but in the entire Asia and the project has been retendered and it will take some time to complete the process of evaluating financial as well as technical bids”. They said that the possibility of losing a complete working season in this process cannot be ruled out and added that the NHIDCL had sent the letter of contract termination to IL&FS on January 15 and the project was offered for rebidding on February 13. The last day for submission of online bids was March 6 but due to some technical ties, the re-bidding date and completing formalities by the bidders, has been extended till March 19. The IL&FS was awarded the contract on January 19 this year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation of the project on May 19 last year. More than 30 major avalanches have been reported in the Zojila region in recent months while there is still 3 to 4 metres of snow accumulated. So, it is not an easy job to execute work under such challenging climatic conditions. Yet, IL&FS executed nearly 7 to 10 per cent ground work, added official. The construction period of the project was around seven years, which was to be reckoned from the date of commencement of construction. The 14.31-km tunnel project holds strategic and socio-economic importance for the Ladakh region and it will also help India to keep a check on the growing influence of China and Pakistan in Ladakh.
Once completed, the project will also reduce travel time to cross Zojila from 3.5 hours to just 15 minutes.
Sources however, added that the government would fix the responsibility of IL&FS for abandoning the project by imposing a penalty on it and added, “as per the terms of the agreement, if the contract is terminated due to defaults on the part of IL&FS, the company will not only forfeit its security deposit but also would not get any amount from the NHIDCL.”
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