The ambitious project of replacing the existing highway between Srinagar and Jammu by an expressway is delayed, it is official. Transport and Highway ministry has revealed to the parliament that of the five stretches, work on two is getting slow for reasons of resources and third stretch is yet to be awarded for want of a concessionaire.
The new highway is expected to reduce the 300 kms distance by nearly 50 kms and help users to drive at a better speed. Most of the highway is passing through tunnels and bridges bypassing all the towns located between J&K’s twin capital cities. The project is crucial to Kashmir given its dependence on surface transport for lack of railway connection.
State’s transport minister, in the meanwhile, informed the state legislature that two of the four projects awarded already are exhibiting improved progress. While progress on the Rs 2519 crore Nashri tunnel project is nearly 42%, it is 40% on the patch between Udhampur and Jammu that would cost Rs 1814 crore.
The two awarded projects which are exhibiting sluggish implementation are between Srinagar and Banihal. The Rs 1987 crore tunnel project between Qazigund and Banihal has progressed to around 12.16% which is better than the Rs 1100 crore road part between Srinagar and Banihal that has exhibited barely 8.50% physical progress.
The major worry for the state is that the major patch between the two better-progressing and sluggishly implemented projects is yet to be awarded. It is believed to be the most challenging part of the entire road project that was supposed to start completing between June 2014 and June 2016. The National Highway Authority of India has already implemented the road up-gradtion between Jammu and Punjab border on the other side of Pir Panchal and certain works on Srinagar bypass, totaling 114.88 kms stretch at a cost of Rs 592.47 crore. The implemented part formed phase-I of the 4-laneing of North South Corridor envisaging 400 kms between Lakhanpur to Srinagar.