Kashmir rail project under CAG scanner

Pulls Up Railways For Delay

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA

New Delhi, Dec 20: Poor planning and failure by Railways to carry out due diligence in the initial stages were blamed by the CAG for the long delay in the ambitious Kashmir rail link project with the cost overrun pegged at Rs 16,488 crore.
"The single most important reason for delay and other related problems in execution of the project is poor planning," the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said in its latest report tabled in Parliament today.
The 290-km long Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line project's originally estimated cost of Rs 3,077 crore in 1999-2000, has escalated to Rs 19,565 crore resulting in cost overrun of Rs 16,488 crore and it is still incomplete.
Considering the difficult and unexplored terrain of the region, the CAG has noted that the critical decision on selection of alignment should have been preceded by requisite field investigations to establish its workability.
"Had the project authorities conducted due diligence during the initial stage including expert consultation, it would have been possible to minimise uncertainty on account of constructibility paving the way for smoother implementation," it said.
It noted that the inadequacy of project estimates thus heavily contributed to time and cost overruns as well as major changes in scope of work as field investigations were taken up during construction.
The Government auditor observed that the railways should have carried out a detailed survey of the area in the section between Katra-Qazigund, the most difficult terrain in the project, before deciding on the alignment and gradient that was to connect maximum neighbouring habitations.
This alignment passed through various thrust areas and fault lines in the Himalayas making the line vulnerable to seismic disasters.
"However, the planners failed to conduct due diligence by way of geo-technical investigations of the proposed alignment in a hitherto unexplored territory and relied entirely on aerial maps and satellite  imagery," the auditor noted.
The critical section from Katra to Qazigund originally scheduled for completion by August 2007 has now been rescheduled for completion by 2017-18.
CAG has noted that the only completed leg of alignment was the section from Qazigund to Baramulla at a cost of Rs 3071.86 crore that became operational in phases from October 2008 to October 2009.
However, this only constituted a rail link within the Kashmir Valley and not to Kashmir as was the primary objective of the national project.
The critical section from Katra to Qazigund originally scheduled for completion by August 2007 has now been rescheduled for completion by 2017-18.
Casting doubt over the possibility of meeting the completion target, it has observed, "The attainability of this target was much in doubt as final location survey of sizable portion (54.59km) of  the alignment (117 km) was yet to be completed and overall progress of Katra-Banihal section being 12 to 14 per cent with total expenditure of Rs 4050.92 cr."
Consequently, several works executed on the original alignment had to be abandoned resulting in termination of numerous contracts which had gone into arbitration with potentially huge liabilities  for the Railways. Since the project was funded from the Consolidated Fund of India, these liabilities would borne ultimately by the tax payers, it said.
The completion of the section from Udhampur to Katra scheduled for March 2003, which would have benefited lakhs of pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi shrine could not be assured despite lapse of 17 years and an investment of Rs 934.39 cr.
For this purpose, the CAG has recommended Railway Ministry to consider putting in place an implementation structure headed by a Chief Administrative Officer to be invested with necessary executive and financial powers with the Railway Board monitoring the overall progress.  

Lastupdate on : Thu, 20 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 20 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 21 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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