PESHAWAR, July 5: The provincial government handed over a major portion of Ring Road expansion project to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Highway Authority (KPHA) as the earlier contractor was unlikely to complete work on the road within the stipulated time, officials said.
A well-placed source told Dawn on Thursday that the decision to cut short the private firm’s contract had been taken under compulsion since the contractor was unlikely to complete the US-funded road expansion and refurbishing project by October 2012.
“The project was supposed to be completed in October this year, but work worth more than Rs1 billion remains to be undertaken,” said the official. The contract was awarded to a Peshawar-based private construction company and work on the project was started in May 2011.
The Ring Road expansion and refurbishing project is vital because of its strategic significance for transporting goods and fuel to Afghanistan for the forces of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) stationed there.
The US government is providing $25 million for the dual carriageway that passes through Peshawar and provides the provincial capital a linkage with the Torkham Highway on way to Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The project was included in Pakistan-US strategic partnership dialogue held in March 2010.
According to the official, major changes have been incorporated in the project, revising its original plan and timeline. A major portion of the under-reconstruction road, said the official, had been dropped under the revised plan.
“The Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway to Charsadda Road section will not be made part of the Ring Road expansion and refurbishing project since it will not be used for the Nato supplies,” he said.
Under the revised plan, construction of 14 bridges and reconstruction of about two kilometres portion of the road from Achini to Hayatabad Township, work on which has not been undertaken by the existing private contractor, would now be carried out by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Highway Authority.
The decision to hand over the remaining part of the project to the provincial highway authority was taken at a high level meeting two days ago, officials said.
Sources said that the decision to involve only one private firm for the Rs2 billion project had proven flawed as the contractor’s performance remained unsatisfactory. Though the provincial government had opposed the idea of hiring only one firm for the road expansion project, it accepted the same on the insistence of the foreign donor agency, they said.
“The existing firm doesn’t have the capacity and capability to carry out such a huge project but the donor agency was insisting to engage only a local firm,” the official said.
The Narcotics Affairs Section, being a representative agency of the government of USA, has a supervisory role while Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) has been monitoring the project.
According to the project’s PC-I, the private contractor had to expand and refurbish both sides of the dual carriageway from Hayatabad to Charsadda Road by October this year. The project, said the official, was far behind its schedule.
“Provincial government and PDA had no role in awarding the contract but now the government has asserted itself and has brought in its highway authority for an early completion of the project,” said a senior official.
He said that the donor agency and provincial government had now decided to engage three more construction companies to complete the project as soon as possible to facilitate Nato supplies.
Contractors transporting supplies to Nato forces had set up parking terminals and warehouses along the Ring Road that were shifted to Punjab province in the wake of attacks by militants.