RAWALPINDI: On the directives of the Punjab government, the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) has expedited the process to launch the multi-billion Leh Expressway and Flood Channel project.

The process of hiring a consultant will be complete by the end of October and the contract will be awarded by the first week of November.

On Friday, technical bids submitted by three private companies were opened by the selection committee of the RDA led by Commissioner Saqib Zafar.

Three private companies submit technical bids which will be evaluated by a selection committee

Four companies had been selected to submit the bids but Nespak, Mott-MacDonald Pakistan and Usmani Company submitted their bids.

The committee will evaluate the bids and select the consultant. The next meeting of the committee will be held on Oct 13 to finalise the consultant.

A senior official of the RDA said the process was adopted to avoid any criticism from investigating agencies.

He said the selection committee comprised the RDA director general, representatives of Punjab finance, housing and development departments as well as the chief engineer of RDA.

He said after the selection the consultant would be awarded a contract to make a design of the expressway and flood channel and PC-I of the project. It would take six months, he added.

The commissioner, who is also the project director, told Dawn that the provincial government wanted to start the work as soon as possible.

He said the process would be completed by the end of October and the contract would be awarded for the design of the expressway and PC-I in the first week of November.

He said a new design of the expressway and flood channel was to be prepared.

“After completion of PC-I, the hiring of contractor and land acquisition will be started.”

He said the expressway would be constructed on public-private partnership mode.

The basic aim of the project is to provide an alternative route between Rawalpindi and Islamabad and construct a flood channel. He said floods in Leh Nullah created problems during every monsoon and after the project the issue would be resolved.

According to the initial plan, the 22-kilometre-long signal-free expressway would be constructed on both sides of the Leh Nullah from Rawalpindi to Islamabad.

There would be interchanges at the Katarian Bridge, Moti Mahal and Ammar Chowk. Eight flyovers and 10 bridges will be constructed on the expressway. The project would ease the traffic congestion on both Benazir Bhutto and the Airport roads.

The Leh Expressway project was launched in March 2007 by then President Pervez Musharraf. The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) was awarded the contract which started the work and was to complete the project in two years.

However, the project was shelved during the 2008 general elections. After coming to power in Punjab, the PML-N government feared that the completion of the expressway would politically benefit Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the architect of the project.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2019