Siliguri, Aug. 5: The restoration of the highway linking Siliguri to the Darjeeling hills at Tindharia couldn’t start today because of the cancellation of a trip by a seven-member expert team citing the ongoing indefinite strike enforced by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The team consisted of professionals from a Calcutta-based construction group, which was awarded the contract to repair the road at Tindharia, and a consultancy firm in Delhi.
A landslide had damaged 200 metres of the highway, also called Hill Cart Road, at Tindharia in September 2011.
State public works department officials said the team was supposed to go to Tindharia, 30km from here, today for a survey of the damaged stretch. But last Friday, the team informed the PWD that it was postponing the visit and would reach the region only after the strike was withdrawn in the Darjeeling hills.
“The construction company was supposed to start the first phase of the restoration of the highway from today. According to the schedule, a seven-member team was to have gone to Tindharia and carry out an investigation of the landslide-affected area. The team comprised experts from the construction company that got the contract to restore NH55 at Tindharia. They had also hired a consultancy firm in Delhi to guide them in the process and some experts from the firm, too, were supposed to be a part of the team. However, hearing about the strike, they called us up on Friday and informed that they had decided to cancel the trip for now,” said Nirmal Mondal, the executive engineer of the state PWD (NH-IX Division).
In March this year, the Union ministry of road transport and highways had sanctioned Rs 83 crore for the repair of the highway at Tindharia. Bids were invited for the repair and Bharat Banijya Eastern Private Limited bagged the contract last month.
This is a considerable development because the Siliguri-Kurseong portion of the highway — the arterial road connecting Siliguri with Darjeeling — has been non-functional for the past three years because of landslides at Paglajhora and Tindharia.
While 500 metres of NH55 at Paglajhora were swept away in June 2010, the landslide at Tindharia damaged another 200 metres of the highway in September 2011. Paglajhora is 5km uphill from Tindharia.
The Centre is yet to sanction funds for the permanent repair at Paglajhora.
With the closure of the Siliguri-Kurseong stretch of NH55, heavy vehicles take the Rohini Road and Mungpoo and Mirik routes for the travel between the hills and Siliguri.