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Flyover bids fail budget test

The state government has rejected the only two bids that came its way after a second call for the contract to build the unfinished portion of the Parama-Park Circus flyover.

Bidders HCC and SP Singla Constructions submitted cost estimates that the government deemed too high for a flyover that could go from being Calcutta’s longest at 8.14km to the longest one in the making.

“HCC demanded 12 per cent more than our cost estimate, while SP Singla wanted 25 per cent more. We don’t have so much money. We have asked RITES to issue a fresh tender notice and hire a contractor. We won’t pay anything more than Rs 260 crore for the remaining work,” urban development minister Firhad Hakim said.

Sources said the government might split the contract into four parts, ostensibly to speed up the work. If that’s a strategy to keep the project within budget, nobody’s telling.

The only certainty as of now is another 45 days’ delay at the least. Work was stalled in January 2013 after HCC, the original contractor, demanded Rs 229 crore by way of cost escalation. The company cited delay in getting possession of the site for the rise in expenditure.

The government withdrew its contract with HCC last December and the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority immediately invited bids from companies to complete the remaining portion of the flyover. The tender notice with a cost estimate of Rs 260 crore did not attract a single bidder until the second call in January.

Sources in the infrastructure sector warned that breaking up the contract would limit the field of prospective bidders. The buzz is that big players such as HCC and L&T wouldn’t be interested in a split job.

A senior government official insisted that the sole objective was to make up for lost time. “The remaining part of the project could be split so that work on all the incomplete stretches can be done simultaneously. If one contractor is involved, there is a possibility that work won’t start on all stretches together.”

The decision to split the contract or go with one company will be taken this week, a source said.

Minister Hakim’s announcement that RITES would advertise the contract and choose from among the bidders took many by surprise and triggered speculation about whether it meant taking the project away from the CMDA.

The CMDA’s approval would be required before awarding the contract to any company.

The unfinished part of the Parama-Park Circus flyover includes a ramp that will start near Silver Spring, on the Bypass, and merge with the main arm at the Parama crossing a little distance ahead. Work on the stretch between the No. 4 Bridge and the Park Circus seven-point crossing hasn’t even started. An arm of the flyover supposed to run above Congress Exhibition Road and merge with the AJC Bose Road flyover is also still to be built.