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Flyover in limbo as jilted firm drags govt to court

Calcutta’s longest flyover, already delayed by 18 months, has become embroiled in litigation with Mumbai-based firm HCC dragging the Bengal government to court for terminating its contract last December.

A petition filed by the company at Calcutta High Court challenges the decision of the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) to terminate its contract to build the 8.14km Parama-Park Circus link over a cost-escalation claim.

According to HCC, there would have been no cost escalation had the state government agency provided the required land as scheduled.

The company has also challenged the CMDA’s decision not to give the contract to build the remaining portion of the flyover despite its bid being the lowest among the firms that had responded to the tender.

The petition, filed on Wednesday, is likely to be taken up by Justice Dipankar Dutta on Friday, said a CMDA official who did not wish to be named.

If admitted, the petition could indefinitely delay what is to be the city’s longest flyover and the fastest link between the Bypass and Park Circus.

HCC has pleaded with the high court to bar the CMDA from taking a decision on the project till the dispute is settled.

The CMDA terminated HCC’s contract in December and invited bids from potential contractors to complete the remaining portion of the project. The first call did not attract a single bid and the agency re-advertised the tender without any change in the terms and conditions, as is the norm for government contracts.

This time, there were two bidders: HCC and Haryana-based company SP Singla Constructions. HCC’s bid was the lowest, but the authorities decided not to award the contract on the grounds that the company had quoted 12 per cent more than the estimated cost of Rs 260 crore.

SP Singla’s bid was 25 per cent more than the estimated cost, sources said.

The railways-owned consultancy firm RITES had recommended a cost estimate of Rs 260 crore for the remaining work based on a survey commissioned after the original contract with HCC was terminated.

The trigger for HCC deciding to move court was the announcement that RITES, which has been appointed consultant for the project, would put the contract out to tender and hire a firm that would do the job within Rs 260 crore.

The petition by HCC states that it got possession of barely 56 per cent of the sites required for the flyover during the tenure of the project, which was 30 months from the start of work in February 2010.

The sites that the CMDA failed to hand over to the HCC include the stretch along Silver Spring, near Science City. The time taken to shift underground utilities like water pipes, electricity cables and telephone lines also delayed the project, according to HCC.

“Basically, the company is saying that we delayed the handover of sites for work to start and so the cost of the project shot up by more than Rs 200 crore,” the CMDA official said.

HCC had submitted its cost-escalation claim of Rs 229 crore in September 2012. As the authorities dilly-dallied, the project came to a standstill in January 2013.

“If this drags in court now, the cost of the project will exceed even the HCC’s claim,” the official said.

The CMDA had first refused to enter any cost-escalation claim but eventually approved Rs 169 crore in January 2013. The matter was then referred to a committee headed by the principal secretary of the public works department. This committee said Rs 201 crore would be required for the remaining work and advised that an independent consultant be hired to calculate the cost escalation.

RITES came on board in the middle of last year.

Sources said HCC’s petition accuses the CMDA of not citing any reason for rejecting its bid after the second call for the tender.

Fresh bids have already been invited and a meeting convened by RITES for prospective bidders to clear their doubts is scheduled for Monday. The date fixed for opening the bids is March 21, but HCC’s petition could stall the process, sources said.

Nobody from the CMDA and HCC was officially available for comment despite repeated attempts by Metro. “The matter is sub judice,” a representative of the Mumbai-based company said.

The unfinished portion of the Parama-Park Circus flyover includes a ramp that will start near Silver Spring 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.