CAG Flays Railways For Delay, Cost Overruns In Kashmir Project

CAG Flays Railways For Delay, Cost Overruns In Kashmir Project

20 December 2012
DNA


New Delhi: Poor planning and failure by Railways to carry out due diligence in the initial stages were blamed by the CAG for the long delay in the ambitious Kashmir rail link project with the cost overrun pegged at Rs16,488 crore. 'The single most important reason for delay and other related problems in execution of the project is poor planning,' the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said in its latest report tabled in Parliament today. The 290-km long Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line project's originally estimated cost of Rs3,077 crore in 1999-2000, has escalated to Rs 19,565 crore resulting in cost overrun of Rs16,488 crore and it is still incomplete. It will provide a rail link for the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country. The Kashmir rail project that cuts through several stretches of inhospitable mountainous region is one of India's biggest railway projects being executed since Independence. Considering the difficult and unexplored terrain of the region, the CAG has noted that the critical decision on selection of alignment should have been preceded by requisite field investigations to establish its workability. 'Had the project authorities conducted due diligence during the initial stage including expert consultation, it would have been possible to minimise uncertainty on account of constructibility paving the way for smoother implementation,' it said. It noted that the inadequacy of project estimates thus heavily contributed to time and cost overruns as well as major changes in scope of work as field investigations were taken up during construction. The Government auditor observed that the railways should have carried out a detailed survey of the area in the section between Katra-Qazigund, the most difficult terrain in the project, before deciding on the alignment and gradient that was to connect maximum neighbouring habitations. This alignment passed through various thrust areas and fault lines in the Himalayas making the line vulnerable to seismic disasters. 'However, the planners failed to conduct due diligence by way of geo-technical investigations of the proposed alignment in a hitherto unexplored territory and relied entirely on aerial maps and satellite imagery,' the auditor noted. The critical section from Katra to Qazigund originally scheduled for completion by August 2007 has now been rescheduled for completion by 2017-18.