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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Communications on Tuesday expressed serious concerns over the poor quality of work by the National Highways Authority (NHA), saying that it had not only result in projects delay but also causing billions to the national exchequer.

Chaired by Senator Hidayat Ullah, the committee also questioned the quality of work of Swat Expressway project, and directed that work on the project must be according to the NHA standards.

The parliamentary panel took up issues pertaining to toll plazas on highways and motorways in the country, and observed that many profitable and important toll plazas were handed over to the National Logistics Cell (NLC) and the Frontier Works Organization (FWO).

Senator Behramand Tangi stated that bids were allegedly opened during nights, while technical and financial requirements were not followed.

The Director General Revenue NHA said that currently there were 85 toll plazas on the national highways, where 25 were being operated by the NLC. Further, 59 toll plazas are there on motorways where M-1, M-2 and M-9 are being operated by the FWO.

The committee was also briefed on the Dir-Chitral Motorway proposed by the NHA, M-8 Motorway, Hub Bridge on N-25, and attack on personal vehicle of Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi near Behra Service Area on motorway and security situation on Sialkot-Lahore Motorway.

In addition to this, further discussion on payment to land owners whose land had been acquired for the construction of a road from Kaghan to Babusar also took place in the meeting.

The committee was also briefed on the mode of awarding contracts of toll plazas.

The members asserted the need for transparency, while awarding contract, and stressed the need for a detailed briefing on the tendering process.

Expanding the playing field for new players and generating competition was stressed as well.

The Committee decided to club this agenda item with that pertaining to the M8 motorway, and summon the Pakistan Engineering Council for a detailed briefing regarding various aspects of the motorway, and the criteria according to which technical bids were vetted, in the next meeting.

While discussing the Chakdara-Dir Motorway, the Committee was informed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government is planning to construct Chakdara-Dir Motorway from Chakdara to Rabat (54km) on PPP mode of financing, PC-II for appointment of consultant to conduct commercial and financial feasibility study on PPP mode of financing has been prepared and has been approved for the cost of Rs25 million.

Bids received in response to the RFP floated on 30 August, 2020. Bid evaluation is in the process, and expectedly, the consultancy will be awarded in the first week of October, 2020.

The PKHA has worked out a tentative cost of the project including land acquisition and resettlement to the tune of Rs13.5 billion.

The construction of the motorway will provide better communication facility, while bypassing the stated bottle-necks and will shorten the distance to 28 km.

Hidayat Ullah was of the view that this project is a public-private partnership, and keeping in view the traffic congestion on the route, it can be safely deemed commercially viable.

The Committee was informed that a traffic count would be conducted. The Committee expressed concern regarding the standards of the KPK Highways Authority and enquired whether or not it was in line with the NHA.

The Committee was assured that the only difference lay between the two, were tariff rates. The Committee chairman was of the view that constructing this highway was imperative for road safety.

Chief Engineer Chakdara Project Director has been summoned in the next meeting. Regarding Swat Expressway, the Committee objected to the quality of work on the project, and directed that work on the project must be according to the NHA's standards.

Taking up the issue of payment to land owners whose land had been acquired for the construction of a road from Kaghan to Babusar, Hidayat Ullah expressed grave displeasure regarding delay. He asserted that the rates for the land determined in 1999 could not be applied today. This would be a gross violation of rights.

Hidayat Ullah said that if compliance report was not submitted in the next meeting constitutional action would be taken against the ministry.

Deliberating over the issue of the attack on personal vehicle of Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi near Behra Service Area on motorway and the security situation on Sialkot-Lahore Motorway; the Committee asserted that workability of cameras needs to be assured on motorways.

The meeting was attended by Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Mir Muhammad Yousaf Badini, Dr Ashok Kumar, Islamuddin Sheikh, Behramand Tangi, Liaqat Khan Tarakai, Agha Shahzaib Durrani, Fida Muhammad, Senator Lt Gen Salahuddin Tirmizi (retd), Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah, and senior officers from the Ministry for Communication, the NHA, the KPK Highway Authority, the Motorway Police along with all concerned.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020