Indian Railways to allow private players for bullet train projects

Source: Business Standard, Sept 18, 2020

New Delhi: The Indian Railways, in a major development, is set to have private players for constructing and operating its planned seven new bullet train projects.

The projects —Delhi-Varanasi, Mumbai-Nagpur, Delhi-Ahmedabad, Chennai-Mysore, Delhi-Amritsar, Mumbai-Hyderabad, and Varanasi-Howrah — are expected to cost around Rs 10 trillion. “All the seven new bullet train routes will be open for private players. We will be doing it on a public private-partnership model,” said V K Yadav, chairman and chief executive officer of the Railway Board. These routes will be in addition to the already planned Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project.

This comes when the railways is trying to attract private players for its Rs 1-trillion station redevelopment and Rs 30,000 crore private train project.

User fees to be charged soon

Yadav said once the stations were in place, user fees would be charged from passengers using at least 15 per cent of the 7,000 railway stations in the country. They will be modernised in some form or the other. The move is likely to raise train fares at these stations.

On the other hand, for private trains, the operators will have the freedom to set rates, said Amitabh Kant, chief executive officer of the NITI Aayog. For these trains, the fixed haulage charges that railways will be getting will be indexed to the wholesale price index (WPI).

Private train bids are invited on the basis of 12 clusters covering 109 routes, on which 151 trains will be operated.

The last date of application for private investors is October 7. The Indian Railway Station Redevelopment Corporation has come up with a request for quotation for 10 stations.

Among the major stations include the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminal (CSMT) in Mumbai and New Delhi Railway Station. The CSMT is expected to see investments of around Rs 1,642 crore and NDLS around Rs 4,925 crore.

The last date for submitting bids for New Delhi is November 6 and for Mumbai October 22. Built in 1887, the CSMT was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and has footfall of over a million a day during normal operations.

Highways Ministry releases over Rs 10,000 crore for developers to expedite work

Source: The Economic Times, Sept 09, 2020

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday said it has released over Rs 10,000 crore to developers amid COVID-19 to boost the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat‘ scheme and expedite highways construction.

Another sum of Rs 2,475 crore is under process to be released, it said.

“A sum of Rs 10,339 crore has been released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) during the COVID-19 period under the simplified payment process as envisaged in the ambitious Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme. Another sum of Rs 2,475 crore is being processed and is likely to be released soon,” the ministry said in a statement.

The government has taken various steps to ensure not only ease of doing business but also to boost stakeholder confidence in building quality road infrastructure in the country, the statement added.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has simplified the payment process under the Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme, and contractors’ payments are being made every month instead of Milestone achievement basis.

This has been proved extremely beneficial towards timely completion of National Highway projects in the country, it said.
The government said it has extended a number of relief packages for its contractors and concessionaires owing to COVID-19 scenario.

“Retention money (which is a part of the Performance Security till construction period) is being released in proportion to the work already executed in accordance with the Contract specification, and retention money for up to six months’ period is not deducted from the Bills raised by the Contractor,” the statement said.

For HAM (hybrid, annuity mode)/ BOT (build, operate, transfer) contracts, performance guarantee is released on pro-rata basis, it said, adding out of total 1,253 applications under 1,155 projects for this relief, Rs 3,527 crore has been released, while over Rs 189 crore is under process.

The extension is being given to contractors/concessionaires for meeting their obligation under the contract for up to six months, depending on site conditions.

Out of total 207 applications under 196 projects for this relief, Rs 34 crore has been released, while Rs 15 crore is under process.

“Relaxation is given…to provide monthly payment to the Contractor for the work done and accepted as per the specification of the contract during the month EPC/HAM Contract. Out of total 863 applications under 774 projects for this relief, Rs 6,526 crore has been released, while over Rs 2,241 crore is under process,” the statement said.

Direct payment is being made to approved sub-contractor through an escrow account, it said, adding out of total 21 applications under 19 projects for this relief, Rs 241 crore has been released, while over Rs 27 crore is under process.

Besides, the extension has been allowed to consultants depending on site condition, it said.

“During this Force Majeure Event, they may be considered as if they were on duty. Out of total 31 applications under equal number of projects for this relief, Rs two crore has been released, while Rs one crore is under process,” the statement said.

It also said the concession period of BOT contracts is being extended.

For loss in collection of the user fee, the concession period is extended in accordance with the contract till the time daily collection is below 90 per cent of the average daily fee, the ministry noted.

For all National Highway Tolling Contracts, loss in collection of fee (remittances) is compensated in accordance with the contract, it added.

The ministry has also undertaken settling of contractors’ issues, including dues, through arbitration.

Conciliation committees of independent experts (CCIEs) have been formed for this purpose, it said, adding all contractors are being called for conciliations for expeditious settlement of their claims and get their payments released immediately.

Forty-seven cases involving claims of Rs 14,248 crore have been settled during this year, and discussions are underway on another 59 cases, according to the statement.

NHAI develops portal to track performance of developers, consultants

Source: Business Standard, Aug 26, 2020

New Delhi: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on Wednesday said it has developed a portal to track the performance of its developers and consultants.

The portal-based objective assessment has been initiated to track the performance of consultants, contractors and concessionaires for various NHAI projects.

The portal is available on the NHAI website under Vendor Performance Evaluation System’.

“Under this portal, the vendors are required to conduct a self-assessment and upload the documents related to the project activities being executed by them, on the portal. The submissions are reviewed at multiple levels by NHAI, based on which a vendor rating is generated,” the Authority said in a statement.

The portal contains provisions for rating the projects according to the mode of implementation and status of completion under BOT(build-operate-transfer) toll , BOT (annuity) HAM (hybrid, annuity mode), EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) works.

Besides, the ratings would be for NHAI’s engineers, independent engineers and DPR consultants, it said.

To ensure that the evaluation is done in the most objective and balanced way, the vendor rating generated post multi-level reviews, shall be shared with the vendor, it said.

The vendor will also be given an opportunity to appeal against the generated rating, it added.

“As on date, vendors have filled data for 853 projects (519 Consultants and 334 Contractors) which are under review at different stages. The vendors who fail to upload the requisite documents on the portal shall not be allowed to participate in the bids of NHAI,” it said.

Suitable amendments in bidding documents are being incorporated to make rating of vendors as one of the qualification criteria for awarding new projects.

This rating system will increase the accountability of vendors thereby improving the quality of highways, it said.

Execution of road projects likely to be in range of 9,000-9,200 km this fiscal: Icra

Source: The Economic Times, Aug 26, 2020

Mumbai: Execution of road projects this fiscal could be in the range of 9,000-9,200 km, almost 10 per cent lower than FY2020, due to COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions, according to rating firm Icra. Last fiscal, nearly 10,237 km of road projects were completed, the rating agency said in a report.

Icra noted that typically the fourth quarter (January-March) is the key working season for road contractors. However, a good part of March 2020 was lost on account of lockdown and restricted movement of goods and personnel in the run up to the lockdown.

The execution between March-July stood 2020 at 4,052 km, which is 18 per cent lower when compared to 4,926 km in the same period last year.

“Execution which was 73 per cent down (on y-o-y basis) in April 2020 due to lockdown picked up pace in subsequent months; in July 2020 it stood at 787 km which is 8 per cent lower when compared to 860 km in July 2019,” the agency said.

The execution reached a peak of 33 kilometre (km) per day in June 2020 before falling to 25 km per day in July.

“The unabated rise in COVID-19 infections in the unlock phase, localised re-imposition of lockdowns in several states, and heavy monsoons in many parts of the country had interrupted this recovery in July, 2020,” Icra said.
As a result, the execution for FY2021 could be in the range of 9,000-9,200 km as compared to 10,237 km in FY2020, it added.

Icra Group Head, Corporate Ratings Shubham Jain said the first four months of FY2021 saw awards of 2,611 km, significantly higher by 166 per cent, as against 980 km during April-July of FY2020.

He further said that notwithstanding the high cost of re-mobilising the labour, many contractors made special arrangements to facilitate return of labour due to improved cash conversion cycle from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) or MORTH projects.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) has initiated a slew of relief measures like shift from milestone-based billing to monthly billing and release of retention money or performance security in proportion to the work already executed, among others, which immensely supported the road contractors.

“These initiatives have helped in reducing the cash conversion cycle while also getting the performance guarantees and associated margin monies released for the executed portion of the projects,” Icra said.

Rs 1,200-crore plan to hook up Nubra, Zanskar in Ladakh to national grid

Source: The Economic Times, Aug 24, 2020

NEW DELHI: The government is implementing a Rs 1,200-crore project to hook up Nubra valley in the country’s northern tip, and Zanskar, among the least-explored regions of Kargil, with the national power grid, casting one of the first building blocks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to make Ladakh carbon-neutral.

“We are extending the Srinagar-Leh transmission line to power Nubra and Zanskar. REC (formerly Rural Electrification Corporation) has been asked to implement the project. It will improve ease of living for people living in these areas with regular power supply and remove dependence on diesel generators,” power minister Raj Kumar Singh told TOI.

The project envisages laying two 220-kv lines across some of the world’s highest mountains and inhospitable terrains. A 200-km spur will run from Dras, the world’s second-coldest inhabited place about 50 Km from Kargil, to Padum, the main habitation in Zanskar. Another line will be strung from Phyang near Leh to Nubra block HQ Diskit, 120 km in the north. This will run across the 18,380-ft-high Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass. Both the lines are to be completed in 24-36 months, depending upon weather conditions.

Nubra, a popular tourist destination, is strategically located with Baltistan in POK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) on the west, Siachen glacier – the world’s highest battleground – in the north and Chan-Chenmo range in the east. Historically, it connected India to the southern branch of the old Silk Route from China through the Karakoram Pass.

Assured power supply is expected to promote local economic activity and create employment through winter tourism. Environment will also get respite from carbon emission from diesel generators used for supplying power for about 5 hours in the evening.

Ladakh remained isolated from the national grid till January 2019 when Central utility Power Grid switched on a 350-km transmission line linking Leh with Alusteng near Srinagar via Dras-Kargil, first reported by TOI on January 16 that year.
Prime minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the project on August 12, 2014 and formally inaugurated it in January 2016. The project has improved power supply in the region, road connectivity to which remains cut off for 6-8 months during harsh winters when temperature dips to 50 degrees below freezing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the project on August 12, 2014 and formally inaugurated it in January 2016. The project has improved power supply in the region, road connectivity to which remains cut off for 6-8 months during harsh winters when temperature dips to 50 degrees below freezing.

Leh and Kargil towns have been getting power since 2013 from two NHPC hydel projects, built at a combined cost of nearly Rs 2,000 crore at Nimmoo-Bazgo and Chutak, respectively. Built as part of India’s strategy to exploit the potential of Indus before it enters Pakistan, the hydel stations were running at sub-optimal levels in the absence of grid connectivity.

The Srinagar line will allow the stations to run at full capacity, feeding surplus power into the northern grid during summer and draw 100-150 MW in winter when reduced flow impedes generation. In the long term, the line will help Ladakh-Kargil region emerge as India’s power house by allowing evacuation of power from proposed solar projects with aggregate capacity of 7,5 GW (giga watt).

Due to their isolated locations, Ladakh and Kargil have remained 95 per cent power deficit regions. Habitations, including district headquarters Leh and Kargil, till recently received a five hours of power supply in the evening from diesel generators and a few micro hydel projects.

412 infra projects worth Rs 150 cr each show cost overruns of Rs 4.11 trn

Source: Business Standard, Aug 23, 2020

New Delhi: As many as 412 infrastructure projects, each worth Rs 150 crore or more, have been hit by cost overruns of over Rs 4.11 trillion owing to delays and other reasons, according to a report.

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation monitors infrastructure projects worth Rs 150 crore and above.

Of the 1,683 such projects, 412 reported cost overruns and 471 time escalation.

“Total original cost of implementation of the 1,683 projects was Rs 20,65,336.20 crore and their anticipated completion cost is likely to be Rs 24,77,167.67 crore, which reflects overall cost overruns of Rs 4,11,831.47 crore (19.94 per cent of original cost),” the ministry’s latest report for June 2020 said.

The expenditure incurred on these projects till June 2020 is Rs 11,21,435.29 crore, which is 45.27 per cent of the anticipated cost.

However, it said that the number of delayed projects decreases to 418 if delay is calculated on the basis of latest schedule of completion.

Further, it said that for 979 projects neither the year of commissioning nor the tentative gestation period has been reported.

Out of 471 delayed projects, 127 have overall delay in the range of one to 12 months, 112 have delay of 13 to 24 months, 127 reflect delay in the range of 25 to 60 months and 105 projects show delay of 61 months and above.

The average time overrun in these 471 delayed projects is 43.34 months.

The brief reasons for time overruns as reported by various project implementing agencies are delay in land acquisition, delay in obtaining forest/environment clearances and lack of infrastructure support and linkages.

Besides, there are other reasons like delay in tie-up of project financing, delay in finalisation of detailed engineering, change in scope, delay in tendering, ordering and equipment supply, law and order problems, geological surprises, pre-commissioning teething troubles and contractual issues, among others, the report said. It also observed that project agencies are not reporting revised cost estimates and commissioning schedules for many projects, indicating that time or cost overrun figures are under-reported.

NHAI identifies 1,500 km of road projects to boost coastal connectivity

Source: The Economic Times, Aug 17, 2020

NEW DELHI: The National Highways building authority will soon approve 1,500 kilometres of highway projects in the coastal regions of the country to improve coastal connectivity.

“We are now moving forward on four-laning of roads in the coastal region, around 1,500 kms of projects have been identified,” a senior government official told ET.

The exercise has been fast tracked after a push from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the official said.

In his Independence Day speech on Saturday, PM said that the government would focus on improving infrastructure connectivity in the coastal regions.

“Along with this, our coastline has a very important significance in the world trade. While moving on with Port led development, in the coming days, we will focus on working towards building a modern state-of-art infrastructure towards the construction of four lane road across the entire coastline,” Modi had said.

Among other projects, connectivity between Chennai and Kanyakumari will be focussed on, with around 400 km of roads identified in the eastern state of Odisha, the official added.

Modi, in his speech, had also emphasised on coastal infrastructure from the viewpoint of national security.

“Today emphasis is being laid on connectivity in every direction, be it at Himalayan peaks, or the islands of Indian Ocean,” he had said.

Some of these projects are already part of Bharatmala, the government’s flagship highway development program, the official quoted above said.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari lays foundation stone for 13 highway projects in Manipur

Source: The Economic Times, Aug 17, 2020

New Delhi: Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari on Monday laid the foundation stone for 13 highway projects worth Rs 3,000 crore in Manipur.

The minister also inaugurated a road safety project in the north eastern state.

The said projects involve a road length of 316 kilometres. “Paving the way for development of Manipur, these roads will enhance better connectivity, convenience and economic growth in this NE State,” a statement issued by the ministry of road transport and highways said.

Gadkari also asked Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who was also present at the web event, to expedite land acquisition and utility shifting work in the State urgently, so that road projects could be hastened up.

Gadkari said that a detailed project report for an elevated road in Imphal is being prepared and work on the project will begin in two to three months.

Gadkari said that with dredging complete in Brahmaputra and Barak rivers, it was now possible to transport people and consignments through waterways. The minister suggested linking Imphal with this river route, which is barely 50-60 kms, for added benefits to the State economy.

Road Ministry proposes new norms for Construction Equipment Vehicles

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Aug 16, 2020

New Delhi: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued a draft notification for Construction Equipment Vehicles.

The draft is aimed to address the issue of safety requirements of the the operator and to ensure safety while such machines are running on public roads.

The new norms are to be adopted holistically in a phased manner. Presently, certain safety requirements are already mandated for Construction Equipment Vehicles in Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

This standard aims to introduce AIS (Automotive Industry Standard) 160, to introduce several safety requirements such as Visual Display Requirements, requirements for Operator Station and Maintenance Areas, Non-metallic Fuel Tanks, and Minimum Access Dimensions among others.

It will also introduce multiple safety requirements such as Access Systems for steps, primary access, alternate exit path and opening, maintenance opening, handrail and handholds, Guards, Machine mounted audible travel alarms, Articulated Frame Lock and Lift Arm Support Device.

There will also be Dimensions and requirements for Operator’s Seat, Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC), Seat Belt and Seat belt anchorages, Roll over Protective Structure (ROPS), Tip over protection structure (TOPS), Falling Object Protective Structure (FOPS), Operator Field on View, Operator Seat Vibrations for suspended seats, among others. “Additionally, requirements with respect to pass by noise and noise measured at operator ear level are proposed, amend Central Motor Vehicles Rules 96-A and 98-A for brakes and steering effort and turning circle diameter respectively,” an official statement said.

Over 2,800 projects completed under AMRUT across India

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Aug 13, 2020

Pune: States across India have completed 2,854 projects worth ₹11,110 crore under the Central government’s Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), according to data available on the AMRUT website.

Under the scheme, State Annual Action Plans (SAAPs) submitted by all States for the entire Mission period (June 25, 2015-March 31, 2020) have been approved at a cost of ₹77,640 crore, including committed Central assistance of ₹35,990 crore.

According to a reply filed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to a query in the Lok Sabha in March, contracts have been awarded for 5,384 projects costing ₹73,641 crore under the Mission. About 2,855 projects costing ₹64,616 crore are under implementation.

Further, 476 projects costing ₹10,460 crore are at various stages of tendering. Some States have taken up projects in excess of their approved SAAP size. In such cases, the entire excess amount shall be borne by the States, the Ministry said.

The focus of Mission is to provide basic infrastructure for water supply, sewerage and seepage management, stormwater drainage, non-motorised urban transport and development of green spaces and parks in 500 Mission cities. According to data tabled by the Ministry in Lok Sabha in March, Tamil Nadu tops the chart in completing the highest number of works under the Mission. Tamil Nadu has completed 414 works costing ₹1,168 crore followed by Kerala (408 works, ₹220 crore), West Bengal (325 works, ₹382 crore), Karnataka (198 works, ₹947 crore) and Gujarat (179 works, ₹1,268 crore).