Thursday , 28 May 2020

Transforming Thiruvananthapuram

The Concession – Bi-Annual Annuity Mode

The finalisation of scope, preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR), processing the bid and award of work was overseen by none other than Dr N S Srinivasan, Founder-Director of National Transportation Planning And Research Centre (NATPAC)

The full project was envisaged to be executed as a Fund, Design, Build, Maintain and Transfer model with a 31 month construction period and a 15 year maintenance period, adding up to a 17.5 year Concession period.

The conceptualisation of the entire TCRIP work and the preparation of DPR were done through a process of consultation with stake holders which included all affected departments under the Government of Kerala.

The work was awarded to Thiruvananthapuram Road Development Company Ltd. (TRDCL) through a global tender process. TRDCL is a consortium of IL&FS Transportation Net works Ltd. and M/s Punj Lloyd Ltd. Broadly, the functional responsibilities of the parties to the agreement were as follows:

a. IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd – will manage the Project and maintain the same after construction.

b. Punj Lloyd Ltd. – will be in charge of construction in the role of EPC contractor.

c. Kerala Road Fund Board – will facilitate land delivery through the acquisition agency TRIDA (Thiruvananthapuram Development Company Ltd) and co-ordinate with all agencies for smooth delivery of land and required work front.

Under the Agreement, the Concessionaire would be paid `17.74 crore every six months as Annuity for a period of 15 years after construction. The Concession Agreement was signed on March 15, 2004.

The final scope of the project – TCRIP – was pegged at 42.08km which included the following:

• Widening, Strengthening and Geometric Improvements of Roads (42.08km)

• Junction improvements (63 nos)

• Construction of Flyovers (2 nos)

• Construction of Underpass (1 no).

• Construction of New Culverts. (73 nos)

• Construction of Cross ducts and Cross pipes to help utility crossing – (82 nos each)

• New concrete drains on both sides with inspection chambers at every 8m. (82km)

• Construction of 2 lane bridges. (2 nos)

• Construction of 3 lane bridges. (3 nos)

• Construction of Railway Over Bridge. (1 no)

• 2.00 m wide paved continuous footpath on either side of newly developed roads. (67km)

• Bi – Arm median lighting to IRC standards in 4 lane / 6 lane roads.

• Hi-Mast lights at 12 junctions.

• Arboriculture/Landscaping – planting (1234) and nurturing of all trees for 15 years. Turfing with buffalo grass in space available outside the two metre footpath, and construction of landscaped traffic islands.

• Provision of Retro-Reflective Road Signs

• Provision of Road Markings to IRC specifications.

• Erection of Gantry signs – 18 nos

• Installation of Satellite controlled (GPS enabled) Solar powered Traffic Signals (36 junctions)

• Construction of Bus bays (94 nos).

• Construction of Nallah box covering – Bakery jn / Vanchiyoor (600 m) to provide carriageway over the same.

• Construction of RCC Retaining walls (10.61Kms).

• Provision of hand rails at all junctions,

Timelines arising out of the Concession Agreement were as under:

a. The deadline for handing over complete land on the project: December 31, 2004

b. Schedule Project Completion Date – (SPCD): November 16, 2006.

Obviously, the SPCD was linked to the availability of the land for the Project, which was to be delivered in a phased manner by the end of 2004.

End of Philosophy

But that is where the fairy tale ended. One is reminded of a quote from Swami Vivekananda which goes “an all-pervasive ignorance is the end of philosophy and the beginning of religion”. This was the end of the dream: ending two to three years of hard work of preparing the Project details, theorising and simulation, all of which the people involved very well knew that would remain more on paper than otherwise.

What was destined to be a 30 month construction project is now in the 10th year and will take at least till Dec 31, 2014 to complete. This just does not add up, nor does it makes sense.

In the process of its interactions with the public, TRDCL discovered that many of the project features were unique in the context of the place and ethos of the public. Some of them were eye-openers. These would go down as just another project feature in any other city, but here it had either a special social impact or an impact affecting the way people reacted.

As mentioned earlier, looking back, the backbone of this project was the flawless land acquisition process. Many a land owner or the Affected Party secured a stay from the Kerala High Court, but none could be sustained. There were two reasons for this:

a. A thorough process of acquisition-almost text-book like – that the Court could not accord stay accusing improper and biased process.

b. Prompt and alert interventions in the Court of Law so that the normal ruse of taking the authorities unawares did not work for the petitioners.

However, the departments involved in LA took long to move through the process.The process had to be completed by the Revenue Department in over seventeen steps, each step, for each parcel, sometimes taking two to three months at a time!! The entire process went through a need assessment by the Land Commissioner who heard both the Government and the Project Affected Person and based on the guiding parameters ruled on the complaint by the PAP. If the acquisition is upheld by the Land Commissioner, then seventeen different steps are followed.

Given the above, it has to be acknowledged that TRIDA, the Agency responsible for land acquisition, did an excellent job as none of the acquisitions were struck down by the Court of Law, though it took time.

As a BOT Annuity Project, the Lenders Consortium had no sympathy towards the concessionaire in staying put to complete the project indefinitely waiting for bits and pieces of land to be delivered for the Project. The Consortium of Lenders had to restructure the Project more than twice till date to keep the lending process active.

By November 2006 the project land delivery had not moved an inch from the pre-Dec 2004 days, making it inevitable for the concessionaire to drop the project. By the end of 2006 the scenario ahead was very deem with hardly any pointers giving the reason for cheer. However, as a last resort arbitration procedures were initiated by mid 2007, which resulted in an award of grant for the concessionaire by April 2009. The project was immediately revived from where it was left off in 2006 at 33% completion and proceeded to complete the same to 98% as of today.

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