ISLAMABAD: The cost of Islamabad-Murree Expressway project will now be around Rs 10 billion against the PC-1 estimates of rupees three billion. Due to delay in project’s execution time, the cost touched Rs 10 billion, sources in the Ministry of Communication here on Wednesday.

The work on Islamabad-Murree Expressway, which links Islamabad to Muzaffarabad and Chakoti border area of Azad Kashmir, started during the last tenure of Nawaz Sharif with a cost of rupees three billion. Sources disclosed that according to the original project, the expressway would be built up to Chakoti for which land was being purchased.

They added that in the initial phase, the expressway would be completed up to Lower Toppa, which ass near completion with manifold increase in the original cost. It was a dual carriageway with four lanes, which would be an added attraction for both local and foreign tourists, who wanted to visit Muree and its adjacent resorts, sources added.

After completion of the project, distance between Murree and Islamabad would reduce, but strategically it would be defence supply road, sources said, adding that this expressway could be effectively used for unhindered supply to the armed forces, whenever necessary.

The contract was initially given to a Saudi Arabian company, which left the project causing delay. Later, the contract was awarded to Hakkas, a national company, but the PC-1 of the project was revised due to delay. Now the cost has exceeded Rs 10 billion.

The project is not only very costly, but due to frequent land sliding it is one of the most difficult roads in the South Asia. One of the unique features of this new expressway is that it is being constructed after cutting the mountains. This process is extremely technical as well as difficult to transport heavy machinery to hilly areas due to frequent rains, land sliding etc.

“But it is always a great tragedy that usually contracts are not awarded on merit. These contractors not only waste time, but due to delaying tactics, construction charges rise manifold,” they added. Recently, Minister for Communication Dr Arbab Khan visited the site, and stressed the need for early completion of the project. The government would keep a check on the contractors and they would be fined for delaying different projects, which escalated the cost manifold, he added.

Sorce: The Dawn