Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway Achieves Breakthrough in One of the Tunnels

  6 min 37 sec to read
Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway Achieves Breakthrough in One of the Tunnels

KATHMANDU: The Nepalese Army was assigned to manage the construction of the much-awaited Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway (Fast Track) in 2074 BS with a mandate to complete the project by 2078 BS. However, limited progress has been made so far on this national pride project, raising doubts about its completion by the extended deadline of 2083 BS.

The project achieved a breakthrough in one of the six tunnels to be built from Kathmandu to Nijgadh on Friday. According to the Nepalese Army, the 1,633-meter long section on the left side of the tunnel at Lendanda in Makwanpur achieved the breakthrough towards the tunnel leading to Nijgadh. However, 150 meters of a parallel tunnel leading to Kathmandu has yet to be excavated. This section is being developed as a twin-tube tunnel.

Under the management of the Nepalese Army, a contract was signed on 31st Baisakh, 2078, to build tunnels at three locations -- Mahadeotar, Lendanda, and Dhedre. The agreement was made with two Chinese companies, China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited and Poly Chengda Engineering Corporation Limited.

The Chinese companies were contracted to build a special bridge along with the tunnels within three and a half years, with an investment of Rs 50.14 billion. Although these three tunnels were to be completed within this timeframe, only one tunnel has achieved a breakthrough with six months left.

Army sources informed that the tunnel located in Dhedre of Makwanpur is expected to achieve a breakthrough within the next two months. Its length is 1,630 meters, and only 129 meters remain to be excavated.

Among the three tunnels to be built in the first phase, the Mahadeotar tunnel in Makwanpur is the longest, with a length of 3,355 meters. The army has reported that 2,158 meters have been excavated so far. An army officer stated that if the current pace of work is maintained, this tunnel will also be completed in six to seven months. Spokesperson for the Nepalese Army, Brigadier General Gaurav Kumar KC noted that the 1.633 km long Lendanda tunnel under Package No. 2 has been completed. During this period, the physical progress of all three tunnels along the expressway has reached 78 percent.

The total length of the tunnels under construction at these three locations is 6.618 km. According to the Nepalese Army, the cost of the first package of the tunnel along with the bridge is Rs 21.61 billion, while the cost of the second package is Rs 28.53 billion. The army divided the tunnel construction into two packages and signed contract agreements accordingly. Although there were no issues with the Mahadeotar tunnel in Package No. 1, there were disputes concerning the Dhedre and Lendanda tunnels in Package No. 2.

The Public Accounts Committee of the Federal Parliament reported irregularities in the pre-qualification (PQ) process for the second package which was announced without any competitive bids, leading the army to cancel the process and proceed with bid again.

The latest detailed project report (DPR) includes the construction of three additional tunnels, which are currently under design. The revised DPR of the expressway, approved by the Council of Ministers on Shrawan 30, 2080, added the Devichaur, Sisautar, and Chandram Bhir tunnels. These new additions are still in the procurement process. The expressway's distance has also decreased from the previous 72.5 kilometers.

According to the Nepalese Army, out of the 89 bridges to be built on the expressway, 85 have been contracted so far, and five bridges have been constructed. The contract process for four bridges under package No. 11 is pending. Given the significant amount of work remaining, the project is unlikely to be completed within the extended deadline.

Chief of the Nepalese Army, General Prabhuram Sharma, expressed doubts about meeting the deadline in a meeting of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives in last December. He stated that it would be a significant achievement if the track could be prepared for vehicles on time, but it will take another two to three years to complete the project. Sharma mentioned delays due to the Land Acquisition Act and Forest Act, which prevented timely tree cutting and caused a five-month shortage of explosives.

Arjun Jung Thapa, former joint secretary of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, was somewhat optimistic about the project's progress. He mentioned that although the first contracted tunnel would be completed within a year, the construction of other added tunnels would take another two to three years. He emphasized the need for an adequate budget, estimating that Rs 60 billion worth of work has been done and at least Rs 45-50 billion are needed to complete the expressway on time. He also noted the ongoing issues, such as delays in the contract process and unresolved issue of linking the expressway from Khokna to the ring road due to the local residents protesting to protect their cultural heritage.

Thapa stressed the need for allocating sufficient funds, suggesting that the expressway should be prioritized to ensure timely completion even if other projects need to be halted.

What is a Twin Tube Tunnel?

A 'twin tube tunnel' is different from the Nagadhunga tunnel. As the road is built on a highway and expressway, there is no rescue (evacuation) tunnel in this type of tunnel unlike in Nagadhunga. The Nagadhunga tunnel has a large main tunnel for vehicles to ply while the movement of vehicles is prohibited in the rescue tunnel. Vehicles will be allowed to travel on this tunnel only when there is some problem in the main tunnel or for rescue purpose.

On the other hand, the expressway tunnel has equal-sized tunnels for vehicles traveling in opposite directions. These two tunnels, however, have crossover passage, allowing vehicles to switch lanes if there is a problem in one of the tunnels. Traffic management offices will handle the traffic flow, and in case of emergencies, they can manage traffic diversions and rescues.

This two-lane highway will have one lane for Kathmandu-bound traffic and the other for vehicles heading to Nijgadh.


No comments yet. Be the first one to comment.