Fast Track, Tunnel Highway to have common alignment in Khokana
BHOJ RAJ POUDEL
KATHMANDU, Sept 22: In order to minimize the cost of land acquisition in Khokana, Laitpur, the government has decided to develop the track being opened in Khokana area as a common alignment for both Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track and Kathmandu-Hetauda Tunnel Highway.
Previously, National Planning Commission (NPC) and Ministry of Physical Planning, Works and Transport Management (MoPPWTM) had cited Khokana as the entry/exit point for the Fast Track road. They had identified Balkhu as entry/exit point for the Tunnel Highway.
“The MoPPWM and NPC have agreed in principle to make a common alignment for both the roads projects,” Hari Bhakta Shrestha, joint secretary at MoPPWTM, told Republica.
The Fast Track, which will connect Kathmandu and Nijghad of Bara, is a 76-km expressway, while the 50-km Tunnel Highway will link Kathmandu and Hetauda.
“Now both the road projects will share common alignment of 15 kilometers in Khokana area,” said Shrestha.
Some officials at the ministry, however, said the decision to have common alignment for both the roads has complicated things for the fast track project, particularly as sharing of certain segment of roads might turn international investors away.
“The decision might put the very project (fast track) at risk. But, surprisingly, concerned officials at the NPC and the ministry took the decision even without studying how they will manage the shared section, among others, in the two BOOT projects," said a source.
Shrestha too admitted a serious study was needed to work out ways to manage the common section. "But the government will do that aptly," he said. He even disclosed that the decision was taken based on the request Khokana locals.
"Their request made sense as well, as now we would be able to acquire land for the project easily. Also, it will lower our land acquisition cost,” he added.
Dipendra Bahadur Kshetry, vice-chairperson of the NPC, also said common alignment for two mega projects would be cost effective in the long-term.
The government had handed over the Tunnel Highway project to the Nepal Purvadhar Bikas Company (NPBC) under the build-own-operate and transfer (BOOT) act in May, whereas it has called for expression of interest (EoI) from the contractors for the Fast Track project only recently.
The NPBC has been asked to develop the Tunnel Highway within 4 years.
"NPBC officials have agreed on the concept of common alignment. But I think it will be a difficult task for government to synchronize the development of the two projects," Kshetry added.