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Fluctuating steel cost delays project completion

By Karthik Subramanian

CHENNAI, FEB. 3. It has been nearly three years since the Railways completed the subway on Harrington Road, Chetpet, and handed it over to the Chennai Corporation. All that remains to be completed are the approach roads and service lane. But after calling for tenders four times (the latest in August), Corporation officials are still unable to set a deadline for completing the project. The approach roads and the service lane would cost the civic agency a little over Rs. 3 crores, not a huge amount considering its resources.

The problem does not lie in budget allocation. Rather, the fluctuating cost of steel and the difference between the Government schedule of rate and the market rate seem to be the dampener for the project. The project would require at least 300 tonnes of steel and a large quantity of concrete.

While the recently-revised Government schedule had placed the cost of steel at Rs. 29,500 a tonne, the market rates have been fluctuating and have even reached a maximum of Rs. 35,000 a tonne. Contractors say they have been forced to quote in excess of 30 per cent over the Corporation estimate to meet any eventuality. Under normal circumstances, the Government does not accept tenders that quote in excess of 10 per cent over its estimate.

To encourage more contractors to participate in the project, the civic agency had even slashed the tender purchase charges from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 10,000.

Dangerous state

Today, the subway itself is in a dangerous state, with water inundation and rough mud approach roads. To those who are unfamiliar with the area, the facility could be fatal due to the lack of proper lighting and warning signs. But some motorists and cyclist continue to use the route as a quick means of avoiding the congested stretches and reaching Nelson Manickam Road or Ponnammallee High Road from Chetpet. Two-wheeler riders take the pavement meant for pedestrians.

Mud roads

People who are using the facility have demanded that the civic agency at least create proper mud roads in the area for them to use. V.Girish, an engineer from Aminjikarai, said he preferred using the subway despite its incomplete nature since he need not stop at three traffic signals. "I take the subway only to save time. Of course, it will help if the Government made approach roads."

Once completed, the subway would help decongest traffic along Sterling Road, Nelson Manickam Road and McNichols Road.

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