Revised R3 project to cost more than aborted original plan

Revised R3 project to cost more than aborted original plan

With Prime Minister Imran Khan recently laying the foundation stone of the revised Rawalpindi Ring Road (R3), the most critical element of the project has been left unattended and unresolved.

How will the motorway with its existing lanes cope with at least 45,000 vehicles daily that will reach the Thallian interchange on the M-1 from the R3? Huge congestion on the road is feared at this point. Also, while the axle load for the motorway is specified, no such requirement has been determined by law for GT Road/R3 traffic.

Ironically, the alignment of the present R3 will cost more than the aborted ring road project, which was presented as a huge scam, leading to the arrest of the then Rawalpindi commissioner and several other officials of the Rawalpindi and Attock administrations. While dubbing it as a monumental swindle, it was alleged that the project cost was deliberately inflated to make money.

The section from Rawat to the Thallian interchange will cost Rs 24bn to Rs30bn on construction and Rs6bn would be required for land acquisition. From Thallian to Wapda Town, the motorway will need upgradation and the addition of lanes on both sides to absorb additional vehicles coming on the M-1/M-2 from the R3.

This aspect has so far been left unattended. There is no mention from anyone about increasing motorway lanes. Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who belongs to the two constituencies through which the R3 traverses, demanded at the foundation stone laying ceremony that the prime minister should order an expansion of lanes. However, the premier did not touch upon this issue in his remarks.

It is estimated that the motorway upgrading/addition of lanes will cost Rs1bn per km, and around 22 kilometres will have to be built. So far, this cost has not been included in the project, documents show. But the unprecedented overcrowding that such a heavy traffic will cause if the motorway was not expanded and was kept in its present shape and capacity has been repeatedly pointed out in official documents.

Furthermore, another seven kilometers will have to be built for the Margalla Road extension, extending Margalla Avenue from Sangjani on the GT road at Wapda Town (M-1).

The entire cost of nearly Rs70bn for the road has to be taken from the Punjab Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and the provincial annual development programme. The abandoned R3 alignment was estimated to cost Rs65bn in the public private partnership (PPP) mode.

The R3 traffic passing through the Thallian interchange will flow towards other highways and motorways falling under the jurisdiction of the National Highway Authority (NHA) and Capital Development Authority (CDA).

Documents show that a three-member committee formed by the Central Working Development Party (CDWP), had informed the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) that a detailed merger plan has been postponed owing to the urgency of the project.

The forum said that it deliberated upon different scenarios at length to ascertain the likely detailed merger plan from Thalian onwards. As per the consultant, the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak), appointed by the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) it has been agreed that a network modelling on the ‘Visum Model’ may be utilized to determine the traffic flow on various NHA roads connecting the M-1 and M-2, the committee said in its report submitted to the ECNEC.

Headed by the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Communications and comprising Member, Planning, NHA, Rawalpindi Commissioner/project director of R3, and Member, Engineering, CDA, the body had been tasked to finalize the merger plan.

It said that the detailed study required additional scope of work in the Nespak contract as well as the time period of about two months to complete the assignment. Owing to the urgency of the R3 project, which is already delayed, it was unanimously recommended by the committee to forward the proposal to the Planning Division with certain recommendations.

The committee recommended that the proposal may be processed by the ECNEC as per the plan of the RDA. However, any addition of the infrastructure associated and results due to traffic merger will be addressed subsequently and presented to the CDWP accordingly.

According to the documents, Nespak stated in the meeting that as per the data set provided by M/s MORE (Frontier Works Organization or FWO), which is the concessionaire of the motorway for collection of toll tax and its maintenance, the addition of traffic on the R3 at Thallian maintains the level of service, which is the minimum requirement for a motorway to operate.

The committee said that the subsequent increase in traffic due to the growth rate will be ascertained by the consultant in the additional scope of work and will reveal the upgradation of the M-2 and other associated networks subsequently.

The point of view of the concessionaire was also recorded by the committee that the subsequent study by Nespak will be validated by a third-party consultant as per their agreement with the NHA, and their viewpoint will also be reflected in the final recommendation.

The National Highway and Motorway Police (NHMP) recommended that the enforcement at the R3 would be handed over to it as the road connects to the federal M-1 and M-2.

The provision of building infrastructure and revenue components to be agreed with the NHMP as per standard requirements would be in the PC-1 according to estimates of the project.

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