New Delhi: Taking note of the long delay and cost escalation in the Kashmir rail link project, one of the key works taken up by railways since Independence, government auditor CAG has blamed "poor planning and due diligence before its execution for it.
The 29-km long Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line project`s originally estimated cost of Rs 3,077 crore in 1999-2000, has escalated to Rs 19,565 crore and the project is still not complete.
"The single most important reason for delay and other related problems in execution of the project is poor planning," observed the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its latest report tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
Considering the difficult and unexplored terrain of the region, the CAG has noted that the critical decision on selection of alignment should have been preceded by requisite field investigations to establish its workability.
"Had the project authorities conducted due diligence during the initial stage including expert consultation, it would have been possible to minimise uncertainty on account of constructibility paving the way for smoother implementation," it said.
It noted that the inadequacy of project estimates thus heavily contributed to time and cost overruns as well as major changes in scope of work as field investigations were taken up during construction.
The project cost from the approved estimates of Rs 3077 crore in 1999-2000, the project was currently estimated to cost Rs 19,565 cr resulting in cost overrun of Rs 16,488 crore.
It observed that the railways should have carried out a detailed survey of the area in the section between Katra-Qazigund, the most difficult terrain in the project, before deciding on the alignment and gradient that was to connect maximum neighbouring habitations.
This alignment passed through various thrust areas and fault lines in the Himalayas making the line vulnerable to seismic disasters.
"However, the planners failed to conduct due diligence by way of geo-technical investigations of the proposed alignment in a hitherto unexplored territory and relied entirely on aerial maps and satellite imagery," auditors noted.
CAG has pointed out that the final location survey was not drawn up before commencement of works.
"On the contrary construction works on the alignment were taken up simultaneously along with ground investigations resulting in uncertainty in progress as a result of difficult terrain and geological conditions," it observed.