Underground Construction and Tunneling Stakeholder Consultations ‘Enforcement of Contracts for Underground Construction and Tunneling’ With Shri Nitin Jairam Gadkari

12 February, 2020, The Oberoi Hotel, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg, New Delhi

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India has shown substantial improvement in its Ease of doing business moving up to 63 number in list of the countries, through in Enforcement of the contracts it marginally - 163rd  position in 2019 from 172nd position in 2017.  Reason is that the contract clauses remain same in all underground and over ground tenders, even while conditions differ drastically regarding the sub-surface conditions.  For cost effective tunnelling project to succeed there should be a separate MoRTH Contract Document and DPR document for Tunnelling, in particular. 
Union Minister for Roads Transport and Highways, Shri Nitin Gadkari emphasized upon the need to reduce cost for construction in tunneling and curtail expenses over escape tunnels wherever necessary, without compromising security. Minister also emphasized upon the need for improved designs and DPRs (Detailed project Report), relaxation in technical and financial qualification to enable competition amongst bidders and need to maintain complete transparency in project allocation.  Through Network Survey Vehicle (NSV), it is now possible to captured every event on real time basis onto PIMS portal. Decision can be taken accordingly. Another important decision is to identify muck disposal sites, in advance.  Shri V.K Singh, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways said that in the fragile Himalayan terrain, tunneling is not only environmentally friendly but also has long term economic imperative. Broadening and maintenance of Himalayan roads costs significantly to the exchequer. Industry must coordinate and synergise efforts to find best possible technology solutions that would help timely completion of tunnel projects at reasonable costs.  Shri I K Pandey DG MoRTH  and Shri R. K. Pandey Member (Projects) NHAI highlighted Ministry decision not to award projects to contractors, unless land acquisition and process of approvals are completed. Ministry accepted that the EPC Contract document prepared for surface (roads and highways) contracts cannot be adopted for tunneling and the process for new document for tunneling and underground construction will be initiated soon. Himalayan rocks are new and thus results in geological surprises. Rock classification changes every 50 meters thus there will be separate document also for DPR for tunneling. Despite best DPR, uncertainties cannot be ruled out. The risk needs to be shared equitably, say 65:35 ratio in favour of contractor.  The apprehension of the Ministry was that variation should not be misused. Ministry will therefore look into the Baseline matrix and cost will be firmed, in situation of deviation/ variation in geological strata.  Shri Sanjeev Ranjan IAS Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways refereed to number of tunnels in the pipeline 10  in J&K, 2 In Uttrakhand, 1 in Sikkim. He said that Tunnels in strategic area are deemed as national investments. Rohtang will shortly open up Leh sector. The railway line along some of these alignments, if put together would save significant costs – Dual use one investment. He said that  MoRTH Contract document should be as far as industry friendly.  Shri Keshav Kumar Pathak MD HNIDCL said that NHIDCL will look at various suggestions of industry with open mind.
Most importantly, Geological Baseline Report (GBR) and Baseline Schedule should be given priority in Contract documents. Geological data and GBR should be used as the benchmark for interpretation of any variation in ground strata condition and used as single source for allocation of sub-surface risks.  Time adjustments and Extensions of Time should be calculated and determined by reference only to the Baseline Schedule and the Completion Schedule. Time related charges either may be asked to be submitted in the tender or a fixed percentage cost (as percentage of excavation & Lining cost of the government estimate rates) be worked out to compensate for the overheads and prevent misuse.
The essence of project success lies in its implementation and bold and timely decision making. Technical Cell with Panel of Experts at the ministry level, with representation of Industry experts could help address issues that arise in execution of large tunneling projects.  Industry experts could provide services, similar to General Qualifier (GQ) where experts will act as Arbitrators, conciliators and regularly visit sites, document data and help resolve disputes. Establishment of central repository of case studies - a Museum to record history of every underground excavation project at the side of project and data so available should be made available for development and designs of further projects.
Inclusion of the above principles in the MoRTH contract and amendment in contradictory clauses in the tender documents will help timely completion of strategic tunnelling projects, avoid cost overruns and accrue net savings in the national investments.