No investor for Akhilesh’s dream projecthttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/no-investor-for-akhileshs-dream-project/

No investor for Akhilesh’s dream project

National Highway Authority of India took up its projects at the time of recession.

In a major setback to the Samajwadi Party government,no investor turned up for the 270-km long Lucknow-Agra Expressway project — the financial bids for which were to be opened Tuesday.

Officials blame “poor economic scenario” for investors’ disinterest in the project.

Anticipating such a response,the state government had earlier postponed the opening of bids in October and fixed November 12 for the same. However,no private investor turned up for the bid on Tuesday forcing the state government to cancel the tender process.

The expressway,which is Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s dream project,aims at faster connectivity between Lucknow and Delhi. Its estimated cost is around Rs 9,000 crore and was proposed to be taken up on Public Private Partnership (PPP) model like Yamuna Expressway.

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“It is certainly a high priority highway for the government but since no bidder has turned up,the tender process has been closed for now. The bid evaluation committee would send its report to the government,which would decide about the model to be adopted for developing the project,” said Alok Ranjan,Infrastructure and Industrial Development Commissioner,Uttar Pradesh government,who is also chairman of the Bid Evaliation Committee for the project.

The government is now exploring “alternative options” — like the state government takes up the project itself or it seeks help from the Government of India through a viability gap funding model,or a fresh tender with “better sweeteners” as desired by.

The state government would also look how the National Highway Authority of India took up its projects at the time of recession.

“The current economic scenario is to be blamed for such a response from the investors. Even PPP projects of NHAI are not attracting investors. We will have to look into alternative options and also how NHAI is managing the current crises. The final decision would be taken by the Chief Minister,” said a senior government officer.

In the past,top companies like Essel Infrastructure,Reliance Infrastructure,Jaypee Group,IL and FS,Welspun,Indus Concessions India Private Ltd had had qualified in the technical bid this July. These companies had to now bid for the financial bid for developing the project on Tuesday.

While some of these companies had already expressed their doubts over the project’s feasibility and had demanded “sweetners”,especially “land parcels” like Yamuna Expressway,the state government had refused to accept this demand. The Samajwadi Party,in its manifesto,had promised to avoid acquiring “multi-crop agricultural land for industrial projects”.

At the same,the state government has been promoting the project as “eco-friendly green field expressway with minimal agricultural land formula”.

THE PROJECT

* The proposed 270 km long access-controlled expressway is expected to reduce the existing travel time of about six hours from Agra to Lucknow to almost three hours

* As per the current proposed alignment,it would cover large sections of the belt dominated by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family — Firozabad,Etawah,Mainpuri and Kannauj — in the state and would be extension of existing 165-km long Yamuna Expressway,which connects NCR to Agra.