The Department of Road’s plan to start construction of the much touted Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel which is expected to make travelling in and out of the Kathmandu Valley easier has been delayed as it has yet to appoint a contractor to execute the project.
The underground route that the department is planning to build beneath the western rim of the Kathmandu Valley with a soft loan from the Japanese government is expected to reduce the travel time significantly by eliminating the numerous hairpin turns across the hill on this stretch of the highway.
Initially, the department was planning to mobilise a contractor and start the construction of the tunnel way by January 2019 but this plan will not materalise as the project office has yet to evaluate the proposals submitted by contractors willing to undertake the job.
Currently, the Department of Road (DOR) is evaluating the technical proposals of six international companies—five Chinese and one Japanese—that had been shortlisted for the job.
According to Keshav Kumar Sharma, chief of the DoR’s Foreign Cooperation Branch, the department will take two to three weeks to complete the evaluation of the technical proposals and to prepare a list of the technically qualified ones.
“Once we complete the technical evaluation, we will forward the list to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for approval,” said Sharma. “After receiving approval, we will then open the envelopes containing the financial proposal of the technically qualified firms and the company quoting the lowest price will be awarded the construction job.”
Sharma said the DOR is planning to mobilise the contractor by March 2019, the new target set by the department.
The Nagdhunga Tunnel Project has two components: Construction of a 2.45-km tunnel from Basnetchhap to Sisne Khola, and a 2.6-km approach road from Basnetchhap to Thankot. The proposed tunnel will have two 3.5-metre lanes and a 2.5-metre shoulder. It will also have LED lighting, mechanical ventilation, evacuation tunnel door and emergency telephone service.
Likewise, the approach road will have two bridges, toll booths and a roadside rest area for travellers. The rest area, spread over 4,650 square metres, will have parking space for nine heavy vehicles and 23 light vehicles, fast food restaurants, shops and toilets. The cost of the project is expected to be around Rs20.2 billion.
The tunnel project will be implemented with a loan from the Japanese government. Nepal and Japan signed an official development assistance loan agreement worth Rs15.2 billion for the construction of the tunnel in December 2016. The loan repayment period has been fixed at 40 years and the grace period at 10 years. The loan carries an interest rate of 0.01 percent per annum.