Among the three bidders in the race including Larsen & Toubro and Ircon International JV, the Hyderabad-headquartered company had quoted the lowest Rs 4,509.5 crore for the tunnel project, stuck for over six years now.
The project holds strategic significance as Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall.
“MEIL has emerged as the lowest bidder by quoting Rs 4,509.5 crore for the Zojila Pass tunnel project,” an NHIDCL official said.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari last month had said that the work on the project will start soon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in May 2018 laid the foundation stone for the Rs 6,800 crore project, billed as the Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel, in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, barely months after the foundation, the NHIDCL on January 15, 2019 terminated the contract awarded to troubled IL&FS group company IL&FS Transportation after it abandoned the project citing financial problems.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways through NHIDCL had invited bid for “construction of 14.15 km long tunnel across Zojila Pass on Sonmarg-Kargil section of NH-1 between union territories of J&K and Ladakh along with approaches” through an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract.
“MEIL has become L-1 in Zojila Pass tunnel in Jammu Kashmir-Ladakh in Himalayan region. NHIDCL has opened the bids on Friday, and MEIL topped the list by quoting less than other companies. …the Zojilla tunnel is to be built in horseshoe shape of 14.15 km as a two-road lane of 9.5 metres wide and 7.57 metres high. This project will have to carry out innovatively in the most critical conditions,” MEIL said in a statement.
The company said the project is in complex hill and its completion schedule is 72 months.
“This whole project has to executed in two parts. The first part is 18.50 kilometres of road, and the second part is 14.15 kilometres as a tunnel…”, it said.
Gadkari had said that the tunnel for all-year connectivity between Leh and Srinagar may undergo some design changes to prevent cost escalation.
The cancellation of the award in January last year was the second time NHIDCL had scrapped the contract for the 14.15-km tunnel project.
The corporation had earlier cancelled the bid of IRB Infrastructure. IL&FS Transportation in 2017 emerged as the lowest bidder in the rebidding process.
Unveiling a plaque for commencement of work for the tunnel, Modi had said, “Zojila tunnel is not a mere tunnel but a modern day marvel.”
The Cabinet on January 3, 2018 had approved the Zojila tunnel project with Parallel Escape (Egress) tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg on the Srinagar-Leh section of NH-1A at a total cost of Rs 6,800 crore.
The project was expected to be completed in seven years.