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Cost of Lowari tunnel project escalates by 475pc

Lowari tunnel brings little relief to commuters

ISLAMABAD: The cost of the Lowari tunnel project escalated by around 475 per cent to Rs46 billion during the last 18 years, mainly due to delay in execution and scarcity of funds, it has been learnt reliably.

The original PC-I of the Lowari Tunnel and Access Roads shows that the cost of the project was Rs7.984 billion in 2004, which has escalated to Rs46.040 billion in the third revised PC-I 2022, according to official documents published  by Propakistani.

The implementation period of the project is 230 months (19 years and two months) starting on September 19, 2005, and continuing till October 31, 2024.

Lowari tunnel is part of National Highway Road i.e. N-45. It originates from Nowshera, passes through Mardan, Malakand, and Chakdara, and culminates at Chitral while passing through Lowari Pass at a height of 3,150 metrrs (10,500 ft).

The total length of the road from Nowshera to Chitral is 321 km. The project is located between the townships of Dir and Drosh connecting the districts of Dir and Chitral of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The project comprises two tunnels of lengths 8.5 km and 1.9 km, four bridges in a tunnel complex, two portals/plate-forms, link access roads, and access roads. The scope of work also includes the provision of ventilation and electrical works for road tunnels, construction of platforms, operational buildings along with allied facilities, installations (signaling, etc), and equipment for snow clearing.

The original project envisaging construction of an 8.60 km long mini electric rail tunnel to provided facilities of a piggyback shuttle service for transportation of loaded cargo trucks, passenger wagons, loaded cargo pickups, and passenger wagons from one portal to the other was approved by ECNEC on 27th July 2004 at a cost of Rs7,983.7 million including FEC of Rs1,602.2 million.

The breakthrough of the 8.51 km Lowari Rail Tunnel was achieved after the whole cut between two portals got completed on 15th January, 2009.

Later, it was decided to modify the already excavated rail tunnel cavity to a road tunnel by enlarging the existing cross-section of the tunnel by approximately up to three metres to provide space for cable ducts, a two-lane road, and a 2.0-metre emergency lane. With this revised scope, the PC-I costing Rs18,132.544 million including FEC of Rs5,877.438 million was approved by ECNEC on 11th November, 2011.

On October 31, 2012, it was decided to further widen the carriageway from sic metres to 7.5 metred for safe vehicular passage. Furthermore, as a result of this intervention, the project cost increased from Rs18,132.544 million to Rs26,855.00 million including FEC of Rs5,870.00 million due to which a 2nd revised PC-I was prepared for processing through CDWP/ECNEC. The reasons for revision for the 2nd Revised PC-I provided by NHA also included exchange rate fluctuation and an increase in market rates of various cost items.

The 2nd revised PC-I of the project was approved by the ECNEC on 22.08.2016 at a total cost of Rs26,855.00 million including FEC of Rs5,870.00 million. The sponsors submitted the 3rd Revised PC-I of the project with costs increased from Rs. 26,855.00 million to Rs. 46,039.699 million (71 percent increase).

A pre-CDWP meeting was held on 10 November, 2021 under the chairmanship of Member (I&RC), Planning Commission in which it was decided that proper monitoring of the project will be carried out by 3rd party consultants.

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