If the financial closure and construction work go as planned by Purbadhar Bikas Company Ltd (PBCL), Hetauda will be only one hour away from Kathmandu — shortening the distance to 58-km — by the end of 2016, thanks due to the Kathmandu-Kulekhani-Hetauda Tunnel Road.
The Ministry of Physical Planning and Transport today gave final permission to Purbadhar Bikas Company — that is going to construct the tunnel way — to start the mega project that will be the first project under the Build-Own-Operate-and Transfer (BOOT) Act, according to the secretary at the ministry Tulsi Sitaula.
The country needs an express way and tunnel ways like Kathmandu-Kulekhani-Hetauda Tunnel Road to bring socio-economic transformation as it will not only connect people to the market but also bring changes in their lifestyle, he said, adding that the road is expected to save around Rs 15 billion annually on fuel and spare parts.
The government has guaranteed 0.5 per cent of the investment for security, added Sitaula. "The company will complete its financial closure in a year."
After the final detailed project report, the project is estimated to cost Rs 34.5 billion from the earlier estimation of Rs 20 billion, said chairman of the company Kush Kumar Joshi. "The tunnel road, that will help connect western Nepal to Kathmandu, has a payback period of eight to 12 years — as users will have to pay toll fee — and will be transferred to the government in 30 years," he said, adding that some 28 commercial banks, 200,000 locals and Non-Resident Nepalis, apart from private sector organisations like Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), and Federation of Contractors Association of Nepal and its member contractors are some of the investors of the dream project that is an initiative of the domestic private sector. "It will be constructed under the Public-Private-Peoples-Partnership model."
"There are challenges but it's an opportunity also for the private sector to prove that it is capable and competent in constructing mega infrastructure projects like roads," added Joshi, who is also former president of FNCCI. "The company will also float ordinary shares."
If the company keeps its promise, it will be the first to float shares of an infrastructure project in the country.
The Asian Highway standard 58-km tunnel road with three tunnels — at Chovar (392 metres), Kulekhani (3.42 km) and Bhaise (735 metres) — will have a four-lane expressway that will not only save time and fuel but also create new economic hubs at the sides of roads, besides helping shift population pressure from the valley.
Currently, the distance between Kathmandu and Hetauda through the Tribhuwan Highway is 133-km and through Prithvi Highway it is 227-km that takes around a six-hour drive.