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KCR tussle with L&T on Metro Rail realignment
Narendra Ch | 26 Dec 2014

For a change, keep aside tussle with Andhra Pradesh state government on various issues, presently Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is involved in similar tussle with the engineering firm, Larsen & Toubro, which is executing the metro rail project in Hyderabad, on realignment of metro rail line in the city.

Immediately after assuming power, seven months ago, Chandrasekhar Rao started insisting for realignment of the line, on the plea to protect some heritage constructions like Assemlby buildings and also protect the interests of business people in narrow roads like Sultan Bazar. However, L&T management has been continuing its efforts to convince the Telangana government to retain the original plan without any changes.

However, the state government has made it clear there is no going back on its decision to realign the project, even if it means shelling out a few thousands of crores of rupees. Indications to this effect came from the Chief Minister himself when a request was made to him from a rather unexpected quarter at a meeting two days ago.

According to sources privy to the discussions, retired IAS officer Sheela Bhide, who called on the Chief Minister on a different purpose, reportedly raised the issue suggesting that L&T may be permitted to stick to the original plan. Her point was that changes in alignment may not only lead to escalation in cost but also delay the project.

Sheela, who met Rao in her capacity as chairperson of the expert committee on division of public sector undertakings between AP and Telangana, is also incidentally an Independent Director of L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Limited.

Rao seems to be was unaware of the second role Sheela was playing 'as representative of L&T ' until she herself disclosed to Rao a little later. On the question of possible delay, the Chief Minister appears to have suggested that the firm could go ahead with work on the rest of the corridor while soil and other tests are carried out in small stretches where realignment is proposed.

A couple of weeks ago, the Telangana government had even secured the nod of most political parties for the proposed changes, though the BJP opposed the change of route in the Old City.

Apart from the Old City, where the length of the rail could go up by more than 3 km to avoid places of worship, other changes have been proposed near the Assembly and Sultan Bazar to 'protect the sanctity and heritage of historic buildings and places.'

Chief Secretary Rajeev Sharma, who held a review meeting on metro rail Wednesday, is understood to have cleared an official proposal to be placed before L&T for realignment at both the Assembly and Sultan Bazar.

In regard to Old City, further study would be taken up before a final call is taken. The cost of the project, originally estimated at `14,000 crore, is said to have already shot up by over `2000 crore owing to rise in borrowings. The changes, if finally carried out, could mean further addition to the project cost.