The ongoing East-West Highway will be completed early next year, according to the works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden.

During the Meet the Press session last week, Lyonpo Dorji Choden said widening of the highway is completed and the contractors are now collecting stones and aggregates. She said the government is monitoring the progress of the work.

The East-West Highway project, according to the minister, is divided into 38 contract packages. “All contract packages are at different stages of progress,” she said.

Lyonpo said most of the work will be completed by the end of 2017. “Some of the work may spill over to the first quarter of 2018,” she said.

“By the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan, all works will be completed.”

Meanwhile, 10 contractors engaged in the east-west widening works in the Trongsa region agreed to submit their commitments to complete their works on time to the Departments of Roads (DoR) on April 24.

The commitment was supposed to be made during a meeting on April 13 between the companies and the DoR. But it did not happen since the proprietors of the companies involved did not attend the meeting along with their project engineers.

Only three proprietors were present and it was the project engineers and project managers who represented the other seven companies.

The meeting was held as per the instructions of the Prime Minister to evaluate the work progress of each company.

The company representatives asked for a time extension to submit their commitments by April 24 citing that they had to consult their proprietors first.

DoR’s chief engineer Taugay Choidup, said commitments should be made with their revised work plans since they are behind their work schedules. “They have to make up for the loss.”

He said five of the 10 contractors are on track given the progress report to date. “The other five are behind schedule,” he said.

The chief engineer urged the companies to look for new working strategies to expedite their work.

Taugay Choidup said the main problem with contractors who are behind schedule is that they have not deployed the required number of workers and machinery mandated by the contract document.

He also asked the project managers and engineers to share their work progress with the proprietors. “Some companies’ work progress was poor during the working season, especially winter,” he said.

Some engineers, who attended the meeting, explained that the poor performance of work was due to inadequate supply or mismanagement of materials by their proprietors. The other reason, they said, was due to shortage of skilled workers at the site.

Taugay Choidup said the contractors would be penalised as per the tender document should the companies fail to submit their commitments by April 24. DoR has also asked the companies to renew their bank guarantees and insurances that have expired by the same date.

DoR has also asked the companies without crusher plants to set them up at the earliest.

The 100km highway is divided into 14 work packages and starts from Chuserbu in Trongsa to Nangar in Bumthang. The last package should be completed by February 2018 without considering hindrances. The first package started in June 2015.

Meanwhile, most companies are optimistic about completing their works on time. Chief engineer of Rigsar construction, Nidup Chong said they have already completed work like formation cutting and progress will be better thereafter.

Nima Wangdi and MB Subba