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High Court seeks details on Chennai-Madurai corridor

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The ongoing marathon hearing before the Madras High Court on a batch of cases filed against the proposed Chennai-Salem expressway took an interesting turn on Monday, with the court calling for details on bids invited by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) to convert the four-lane Chennai-Tiruchi-Madurai economic corridor into a six-lane highway.

A Division Bench of Justices T.S. Sivagnanam and V. Bhavani Subbaroyan directed the NHAI officials to submit the details in a sealed cover on Tuesday. The interim direction was issued on a a PIL filed by S. Yuvaraj of Salem accusing the Centre of having dropped the proposal to widen the high-priority Chennai-Madurai economic corridor for implementing the greenfield Chennai-Salem expressway.

Project shelved
During the course of arguments, petitioner’s counsel Kabilan Manoharan said the Chennai-Madurai widening project was shelved after a private firm based in Haryana had submitted its bids for preparing the DPR. He contended that the government should have pursued the Chennai-Madurai project instead of concentrating on creating an altogether new expressway between Chennai and Salem.

In an affidavit, the petitioner said the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had announced a mega road improvement project titled Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I scheme on October 25, 2017.

The scheme included development of economic corridors (44 projects), expressways (seven projects) and inter-corridor roads (65 projects) that were scientifically identified. The proposed Chennai-Salem expressway project did not find a place in the scheme though the Chennai-Madurai economic corridor was very much a part of the approval granted for phase-I of the scheme, the petitioner claimed. However, on March 1, the Ministry issued a notification declaring a completely new National Highway numbered as NH-179B starting from the junction of NH-179A near Harur in Salem to the junction of NH-32 near Tambaram in Chennai. The notification was issued under Section 2(2) of the National Highways Act of 1956, which could be invoked only to declare an existing State highway as a national highway and not for declaring a new highway altogether, he said.


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