KOLKATA: Drivers from Phuentsholing border in Bhutan, Hilli border in northern Bangladesh and Kakarvitta border in Nepal may soon bypass greater Kolkata region and save more than seven hours to pick up international cargo from Haldia port in the Bay of Bengal.
A new Bengal Highway, that has recently got the requisite amount from lender Asian Development Bank and approvals from central government agencies, will open up the deep-sea Haldia Port to neighbouring countries Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan besides benefitting the north east. Tenders for commencing the work of the highway is slated to be called soon.
Dubbed the 'North south corridor of Bengal', the 270 km long Expressway connecting Morgram in Murshidabad district with Mechogram in Purba Medinipur district, will enable freight to bypass the
congested Howrah suburbs and saving more than 300 km for the freight. Time saved will amount to more than seven hours. The project was envisioned as the neighbouring countries' and northeast's dependence on Haldia port increased with the siltation of Kolkata riverine port.
The new highway will be built as a parallel highway to existing NH 34, which is in a very poor shape and witness to many accidents. The new highway will break off from the junction of NH 60 and NH 34
at Morgram and join NH 6 at Mechogram.
The North south corridor was first proposed by the erstwhile Left Front government in 2009. In 2012, applications were sent by the present Trinamool government to the ADB for lending the requisite amount. Approvals for the project got entangled in red tapism.
The ADB has agreed to lend 70%, (Rs 3,000 crore) of the total Rs 4,500 for the project, which would be paid back at an interest rate of 0.5% by the state government. "After completing the project, the
state government will collect toll taxes from the stretch," a senior government official told Express.
"Clearances have been secured from the economic affairs, finance and environment ministries of the central government, " the official added.
According to the official, the land acquisition for the highway project has been done and compensation paid according to the ADB guidelines.
"The corridor when completed will also help in growth of allied industries and commercial enterprises along the stretch, enabling more employment," an official of state secretariat Nabanna said.