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How did the BIAL runway deteriorate so fast?

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AviationPublic Transport

A full scale runway closure is a major event, and for a runway to be closed for "maintenance" implies serious repairs. Serious repairs on a spanking new runway, at a new airport which has commenced operations less than four years ago, clearly implies something extra-ordinary.

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- - - A source with extensive knowledge of the Bangalore airport project, expressed extreme surprise on the timing of the repairs, as the runway surface was originally specified to last for at least twelve years.

- - - Another source, also closely involved with the airport project, confirmed the failure, indicating the top layer of the 450mm thick runway has "been determined to be not as structurally strong as should be", calling the failure a "major civil engineering deficiency". This will require the complete top surface to be removed and re-laid. Sources cannot be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

- - - BIAL is an honourable organisation, and Larsen and Toubro could be doing the right thing in repairing the runway at its expense, but the inconvenience to be suffered by the various stake-holders of the airport -- airlines, staff, passengers, concession operators, industries, even taxi drivers, is all too real. The monetary and business impact is going to run in to crores and crores of Rupees with thousands of man-hours lost. - - - - The citizens of Bangalore may not demand compensation, but answers they are.

For the full report by Mr Devesh Agarwal, click here.

Yes, Devesh asks the right questions.

Muralidhar Rao


kbsyed61's picture

Instance of private negligence or greed?

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Murali Sir,

That's good question, but question is also about works done by the private enterprise? The same contractor was gven the works for KR Market/Mysore Rd flyover and we all know the state of that flyover.

Actually, a very well known and informed resource from commerce chambers had commented way back in 2009 about the shoddy work of L&T in BIAL. All the Industries and Business brains then just ignored that factor and targetted the Siemens/Zurich Airport consortium for the windfall they would reap. But nobody talks about huge profits made by the L&T that with shoddy work.



murali772's picture

oh - come on!

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@ Syedbhai - Devesh has written up a fairly comprehensive critique on the unfortunate episode. As compared to that, I am sorry to say, I find you have chosen to follow the typical corporate bashing style of the pseudo-Socialists.

This apparently was a genuine mistake on the part of L&T, and they seem to be undertaking the repairs free.

L&T is amongst the most reputed of companies in the country today. I doubt any other company could have done as good a job of an elevated corridor as this. And, as for the Mysore road fly-over (which you have referred to), quite as Srinidhi had himself pointed out "initially when L&T implemented the project, one of the best implementations should say, they had joints at regular intervals with a rubber joint" (check here). The problems arose with the mis-handling of the maintenance job by the BBMP.

All said and done, BIAL is an excellent airport, even by world standards. Granted the PPP deal put through was not the most satisfactory one, with enough elements of crony capitalism showing up here and there. But, it must be understood that these are still early days, and, as we move forward, many of these will get corrected. Whatever, it's a world apart from the IAAI monopoly days.

Muralidhar Rao
sanjayv's picture

@ Murali sir - why defend L&T?

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L&T has a pretty decent reputation in the construction circles in India, but defending L&T with scant data as you have done above is also not a good idea. Let me tell you why I believe so.

A.  L&T flyover in Mumbai - what they have done is not rocket science.  The key is in the contracting agency investing in the design process and working with the construction company to implement it within budget.  What you see in Bangalore is often a reflection of the capabilities of the BBMP and BDA.  Take a look at some of the flyovers on ORR.  The construction and concerete quality to my eye is horrrible.  Looks like out local "mestri" poured the concrete.

B. Mysore road flyover - Again,what is this miracle rubber that is proving so hard to replace?  We want flyovers to be relatively maintenance free.  Why use something that wears out in a decade or decade and half on a flyover?  I have no idea what all this is about, but intuitively feel bad engineering decisions have been made. Without all the data, it is not possible to ascribe blame for the current situation.  Only thing I will agree to is that knowing that this thing is deteriorating, the process of solving it has been very badly handled by the BBMP.

C. Airport runway:  Okay, so L&T is repairing the runway at their cost.  Why did this happen in the first place?  What are they paying for the inconvenience and financial loss to all the flyers and airlines operaring out of BIAL as Devesh clearly calls out?  How much is motivated out of contracts for the expansion,/ 2nd runway work planned? As Syed Bhai pointed out, that  L&Ts quality of work in BIAL was not up to the mark seems to be an accepted fact.

While Syed bhai need not have clubbed the Mysore flyover with BIAL runway issue, let us not excuse L&T from penalties for doing a poor job on a critical component.  While BIAL may be an improvement over the AAI days.  Those days are over, so somebody who screws up like this deserves to be called out and to pay the price / penalty.  This sort of discreet handling and secrecy is shameful, especially keeping in mind that the state has contributed in many ways for this project. What happened to that court case arguing that BIAL was to come under RTI?

srinidhi's picture

I second Murali Sir..

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L&T has done some of the best implementation in infrastructure projects in India 

About Mysore road flyover, those are expansion joints which are very much necessary for all long flyovers like this. Infact L&T offered to maintain it too but BBMP declined them because some great brains wanted to do put up some unwanted humps there..

Metro reach 4 stations are being done by L&T and they are almost complete..though that line will not see a train in the next 2 years atleast..the quality of work is also good there...

About the airport runway, as you know it was a greenfield airport and when it was being constructed L&T lacked practical runway construction skills..about the  pressure it has to take on heavy flights on touch downs...the airport is the 4th busiest in India and we can imagine the load it has to take..

maybe this provides an opportunity to introduce CAT III landing feature..

But again this does not justify the 'glorified industrial shed' design of the airport itself..things did go wrong during costruction..but its not completely L&T's fault

murali772's picture

agreed, but - - -

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@ Sanjay V  -  Undoubtedly, L&T is to blame. Please understand that, seeing sketchy reports in the press, it was I who googled Devesh's blog and published it on PRAJA.

What I find jarring in Syedbhai's post is the following line: "But nobody talks about huge profits made by the L&T that with shoddy work". I will refuse to accept that L&T compromised on quality just to make a few extra bucks.

Further, a structural consultant friend of mine, who has a fair understanding of such projects, tells me that in case of bridges, and similar structures, most often the tender is for "design and execution", according to broad parameters. I expect that was the case in the particular Mumbai project too. And, that's where L&T scores over others.

Muralidhar Rao
kbsyed61's picture

What counts is bad job?

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Murali Sir,

Well try with the bait of giving the conversation color of corporate bashing. Conversation is about shoddy job from a reputed organization 'L&T' and top of it the windfall profits it gained from role it played in building BIAL. It not only grabbbed the civil contracts it had 17% share in the project.

In 2005, Larsen and Toubro invested 55.54 crore for a 17% share in the airport project, which it sold in December 2009 for a hefty 1,100% profit to GVK Power and Infrastructure for Rs. 686 crore (Rs. 6.86 billion) and exited.

The larger question is isn't that kind of role untenable and unethical? You are a partner with certain percentage and grab & execute civil/construction jobs of the project. Even if there is nothing illegal, who should qualify the job you do?

FYI, myself making a living out of Quality assurance jobs, can vouch to the facts that reputed firms doesn't assures the quality job. Have seen shoddy jobs from reputed firms. What ensures quality is strict enforcement of standards, requirements, tests and strict post delivery quality acceptance procedures regime from the Customer.

Just to give you an example of manufacturers using a sub-standard capacitors in absence of customer not giving a thorough validation of all parts used by the manufacturer. Result would be millions of units would return for repair job. After all the screws are tighten on parts quality, now only 100-200 units are returned for hardware failure. Remember this is all in private domain. If the private customer is replaced by the Govt customer (in corruption norms), folly would double/triple. 

So larger question In case of BIAL is, if one of the job is executed by its stakeholders, who should qualify the work? AAI? Siemens/Zurich consortium?


kbsyed61's picture

L&Ts shoddy job!

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Murali Sir,

Shoddy job compliment is not given by me, but by many in the private corporates who said this when the airport became functional. But being from same fraternity, were not vocal to say this against L&T.

Let us agree at least that, it is a shoddy job and it is L&T responsibility to correct it. As for the L&T's works elsewhere, do I need to say anything more?

Private or Govt, if not supervised and held accountable, what you get is shoddy jobs. period.


sanjayv's picture

Look at it like this

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The way I interpret the comment from Syed is that despite this being a project where they made huge profits, L&T did a shoddy job.  I am not sure if there is a suggestion that corners were cut in order to boost profit.

On bridges and flyovers, I have no experience in these matters.  However, the DPR for the ORR flyovers was from a consultant that was basically drivel, but it specified a good number of the broad guidelines and an estimated budget. NCC did the construction.  I can bet anything if BDA was serious, the job could have been done waay better.  It is hard to give all the credit to L&T without knowing what parameters they had to work for thar project.  Nevertheless, I will agree here that L&T is one of the premier construction companies in our country.

Infact L&T offered to maintain it too but BBMP declined them because some great brains wanted to do put up some unwanted humps there..

BBMP mismanaged the maintenance job. Agreed. I will however not agree that it was done for the sake of installing speed humps.  Hogwash. Did L&T screw up by trying an experimental design? I am not quallified to answer, but I speculate that this is possible.

About the airport runway, as you know it was a greenfield airport and when it was being constructed L&T lacked practical runway construction skills..about the  pressure it has to take on heavy flights on touch downs...the airport is the 4th busiest in India and we can imagine the load it has to take..

The above statement is ridiculous.  If skills are not available in-house, a good organization gets people with the skills required.  We are not talking of some kind of sanctioned nuclear or space age technology. Detailed engineering standards are available for design.

Listen people, I am not out to trash L&T.  I have friends working there.  But when they screw up, stand up and say they screwed up.  No need to defend them.

kbsyed61's picture

When customer/promoter is also the supplier!

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I am not here on L&T bashing spree or positioning on ideological basis. I am raising same questions that our friend Devesh Agarwal raised in his original post.


BIAL cannot escape blame

Regardless of the reason(s) for the runway failure, from an innocent oversight to malicious intent, none of them speak well to the reputation of Larsen and Toubro. The stain is even deeper considering the company is supposed to the best in India. In the same coin, while it is also a victim of sorts, BIAL cannot escape blame.

If it is a genuine omisson or mistake, one may even consider forgiving Larsen and Toubro. After all Bangalore was one of the first runways they ever built; but the three private promoters of BIAL were the leading icons in their respective areas of specialisation. As the "trusted custodian of a key national asset" where was this collective skill? Does it not speak to BIAL's oversight and monitoring at the time of construction? Is this a case of poor quality control? or were things taken on a little too much on trust just because the runway construction contractor was also a promoter?


In every instances of the projects that Sanjay has listed in his latest comments, it points to only one thing - Ensuring quality during and post delivery of the projects. Onus lies with the customer.

In BIAL run-way case, L&T is both the customer (part) and the supplier. Here there is no talk of private vs Govt, socialist Vs capitalist or govt vs pvt monoply. All that is being asked is if promoter of the project becomes the supplier/designer/builder, who should qulaify their delieveries? Who should be held responsible for poor job? Should there be any penal action against poor job?

What if the supplier had been some other private party other than L&T? What if the supplier had been a govt agency? Should the babu(s) of that agency be held responsible and prosecuted?

Morever for some reason Devesh hasn't been very explicit about the role of 2 public stake holders - AAI and GOK throug KSIIDC. They too can't escape the blame.

Time for RTIs to these 2 entities?

Naveen's picture

Subject is poor construction

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GVK /GMR groups have also built airport runways without any past experience - & they seem to have done a better job, probably using the skills for airport runway construction already available in the country or with better study & implementation. I don't think IAAI is relevant here at all. Notwithstanding the poor state of terminal buildings & poor customer services, IAAI did build many airport runways which were serving well (still are).

The comparison of private vs IAAI is therefore misplaced & appears to be to justify & provide excuses for poor runway construction by L&T. Terms such as status-quoists /socialists etc are being used so freely when there are differing opinions that it resembles lobbying for the private sector (on another thread, there was a comment to this effect).

Better to confine dicussions to the subject at hand - which is that the runway built by L&T has failed within a short period - they do not seem to have paid enough attention, resulting in shoddy work when compared to other airport runway constructions. This was probably by using their influence within the consortium. They also reaped huge profits, in the process & are now forced to repair the runway free of cost to save their reputation.

Sanjeev's picture

Has BIAL managment completed the work as per original agreement

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As Syed mentioned,  Customer / Promoter is also the supplier.  This way BIAL managment has escalted cost of the project  during construction and has taken extra money from GoK for the escalated cost by BIAL.

Not even single major work of BIAL was published in News paper during the construction time.  Worst was they did't have any website during that time where major tenders could have been published like BMRC does.

When same thing comes to Govt agencies like BDA/ BBMP, every one expects the Transparency but same is not applicable with PPP projects like BIAL where GoK & GoI have invested money.

As the issue of runways for BIAL has come up.  We have just left the other issues which should have been completed by BIAL managment as per the original agreement.

Take the case of Hotel construction at BIAL,  work is going so much slow as the demand does not exists, so BIAL is allowed to getway with that, even though land was given way back in 2006.  In such case govt should have handed over the land to BIAL where ever projects not taken up at the later stage with previaling market rates.  Now BIAL has got land at  zero price & stiing on that & Farmers are given  throw way price. This is one of case where we know BIAL  has not done the job.  

Where BIAL has not completed the works as per original agreement does it have any penaulty cluase where GoK & GoI  excercise.

When it comes to HAL opening, same BIAL shows the agreement clause & whyis that GoK & GoI are keeping silent when BIAL has failed to delivery as per agreement, just opening airport was only thing BIAL has completed.

Now even BIAL employees are exempted  from paying Toll on NH-7, why is such favor to BIAL,  are the passengers & other citizens are stress passers to BIAL area,  by using Trumphet, so pay the Toll and come out from BIAL. Do we have any other entry to BIAL in such case if one does not want to use Trumphet.   Even some villages are located  after Trumphet before entering BIAL  boundry,  will GoK & GoI  make provisions for citizens to enter BIAL without paying Toll . 


murali772's picture

clarity, please!

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@ Syedbhai  -  My basic contention is with this statement of yours - "But nobody talks about huge profits made by the L&T that with shoddy work". This implies that even with knowing that there was a deficiency in design, they went ahead and executed the job in order to make undue profits. That is something I would like to believe a company like L&T wouldn't do. But, if there is concrete evidence to the contrary, I am prepared to accept my mistake.

Now, corporate groups like L&T, TATAs, etc have grown so big today that they seem to be there in every other business (And, as long as there are enough such groups competing all across the spectrum, that may not be too bad a thing - otherwise, I guess, the Competition Commission of India has to come in somewhere). So, while L&T Finance became the equity shareholder, L&T Infrastructure became part of the project execution consortium, and L&T Cements possibly supplied a major quantity of the cement required. And, perhaps, there are other L&T companies in other aspects of the project too. Yes, this is not the most satisfactory of arrangements, and that's precisely what I meant when I talked about the BIAL PPP deal smacking of crony capitalism. Either way, though, I am not sure these can be totally avoided in future - like when TATA power distribution company in Mumbai buys power from TATA Hydro, or when they outsource their MIS to TCS. Whatever, nowhere can there be any compromise on quality, whether supplying to sister companies or otherwise, because reputations are at stake, and therewith market valuation. And, that's also why such debates are important.

Further, when L&T Finance brought in its money, it was taking a calculated risk. For long, things were looking bad, and if they had pulled out then, perhaps they would have made huge losses. And, if it had got stuck, like the NICE corridor, I am not sure L&T Finance would have been able to come up with the kind of jugglery, that a Kheny has manged, to keep above water. That the economy looked up for a while, and GMR came along to make an agressive bid, is to their good luck. If I understand correctly, GMR is not quite in the best of shape now.

So, L&T making money through short-changing, and it making money through playing the investment game are two different things. The question is did it make money through short-changing. If yes, it is unpardonable. Or, was it a genuine mistake? Even so, it's bad enough; but, perhaps pardonable.

PS: And, as for terms like crony capitalism, psuedo-socialism, mai-baap sarkar, etc, these are standard usages in the language now (even in editorials of reputed newspapers). There aren't too many words to substitute them, and convey the same meaning.

Muralidhar Rao
kbsyed61's picture

Safeguarding public interest!

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I am not sure why we are giving all kinds of spin to such a simple and clear cut issue -

Who should be held accountable for poor workmanship in public utility projects executed under PPP model? What should be the accountability aspects and should there by any penal action?

Arguments on lines of Govt Vs pvt, Socialist Vs Capitalist etc are all nothing but distractions for a sane and genuine discussion and debate.

There are no other issues involved in BIAL-Runway poor job issue. What is needed is transparency and accountability from all the stakeholders of BIAL as how did such a glaring poor workmanship go unnoticed - As Devesh described,  is it an instance of genuine mistake, oversight or partners in crime look the other way? Should the Majority partners Siemens/Zurich can absolved themselves of the blame? Should public demand answers from public stakeholders - AAI and KSSIDC (GOK), who are in minority?

These questions here are not raised to go on L&T bashing. PPP models are going to be the way in many future public utility projects. In that context, going forward, how should public stakeholders (GOI and State govt agencies) should safeguard public interest and valuable public resources? Should concession agreements cover the liability and full compensation for all the poor jobs and falling short of quality commitments? Should babus representing public stakes also be held responsible for failure to ensure quality jobs?

Reputed, known firms doesn't gaurantee quality jobs. If not supervised and strict quality standards not applied, even reputed firms will deliver lemons and shoddy jobs. I can enumerate the examples that I experience in my workplace. Lets not decieve ourselves by saying entrust to TATAS, BIRLAS, L&Ts, will gaurantee a quality job. We the public, ultimate customers need to ensure that we don't get lemons and shoddy jobs.

These are the real issues that deserves answers, which still remains unanswered.

Lastly, To the points raised by Murali "...This implies that even with knowing that there was a deficiency in design, they went ahead and executed the job in order to make undue profits....", nowhere in my comments above, I used those words. The assertion of shoddy job was not made by me but by a member of fraternity to which L&T belongs. Those assertions now has proved to be 100% true and shoody job comment is not an imagination of fiction from somebody. This was way back in 2008/2009 when Airport was commissioned and civil works were given finishing touch.Since the job was done by one of their own brethren, industry fraternity didn't go public, which we all understand. Nobody would go against their own fraternity even if facts proves their follies.

Hope I have made things clear.

murali772's picture

further clarity

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nowhere in my comments above, I used those words.

What else is this - "huge profits made by the L&T that with shoddy work" - then supposed to mean? Ya, it's structured a bit differently, I'll accept.

The assertion of shoddy job was not made by me but by a member of fraternity to which L&T belongs. Those assertions now has proved to be 100% true and shoody job comment is not an imagination of fiction from somebody.

That the job was shoddy, and there appeared to be a cover up, is why I started the blog in the first place. Devesh (credit should go to him for bringing the matter out in public, even as the main-stream media appears to have been talked to to downplay the whole issue) also dwelt enough on the quality issue, and so did others. The difference in your case was the talk about the 'making of profits with shoddy work', in addition, typical of the kind of talk I come across in the Hasiru Usiru Yahoo-group on a daily basis. And, that's when the debate went off at a tangent onto other issues - so, don't blame me! May be you should join the HU y-group and make such posts there - it will all be lapped up with glee.

Lofty ideals like "safeguarding public interest" etc are great to talk about - how to work them on the ground is the important question. Now, for instance, if you are using a diesel car, it may be said that you are not acting in "public interest", since diesel is subsidised and supposed to be meant for use only by goods vehicles. But, since there is no official ban, the usage is totally legal, so much so, all models of cars, including TATA's, are now available in their diesel versions too. So, can you say TATAs are acting against public interest?

Unlike the babu's and neta's, who take an oath to abide by the constitution when they join service, TATA's (as also the L&T's, and the aam aadmi) are only required to follow the law of the land. So, if L&T Infrastructure was awarded the BIAL (a key infrastructure project, in which the state has a high stake) contract, inspite of L&T Finance being a promoter, it certainly smacks of crony capitalism, and if the incestuous relationship resulting thereof lead to a slackening in quality control (as you quite rightly suspect), the blame for it all should fall squarely on the government (babu's & neta's), which didn't put through a proper PPP structuring in place, to begin with.

L&T has a responsibility either way, and it must already be paying a high price by way of loss of reputation, and resultant dip in its market valuation. Besides, I am sure this info would have reached enough people in the field by now, and L&T will have to work a lot harder to get future contracts (by bringing this up, I guess, we can claim to be working to safeguard public interest). But, the bigger question is has the government learned its lessons on how to (rather, how not to) structure PPP deals. The assumption here is that the distortions, atleast the obvious ones, were not deliberate, in the first place.

Muralidhar Rao
kbsyed61's picture


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Murali Sir,

First of all it is utterly outrageous to suggest that I should go somewhere else and bring up issues. This is a platform to discuss public issues. Irrespective of each other's views, it is none of my business and your business to suggest soemone to go some where else, unless PRAJA has decided to allow only the views that you consider are compatible to your liking and not to tolerate opposing views.

Yoy may disgaree with my observatiuons and views , but that doesn't mean you should start hurling insuniations and subtle threats. Hope you will desist from such endeavors.





sanjayv's picture

Murali, Syed, Listen up!

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Guys,  this discussions is getting a bit out of hand.  So let me make the following statements.

1. Syed -  what did you mean by "huge profits made by the L&T that with shoddy work". 

Was your intent to say that despite this being a project where it had potential to make huge profits, L&T did shoddy work, or was your implication that L&T did shoddy work to further increae its profits?  I think you meant the former.

2. When Murali says "May be you should join the HU y-group and make such posts there - it will all be lapped up with glee" 

I think he is saying that this is the sort of argument that people at HU will agree with and feel thrilled about.  I seriously doubt if he was suggesting that you not post in PRAJA.

Now instead of amplifying these cycles of misunderstandings, can we agree that L&T did a lousy job here and discuss root causes, or solutions or just vent.  Anything but this tack the discussion is taking, please...

kbsyed61's picture

I am more interested in stopping future shoddy works!

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I thought my words were very clear what I meant. Knowingly or unknowingly about its poor workmanship, L&T went on to cash on the BIAL's valuation through the sale of its stakes in BIAL. I don't see a problem in selling its stake. You take risk to make big money. Perfectly alright, My problem is poor job getting overlooked by the fellow promoters. Why did people who knew in 2008/09 itself about it, remained mute in public? It was only heard in private conversations. Even that is understandable given out culture to cover up if guilty belongs to one of our own. But not by the fellow promoters. Only a thorough and independent probe could reveal whether it was a case of known quality compromises or case of genuine goof up.

World over it is a known fact that quality gets compromised by cutting corners in employing the right skills, works and material. In many cases rushing through the time to meet the schedule. In very rare cases design flaws are attributed to poor quality. In this case only a transparent and independent probe would reveal which one did it. Will BIAL/AAI/GOK would order such a probe?

More than finding fault with L&T, BIAL, I am interested in a process that can fix such shoddy jobs in future. In that pursuit I will like to call for 2 things:

1. An independent probe to get to the bottom

2. A process or institutional frameowrk to ensure private partners to delivers right and quality products in PPP projects.

Now I am seriously taking Murali sir suggestions to shop around for promoting my ideas. :)



Public Agenda's picture

Bangalore airport turns the heat on L&T over runway

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Bangalore airport turns the heat on L&T over runway


Raghuvir Badrinath in Bengaluru

The decision of the GVK Group, operators of the Bangalore International Airport, where the GVK group is at the helm with a 43 per cent stake majority stake, to redo the runway just around four years after it was laid, and to invoke a warranty clause against Larsen & Toubro, who did the original job, has occasioned much comment.

L&T was one of the shareholders in Bangalore International Airport Ltd when it was formed.

It exited with multifold returns within 18-months of operations having started, after investing a little over Rs 55 crore (Rs 550 million) for a 17 per cent stake.

This was acquired by GVK during late 2009.

And, L&T also laid the runway.

Neither side would explain what was the problem or why it felt matters had reached this stage.

BIAL refused to spell out the warranty details, saying contractual agreements could not be shared or discussed. L&T said it had no comment to offer on individual contracts.

Invoking the warranty clause in an infrastructure project is rare, say industry analysts

"Resurfacing happens (on average) once in five years, depending on the movements and a number of other factors.

cont ., 

murali772's picture

listening up!

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@ Sanjay  -  Thanks for clarifying on my behalf - you were spot on. However, though I would have liked to agree with your inference with regard to point 1, listed by you, I am no too sure. Whatever, I don't wish to pursue this debate, that has unfortunately got repeatedly side-tracked to other issues, any more.

'Listen up' - is that the polite of way asking to shut up? If so, thanks for being ever so considerate :))).

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