ISLAMABAD - The Zero Point Interchange project which was conceived some two decades back, is going to be delayed, yet further. Rampant inflation in general, and that of construction inputs in particular, has enormously dragged up the cost of eagerly awaited interchange project at the entrance to the federal capital, which remained deferring for one or the other reason for the last twenty years. The practice has puffed up the project's cost to Rs 2.27 billion from initial estimate of Rs 400 million. And yet again, four of the five short listed companies, whose tenders were opened on Saturday, have bid much higher than the CDA estimates of 2.27 billion. The unexpected higher bids have once again put fate of the mega project in doldrums, as the city managers are not likely to agree to cost offered even by the lowest bidder. The lowest bid offered by Maqbool Associates, a Karachi based construction firm is 77 per cent higher than the cost estimated by the civic body, while that of the Sachal, the highest bidder, is 166 per cent higher. However, a senior official of the Authority, while talking to TheNation told that much higher-than-estimated bids were not unexpected, as he said CDA's estimates were based on NHA's schedule of 2006. He justified Maqbool Associates as, he informed, that NHA's 2008 schedule provided for 38 per cent higher costs than the 2006 schedule. Again, he said, open market statistics suggested even 50-52 percent higher costs. He said the contract should be awarded to the lowest bidder with no more delay, as he feared further escalation in the project cost with the lapse of time. He said some lobby in the civic agency was trying to cancel the tenders. He said further delay would cause the project's cost to swell further.