A senior government official told The Indian Express that the ministry had forwarded a shortlist of about 50 names to the Prime Minister’s Office in June, but is yet to receive an approval for any of them.
“The PMO is keen that wayside amenities for travellers be set up under a brand, for instance like Pizza Hut or McDonalds, which will be recognised uniformly across the country. The roads ministry conducted a competition, invited suggestions from the public and forwarded the short-listed names. But the programme is held up, as the approval for a name has not come through yet,” said the official.
Confirming the reason for the delay, another government official said the PMO “is keen that the branding be right for the programme”. The PMO did not respond to a request seeking comment.
As per information available on the MyGov webpage, the ministry had received over 1,700 entries suggesting brand names under which these “wayside amenities” can be set up. The last date for submission of entries was January 31, 2015.
The scheme envisages setting up user-friendly convenience clusters for travellers on national highways which would include parking facilities (separately for cars, buses and trucks), restaurants/food courts/low cost dhabas, telephone booth/wi-fi, ATMs, fuel stations, minor repair shops, rest rooms for short stays, toilets for ladies and men, kiosks for sales of sundry items, medical aid and chemist shops and helipad facilities.
“These facilities will have standard design and dimensions. There will be 3-4 formats depending on the volume of traffic at a particular location. They will be set up on public-private partnership mode (PPP), in association with the tourism department, various state governments or on franchise basis. The idea is not to own the facility but rather to ensure that such places come up quickly in standard formats across national highways to provide comfort and safety to travellers,” said an official.
According to the ministry’s proposal, such clusters will come up every 100 km on divided highways and every 50 km on undivided highways. At present, India’s national highway network is around 96,000 km and little over half of this are divided carriageways.
In 2007, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had tried roping in oil companies such as RIL, HPCL and Essar to develop wayside amenities at every 100 km of national highways. At the time, NHAI had mandated the Delhi-based School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) to formulate guidelines for putting up such facilities. But the programme did not take off due to concerns over its commercial viability.
The programme has now been revived after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the ministry to also focus on travellers commuting along national highways rather than just on building and expanding stretches.