Connectivity barriers hit national highways

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Jun 29 | Updated: Jul 1 2008, 03:21am hrs
National highways are important links connecting different states of the country. But this network suffers from serious deficiencies at some places in terms of capacity, presence of links , condition of bridges and railway level crossings (most of them are in bad shape). Out of the 68,354 km of national highways, 19,704 km are of less than two lane width.

There are many distressed bridges on the network which requires strengthening or upgradation. There are railway level crossings as well, to be replaced by the road over bridge. The removal of the deficiencies requires a huge sum and cannot be tackled in a year and hence a phased programme is needed, a note prepared by the Central governments department of road transport and highways said. The Centre is also concerned over the haphazard construction of roads by states under the new expressways scheme in absence of necessary guidelines and policy approach from the Planning Commission.

As a matter of policy the Centre has involved the state governments and the private sector for the road connectivity. It has envisaged a vision document to develop and complete 66,500 km road connectivity under the National Highways Development Project (I to VII). While the road transport and highways department is mainly concerned with the development of road infrastructure in the core areas of national highways, it also has a role in the upgradation of major highways in the states through Central Road Fund (CRF) and other schemes of interstate and economic importance.

While the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) is being implemented through the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the major chunk of the national highway network is to be developed and maintained by state governments and some by the Border Roads Organisation for which the central government makes annual budgetary allocations. In the current year 2008-09 an allocation amounting to Rs 5528 crore has been made to 28 states and Union territories.

The Centre has asked the state governments to prepare comprehensive time bound programme for double laning and long and short term programmes for removal of other deficiencies.

The state governments have also been urged to implement the Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act 2002 to prevent Ribbon development and removal of encroachments from the national highway land and property.

The 11th Plan has envisaged a target for construction of 15,600 km of Expressways on public-private partnership basis. The road transport and highways department has invited bids for consultancy services to formulate master plan for the National Expressway Network.

It has also sought the participation of state governments and has formulated guidelines on geometric standards and circulated to the state governments for necessary feedback.

The Centre has noted that some states, without waiting for necessary guidelines, have begun construction of Expressways on their own and making these projects financially viable by allowing commercial developments along with it. It noted that Expressways coming up in such a fashion may not only compete with the NHDP projects, but may also lead to development of haphazard network with little or no linkage and inefficient traffic dispersal mechanism. The Centre has, therefore asked the Planning Commission to formulate National Policy for Construction of Expressways at the earliest.