Likely to keep development target of 1,000 km unchanged for Twelfth Plan period
The country’s ambitious expressway development plan has hit a government roadblock. After failing to evolve a concession agreement for projects in the central sector, the Centre is now likely to keep the expressway development target of 1,000 km unchanged for the 12th Plan period. This is the same target fixed in the previous Five-Year Plan.
Ironically, that proposal never took off. The National Highway Authority of India was not awarded a single kilometer for the expressway plan. The access-controlled expressway is seen as the perfect recipe for growth as it provides unhindered access between states and cities.
While state governments have taken the lead by constructing few expressways, the Centre is yet to open up to these new-age roadways.
?The central expressway programme has hit a speed-breaker. The road ministry is unlikely to add to the target kept in previous plan as the priority remains to get them off the block first,? said a Planning Commission official. The programme is yet to get a model concession agreement (MCA), the official added. ?Even if work starts on it now, it would take anywhere between 15 and 18 months before the first projects could be awarded,? he said.
“The 1,000-km target could be a challenge even in the current plan,” said another official of the commission.
The commission is currently finalising the 12th Plan document and is taking inputs from respective ministries to fix sectoral targets. While the new target is expected for road projects under the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP), there is no target for expressways.
Industry chambers want the Centre to put expressway construction on top priority.
A Ficci spokesperson said, ?Since there has been no progress on this front, we must realise that we need to meet this target in the 12th plan period. Construction of expressways should be the top priority in the sector as it will improve transport glitches and contribute in easing infrastructural problems of the country.?
The Centre approved the construction of 1,000-kilometer expressways under phase four of its National Highways Development Project (NHDP) at a cost of R16,680 crore in October last year.
The stretches were identified before the 11th Plan. These include the 400-km-long Vadodara-Mumbai stretch, the 66-km-long Delhi-Meerut expressway, the 334-km-long Bangalore-Chennai and the 277-km-Kolkata-Dhanbad expressways. In addition, there is also a proposal to develop the National Expressway-2, which will connect National Highway-1 near Kundli and NH-2 near Palwal, both near Haryana. The ministry has also identified 23,000 km of expressways for implementation over the next few years.
The ministry of road transport and highways, in a statement, had said that construction work would be carried out through public-private partnership.
However, the plan is right now just on paper.
The ministry is also working on a proposal to establish the Expressways Authority of India on the lines of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). A department under NHAI is looking at development of expressways right now. The problem with expressways is compounded by the sluggish growth of highways in the country. While road authorities have to meet a construction target of 20 km of roads a day, they can only manage 8-9 km a day. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is now overseeing the construction work in a bid to push the highway plan.