After almost three years of delay owing to disputes over land acquisition, Hyderabad is closer to building what would be India’s first smart road, to help people drive safer and faster. The outer ring road (ORR) would be equipped with an intelligent transport system (ITS), a set of technologies that collates and disseminates real-time information for better traffic management.
The outer ring road project was to be commissioned in 2012, to ease traffic congestion in the city and add orbital linkage to radial arterial roads. While the phased ORR project is partially completed, the ITS project is scheduled to begin in October and the entire ORR expected to be operational by 2017.
“There were a lot of challenges in terms of land acquisition and a few petitions filed in courts which caused delays leading to cost overrun,” said
B Anand Mohan, chief general manager of Hyderabad Growth Corridor Ltd (HGCL), a special purpose vehicle formed to build the road. “There is a cost overrun to an extent of 15% to 20%.” The HGCL has an equity participation of 76% by Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) and 24% by Infrastructure Corporation of Andhra Pradesh (INCAP). The 158-kilometre road project is being built with financial aid from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), a funding agency.
The project needed about 6,064 acres of land, which includes 5,148 acres of land from private owners, 603 acres owned by the government, and another 312 acres of forest land. The road is being built in phases at a cost of about Rs 6,696 crore. JICA has offered phased funding of Rs 3,558 crore for a stretch of 71.30 km, while the remaining would be raised from commercial banks.
The first stretch of 24.38 kilometre is being built by Russian construction contractor Corporation Transstroy OJSC for Rs 222 crore and Taiwan’s Continental Engineering Group for Rs 339 crore. In the second phase of construction, 62.3 kilometre of roads would be laid at a total cost of Rs 2439 crore. Engineering, procurement and construction contractors such as KMC Construction, Maytas, a Ramky Infrastructure joint venture with Eslamex, Gayatri Projects, Nagarjuna Construction Corporation, and Nippon Koei have been finalised for the project.
“The ORR in Hyderabad is expected to mitigate congestion and pollution by diverting traffic from the central areas. Furthermore, deployment of an ITS will lead to optimal utilisation of the existing road capacity,” Ichiguchi Tomohide, Deputy Chief Representative, JICA India Office, said.
ITS is a set of technologies that gather information for road users and the authorities. It collates information such as traffic flow, road condition, details of any accidents, and weather condition. The system processes the gathered information and sends it out to drivers through short messaging services (SMS), and on FM stations, helping them plan their journey better.
For the authorities, it will help them manage the road better, with information on traffic management, addressing emergency situations and disaster management, transport related electronic payments, and financial transactions systems to collect toll and road taxes online, and enforcing the law.
“Hyderabad is the first city in the country planning to implement ITS,” says Mohan. “The benefits from ITS are an increase in speed, reduction in stoppages, travel time, and decrease in accidents and pollution levels.’’
However, a small part of the ORR project is stuck because of legal tangles surrounding land acquisition. About 1.1 km of construction is stalled due to a stay order by the Supreme Court of India over the issue of land. The SC decision on the matter is awaited.
The Hyderabad project is just the beginning of the change that Indian roads could witness in coming years. “Based on the positive feedback from the ORR model of Hyderabad, we have prepared a concept plan for a similar kind of project between Bengaluru and Mysore,” said Sanjeev Moholkar, Principal Development Specialist, JICA India. “The second case would be the Bengaluru industrial corridor which has a lot of tourist traffic and ITS could be utilised for to manage the tourism traffic purposes,” he said.
Hyderabad’s outer ring road project comes at a time when India is aiming to boost its infrastructure to jump-start a slowing economy. The country’s roads are far inferior to those in many other countries, leading to damage to life and property. The cash-strapped National Highways Authority of India has failed to maintain roads well. Intelligent roads would help mitigate the problem, but land acquisition remains an obstacle for such projects.
About 72 national highway projects have been stalled over issues surrounding land acquisitions, Krishanpal Gurjar, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, told the Lok Sabha recently. But just as important an issue is that of building better and safer highways. More people lose their life and limb on highways than any other roads.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau, 20.6% of road accidents in India happened on National Highways, while the figure was 30.3% for fatal accidents reported in 2013. “The maximum fatalities on Expressways were reported in Telangana (279 out of 1,802 deaths), contributing 15.5% of total such fatal road accidents on Expressways, followed by Haryana (13.4%) and Uttar Pradesh (12.9%).during 2014,” the data showed.