National Highways: Proposal for wayside amenities on track

By: | Published: September 16, 2015 7:43 AM

The programme aims at setting up convenience clusters for travellers on national highways like parking, restaurants, telephone booth/wi-fi, ATMs, fuel stations, minor repair shops, rest rooms, toilets etc.

Road Transport MinistryThe wayside amenities programme envisages setting up user-friendly convenience clusters for travellers on national highways. (Express photo)

As The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) finalises a brand name for an ambitious scheme designed to develop wayside amenities along national highways, the Ministry of Road, Transport & Highways (MoRTH) is going ahead with fine-tuning the proposal to send it for approval before the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

A senior government official said, “We are in the process of finalising the draft policy for setting up wayside amenities. The consultant is identifying locations which can lend themselves to these kind of activities. We will shortly send the proposal for CCEA approval.”

The wayside amenities programme 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,” added the 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 are divided carriageways.

The ministry had forwarded a shortlist of about 50 names to brand the wayside amenities scheme to the PMO in June, but is yet to receive an approval for any of them. Another official added, “We had conducted a competition and send a short-list of 50 names but there has not been much movement since. If by the time the CCEA approval comes through the brand name is not decided, we may take the call ourselves.”

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. 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.

In 2007, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had tried roping in oil companies such as Reliance Industries Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited 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.

NHAI may award 50% more projects

Steps taken in the highways sector like amending the model concession agreement for build–operate–transfer projects may help raise award of projects by NHAI by 50% in FY16, says a Crisil report.

Key changes to various policies

Aug 15: Removal of clause related to investment of money earned on exits in other NHAI projects

May 15: NHAI funding for projects that are stuck in advanced stages of completion. 100% exit for developer after two years of completion both for pre-2009 and post-2009 projects

Feb 15: Budgetary support to NHs raised by 178% in Budget 2015-16

Dec 14: 5:25 scheme which allowed banks to refinance or sell their long-term project loans every 5 years

Aug 14: Fast track clearences:
i) States to clear projects with up to 40 acres of forest land, ii) Hiked limit for sand mining, iii) Online filing and clearing of ROBs and RUBs. Waiver of charges for mutual usage of land between the railways and
roads ministries.

* 50% rise likely in the share of BOT projects by 2017 from 25% in FY15
* Problems in the MCA (model concession agreement) had hit projects and lending growth to the sector more than halved in the past two years compared with the five years preceding.
* The finance ministry also expects a turnaround in highways sector and has said that issues of loans by banks to the sector have now been resolved.

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