Nitin Gadkari, the Minister for Road Transport and Highways, has said that in 2019 the focus will be on building a network of "world-class expressways". With the inauguration of the "smart" Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE), the Ministry has shifted focus on creating a world-class network of expressways. According to a PTI report, several projects picked up pace in 2018. The first phase of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway was completed in 2018. A dozen more expressway projects are lined up which are set to improve infrastructure in a big way. Moreover, the land acquisition for the Bangalore-Chennai Expressway has been completed and the contract for the Rs 44,000 crore Vadodara-Mumbai stretch of Rs 1 lakh crore Delhi-Mumbai new expressway has been awarded. Going by the numbers, the total length of National Highways (NHs) has been enhanced to 1.31 lakh km at present from 91,287 km, set earlier. According to the PTI report, Gadkari recently said that the strategy which had worked to help streamline 99% of the stalled projects was based on negotiations and marathon meets. The idea, he said, was to resolve issues instead of a mad rush to black-list or brand players as offenders. Several roadways projects saw the light of the day in 2018. Earlier, many roadway projects were stalled and several big construction players faced the risk of getting blacklisted amid a big financial mess. Gadkari was quoted saying that the mess got cleared eventually as the year 2018 progressed and it also helped banks to save over Rs 3 lakh crore from becoming NPAs (non-performing assets). He explained that the defaulters and wrongdoers should certainly be branded 'offenders' but caution should be exercised for those with a good past record of delivering projects and this was done promptly in 2018, to resume the stalled projects. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had debarred a number of major players like Larsen & Toubro, HCC and Essel Infra from bidding for projects in the later half of 2017. But soon after that, Gadkari had put on abeyance the blacklist order and initiated marathons meetings with bankers, players and other stakeholders throughout the first half of the year 2018. According to Gadkari, as many as 403 highway projects worth Rs 3.85 lakh crore were stalled and were on the verge of becoming NPAs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley came together and 22 cabinet decisions were taken, regarding policies for the sector. This finally resulted in saving of over Rs 3 lakh crore NPAs of banks, he said.