The Cabinet on Tuesday approved the biggest ever highway development plan to develop and expand approximately 83,000 km of roads at an investment of Rs 6.9 lakh crore by 2022. The plan includes the new 28,400 km Bharatmala highway programme connecting border areas of the country.
Aimed at pushing economic activity and generating at least 32 crore man days across the country in the next five years, the focus of the entire plan is to improve speed of traffic flow on key corridors by providing uniform four-lane roads between two identified points. Most of these corridors will be shorter and access-controlled for faster movement of cargo vehicles.
Due to poor road conditions, narrow width and congestion points, a truck in India covers on an average 250-300 km daily in comparison to 700-800 km in developed countries. “The new highway development programme is both building roads and improving mobility to reduce logistic cost. Better road network and rolling out of smart-tag based tolling will transform the road transport sector”, said an official privy to the government’s plan.
This is perhaps the biggest government announcement before the upcoming assembly elections.
According to the ministry’s estimates, construction of 10,000 km of highways annually has the potential of generating four crore mandays and the mega highway development programme can be used to counter the allegation that the government has failed to create employment opportunities.
On June 27, TOI had first reported about the Public Investment Board (PIB) clearing the proposal and the funding pattern. Considering there is less appetite for private investment, sources said, more than 70% of the works will be through government funding. About one-third of the investment will come from fuel cess, over one-fourth from market borrowing and the rest from budgetary support, private investment and auctioning of completed highways.
National Highways Authority of India(NHAI) has already prepared detailed project reports (DPRs) for about 10,000 km of the identified network, which will help faster roll out of projects.
As reported by TOI early this year, the PIB had approved empowering the NHAI Board, with representatives from ministries and Niti Aayog, to appraise and approve projects up to Rs 2,000 crore instead of taking every project costing more than Rs 1,000 crore to the Cabinet for its approval.