Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: The road transport and highways ministry has decided to more than double the rate at which national highways are being built—from 16 km a day to 41 km a day in 2016-17.

This is around 2.5 times the current rate of construction.

Highways minister Nitin Gadkari has decided to award 25,000 km of national highways in the 2016-17 compared to 10,000 km in the last fiscal, and raised the construction target to 15,000 km as against the 6,000 km constructed last year, the ministry said in a press statement on Wednesday.

It said the minister has expressed confidence that the pace of development that was established last year will result in even better outcomes during the current year.

“At present the current average price of road construction is Rs.2 crore per kilometer, which means work order worth Rs.50,000 crore would be awarded. The minister’s idea is that quick allocation of work is the only way to fuel the economy as it will generate employment,” said a senior highway ministry official on condition of anonymity.

He added that the projects would be available on all formats hybrid annuity, engineering, procurement and construction and public private partnership (PPP) model too but in a new avatar.

Giving details, the official said of the total length of national highways targeted for allocation, 15,000 km will come under the National Highway Authority of India and 10,000 km under the ministry and National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL). Similarly, NHAI’s target for construction has been fixed at 8,000 km while for the ministry and NHIDCL, the target is 7,000 km, the ministry said.

However, officials from the NHAI are skeptical of the targets. “Where will the money come from? The government’s focus is now shifting from quality to quantity and this could be dangerous. Voices of dissent are not there anymore in the ministry. Last year, the then road secretary Vijay Chhibber had always maintained a stand that we should not try to do more but try to do it right and focus on improving quality.”

The road transport and highway ministry claims that year 2015-16 was very positive for them as the construction of more than 10,000 km was awarded. The completion of 6000 km of highways marked a year-on-year increase of nearly 36%.

The speeding up of national highway projects is attributed to several policy interventions like increased threshold for project approval, enhanced inter-ministerial coordination, exit policy, promoting innovative project implementation models like Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM), amendments to the Model Concession Agreement (MCA) for BOT (build–operate–transfer) projects, segregation of civil cost from capital cost for NH projects for appraisal and approval, rationalized compensation to concessionaires for languishing NH projects in BOT mode for delays not attributable to them, delegation of powers to chief engineers regarding periodic renewal, delegation of powers to road transport and highways regional offices regarding utility shifting and delegation of powers to evaluate and award tenders of up to Rs.300 crore.