FinMin slashes Rs 7000 cr from highway allocation

The Union Cabinet Tuesday approved the largest every highway development programme, which includes developing and expanding roughly 83,000 km of roads with an investment of Rs. 6.9 lakh crore over a period of five years. Majority of the proposed corridors are to be shorter as well as access-controlled for more rapid movement of cargo vehicles. Special attention has been paid to fulfil the connectivity needs of backward and tribal areas, areas of economic activity, places of religious and tourist interest, border areas, coastal areas and trade routes with neighbouring countries under the programme. This move is estimated to create 14.2 crore man-days of jobs apart from helping private infrastructure firms to improve their financials and also government getting private investments in the infrastructure sector.

There will be 9,000 km of economic corridors, inter-corridor and feeder routes (6,000 km), national corridors efficiency improvement (5,000 km), border roads and global connectivity (2,000 km), coastal roads and port connectivity (2,000 km) and greenfield expressways (800 km) in the first phase.

Bharatmala project will be funded through market borrowings, central road funds, monetising government-owned road assets, and budgetary allocation.

The roads that would be built under Bharatmala will include state highways, national highways, and some state roads across the country. According to the financing plan, Rs 2.37 lakh crore of the Rs 6.92 lakh crore, which is around 34%, required for highway development over the next five years will come from fuel cess.

Around 600 projects have been identified for Bharatmala and preparation of detailed project reports for 19,500 km is underway at present.

"In the first phase of Bharatmala, 2,000-km of Coastal Roads and Port Connectivity will be constructed", announced finance secretary Ashok Lavasa.

In addition to 34,800 km under Bharatmala, another 48,877 km of works under other current schemes will be implemented in parallel by the NHAI with an outlay of Rs 1.57 lakh crore. According to an estimate, the present road conditions in the country allow a truck to cover an average distance of 250-300 kilometres every day, however, the same is over 800 kilometres in case of the developed countries. He said the programme has been created to bridge the gaps in the existing highways infrastructure so as to make the movement of man and material more efficient. The government officials said better road network will transform India's road sector through the smart tag based tolling. "We have empowered the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to appraise, approve and bid out projects worth upto Rs 2,000 crore", he said.

  • Jon Douglas