The central government laid the foundation stone for the Rs 75.7 billion Delhi-Meerut Expressway (DME) project on December 31, 2015. This is the first project to be developed on the long-awaited hybrid annuity model. Under this, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will fund 40 per cent of the project cost while the remaining 60 per cent cost will be borne by the concessionaire. Thereafter, NHAI will collect toll and pay off the 60 per cent cost plus interest to the concessionaire in semi-annual payments.
The DME is also part of the ongoing effort to decongest Delhi and provide improved connectivity to the capital. The eastern and western peripheral road projects around Delhi were also launched in the recent past. The DME is expected to reduce the travel time between Delhi and Meerut to about 45 minutes, and provide a fast and safe alternative route for traffic between the two cities. It is also likely to reduce the travel time from Delhi to Haridwar and Dehradun by almost an hour. At present, Meerut is connected to Delhi through National Highway (NH)-58, which has choked because it is carrying more than its capacity. As per a survey conducted in 2008, traffic on this stretch was about 140,000 passenger cars units per day and has increased very substantially since.
The DME project is being implemented under Phase VI of the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP). It involves construction of a 74 km expressway section and improvement of the 22 km Dasna-Hapur section of NH-24.
The expressway will start from the Nizamuddin Bridge in Delhi and continue on the existing NH-24 up to Dasna at km 30.38. The Dasna-Meerut section is a completely new alignment. The DME will terminate on the inner ring road/Meerut bypass near the railway crossing located at km 66 in Meerut.
The entire stretch is to be awarded in four packages – Nizamuddin Bridge to Uttar Pradesh border from km 0 to km 8.36 (design chainage of 8.71 km) under Package I; Uttar Pradesh border to Dasna from km 8.36 to km 27.5 under Package II; Dasna to Hapur from km 27.5 to km 49.92 under Package III; and the new alignment of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway from Dasna to Meerut, from km 27.5 to km 64.55 and six-laning of the 9 km connector under Package IV. So far, bids have been invited for three packages, which are to be implemented on a hybrid annuity basis. Meanwhile, the pre-feasibilty study for the project has been prepared by SECON Private Limited, while the feasibility study and preliminary design have been prepared by SNC Lavalin Infrastructure Private Limited.
Status of project award and land acquisition
Bids for the implementation of Packages I, II and III were invited by NHAI during 2015. The lowest bidders for implementation of Packages I and III have been declared – Welspun Enterprises has been awarded Package I, while a joint venture of APCO Infratech Limited and Chetak Enterprises Limited has emerged as the lowest bidder for Package III.
Welspun Enterprises quoted Rs 8.41 billion for the project. “Our bid is of Rs 8.41 billion as against NHAI’s estimate of about Rs 6 billion, which is 26 per cent higher. We expect de-risked margins of 17-18 per cent on this project. We expect about 18 per cent internal rate of return over a period of 15 years,” says Sandeep Garg, managing director, Welspun Enterprises. Meanwhile, NHAI will also pay the concessionaire an annualised operation and maintenance cost of Rs 39.5 million (adjusted for inflation) for maintenance for 15 years. The project has a scheduled construction period of 30 months from the appointed date. The lowest bidder for the third package – APCO Infratech Limited – has substantial experience of executing road projects in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
In terms of the status of land acquisition, the government is in possession of 94.3 per cent of the necessary land for Package I, 100 per cent for Package II and 99.5 per cent for Package III. The forest clearance process for Packages II and III is under progress and general arrangement drawing approval for Package II has been submitted for approval to Indian Railways. Meanwhile, Package IV of the project will only be taken up after acquiring 90 per cent of the required land.
The way forward
On successful commissioning, passenger traffic is envisaged to be handled in an efficient and effective manner. One of the direct benefits would be increased efficiency with regard to goods movement. This will also open up large land spaces on the alignment for future development – both industrial and residential. However, timely and hindrance-free implementation of the DME project will be key going forward.