Super Expressway

Mumbai-Nagpur corridor inches closer to becoming a reality

In 2015, the Maharashtra government conceived a plan to develop the Mumbai-Nagpur super communication expressway to boost connectivity between the capital and the third-largest city in the state. The expressway, which is being lauded as a game changer for the state’s transportation landscape, is expected to be ready before the state assembly polls in 2019. The government is currently mobilising funds for the project and streamlining the land acquisition process to aid timely implementation.

Scope and status

In August 2016, the Maharashtra government released a detailed plan for the proposed 706 km Mumbai-Nagpur expressway to connect 24 districts and improve access to commercial hubs in the west by rural communities in the eastern part of the state.

The proposed expressway will be a greenfield alignment with an access control facility to increase speed and thus reduce travel time. It will have at least three lanes on each side and is expected to reduce travel time between the two cities from 14 hours at present to 6-8 hours. The Rs 460 billion project, formally called the Maharashtra Prosperity Corridor, also involves the construction of about 24 agricultural centres, warehouses and other facilities that will lead to substantial job opportunities. These facilities will be set up near several nodes planned along the route.

Given the project size, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has divided it into five packages. In February 2016, STUP Consultants Private Limited and Wadia and Company secured consultancy contracts for the preparation of the feasibility study-cum-detailed project report (DPR) for Packages II and IV respectively.

The construction cost for the expressway is estimated at Rs 300 million per km which includes the construction of six lanes of the expressway and two lanes for service roads, utility shifting and the construction of a bypass and other structures. The project is to be implemented based on a mix of the engineering, procurement and construction, and annuity models.

The state government is exploring several innovative methods to finance the project. Recently, it decided to sell a 30 acre plot of land in Bandra (West), Mumbai, to raise funds for the project. Given its prime location, the plot is likely to fetch upwards of Rs 20 billion. In July 2016, the state government reportedly signed an MoU with Malaysia’s CIDB Holdings for in-

vestments worth Rs 100 billion in Maharashtra’s road projects. A sizeable portion of this investment will be set aside for the Mumbai-Nagpur expressway project.

Meanwhile, the state government has sought funding assistance from the centre as well as several multilateral and bilateral financial institutions. As per reports, KfW (Germany), the Dubai International Bank, VTB Bank (Russia) and a Malaysian government entity have expressed their willingness to fund the project.

Land acquisition will be a challenging task. The expressway, which is proposed to connect the entire breadth of Maharashtra, will require 9,000 hectares of land. As per reports, the state government will adopt a land pooling scheme to acquire land. The scheme entails the provision of developed land (25 per cent of the land acquired for the project) and a compensation of Rs 20,000 per acre to farmers for 10 years (for loss of crop on the acquired land).

According to the pre-feasibility report prepared by the MSRDC and submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, renewable energy installations using wind and solar resources are proposed along the alignment of the expressway.The corporation is considering installing solar panels along the entire stretch of the expressway, which will generate power not only for the whole expressway but also for neighbouring villages parallel to the alignment of the proposed expressway.

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Potential benefits and the way forward

The expressway will result in huge cost savings due to a reduction in fuel consumption as travel time is expected to be reduced by almost 50 per cent. Development of the expressway will also improve connectivity for the backward regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha. Creation of agricultural centres and warehouses will provide an impetus to the logistics sector as well.

The Maharashtra government has put the project’s implementation on the fast track mode. The MSRDC aims to finalise the DPR by end-September 2016 and issue construction bids in October 2016. The corporation is targeting a deadline of September 2019 for project completion. However, the target seems far-fetched given the magnitude and complexity of the pre-construction activities involved. This is further substantiated by Maharashtra’s past experience with big-ticket infrastructure projects such as the Navi Mumbai International Airport which have suffered on account of delayed pre-construction activities.

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