Road development in states across the country has picked up pace over the past year. Poll-bound states such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have announced several big-ticket projects to augment road infrastructure. While public funds continue to be the dominant source of project financing, states like Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have also received foreign lending from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for developing state roads. Though major investments continue to be made in the road sector, states still face issues on the land acquisition front and are thus adopting innovative methods such as land pooling to debottleneck project implementation.
Maharashtra’s green signal to big-ticket projects
In the past 12 months, Maharashtra has taken several initiatives to improve the pace of road development in the state. In July 2016, the state cabinet approved the inclusion of provisions for the land pooling method in the Maharashtra Highways Act, 1955. Moreover, in order to improve contractual practices, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) made it mandatory for contractors to appoint quality supervisor engineers. It is now compulsory for contractors to have engineers with at least 10 years of experience in road construction. Meanwhile, the Pune Municipal Corporation constituted a nine-member committee to draft guidelines for the development of new roads and the repair and maintenance of existing roads in the city.
Several big-ticket road projects were also launched. In August 2016, the Maharashtra government announced a detailed plan for the 706 km Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway to connect 24 districts and improve access of rural communities in the east to commercial hubs in the western part of the state. Construction work on the project, which will be implemented in five packages, is expected to commence in January 2017. The state government has awarded the feasibility study-cum-detailed project report (DPR) contracts for Packages II and IV to STUP Consultants Private Limited and Wadia & Company respectively.
The long-awaited Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) project also reported progress after witnessing a cost escalation of about 350 per cent since its inception, due to inordinate delays. Twenty-six companies have submitted requests for qualification for the project. Construction work is expected to commence post the monsoons in 2017 and is likely to be completed in a span of 48-60 months. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has reportedly agreed to grant a loan for the implementation of this project.
The Maharashtra government has also approved the augmentation of the Mumbai-Pune expressway and sanctioned Rs 32.15 billion for the project which is currently under bidding. The state government has also approved the Versova-Bandra Sea Link project and has invited global bids for the same. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has appointed Frischmann Prabhu (India) Private Limited to offer consultancy services for the project.
Further, the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority has completed the land requirement survey for the Pune ring road project. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has invited bids for the appointment of a consultant to prepare a DPR for the construction of flyovers on the Thane-Ghodbunder road and has finalised the implementation plan for the Airoli-Kalyan tunnel project. Other projects that have been recently approved are the Thane Creek Bridge at Vashi, the Borivali-Thane tunnel, the Bhiwandi-Kalyan-Sil Phata highway, 27 rail overbridges, and the widening of the Vakan-Pali-Khopoli road. Construction work on the Rajiv Gandhi Chowk-Sai Baba Temple flyover in Mumbai has already commenced. The Maharashtra Public Works Department (PWD) has proposed the construction of a new ring road in Kolhapur and the MMRDA plans to develop an elevated road on the Thane-Belapur stretch.
In terms of projects awarded in the past one year, JMC Projects Limited secured the flyover project in Bhiwandi and J. Kumar Infraprojects Limited secured the contract to implement the Ulhas Creek bridge project. BMC awarded contracts worth about Rs 2 billion for the construction of four bridges to J. Kumar Infraprojects and RPS Infraprojects.
Recently commissioned projects include the Andheri-Ghatkopar Link Road, the Kherwadi flyover and the Swargate flyover.
Delhi to focus on decongesting and redesigning roads
In April 2016, the National Highways Authority of India unveiled a Rs 200 billion plan to decongest Delhi. The plan involves the construction of roads, elevated corridors, flyovers and underpasses/tunnels covering a total length of 301 km across various districts of the National Capital Region including Delhi, Haryana (13 districts), Uttar Pradesh (seven districts) and Rajasthan (two districts). However, in June 2016, the Ministry of Urban Development published a high-powered committee report on decongesting Delhi which discourages the construction of more flyovers in the city.
Meanwhile, under the India Trade Promotion Organisation, the central government has proposed the Mathura Road-Ring Road underground tunnel project to decongest the Pragati Maidan-Ring Road stretch in Delhi.
In terms of progress of ongoing projects, the Rs 2.78 billion Rao Tula Ram Marg parallel flyover is expected to be completed by May 2017. Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal that had initially prohibited the construction of the Barapullah elevated road project, Phase III, has now vacated its stay on the same. The project will comprise the construction of a 550 metre six-lane extra-dosed bridge and a 4.3 km six-lane elevated road at an estimated cost of Rs 16.64 billion.
Lauded as an engineering marvel, the Rs 16 billion Signature Bridge project, aimed at connecting North Delhi to East Delhi and Ghaziabad, is now likely to be completed by early 2017. A fresh environment impact assessment study of the project is also likely due to the delay in its completion.
Over the past year, projects that were completed and opened for public use in Delhi included the Vikaspuri-Meera Bagh flyover on the Outer Ring Road (ORR) , the Bhalswa flyover, two loops under Phase II of the Barapullah elevated road project, the elevated road between Madhuban Chowk and Mukarba Chowk and the Azadpur-Prembari Pul elevated corridor.
Jharkhand steps up investments in road development projects
In June 2016, ADB and the Government of India signed a $200 million loan agreement as an initiative to upgrade 176 km of state roads in Jharkhand.
Besides, the Jharkhand government recently gave a nod to a number of road projects under the Greater Ranchi Master Plan which is expected to be completed by 2037. The Jamshedpur Eastern Corridor Expressway Project aimed at linking Tatanagar station and National Highway (NH)-33 at an estimated cost of Rs 13.5 billion also received government approval. Funds were also sanctioned by the state government for two road projects – the Mahuda-Sindri section in Dhanbad to be implemented at a cost of Rs 1.63 billion and the Budhmu-Umedanda-Hendgir section in Ranchi to be implemented at an estimated cost of Rs 0.62 billion. The state cabinet also sanctioned an amount of Rs 1.84 billion for the execution of five projects entailing the construction of the 37 km Pithoria-Thakurgaon-Budmu-Khelari road, the 41 km Sonua-Panua-Gudri road, the 15.95 km East Singhbhum district road, the Jamtara district road and the Pakur district road.
Among other key developments, the Jharkhand Road Construction Department issued consultancy bids for the widening and strengthening of the 54 km Jharkhand Ring Road Project in February 2016. The State Highway Authority of Jharkhand also completed the technical feasibility report for the Ranchi-Bokaro-Dhanbad Expressway Project.
Karnataka unveils major road development plans
Key initiatives in the state included a proposal for land pooling by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) to reduce land acquisition costs for the Bengaluru Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) project. Moreover, the government has proposed the implementation of the Bengaluru PRR on a hybrid model using the Town Planning Scheme and the Land Pooling Scheme options.
Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited has proposed the implementation of five road corridors requiring a total investment of Rs 180 billion. These corridors are the Central Silk Board Junction-Hebbal elevated corridor, K.R. Puram-Goraguntepalya road corridor, Jnana Bharathi-Varthurkodi road corridor, Agara Junction-ORR-Kalasipalyam corridor and the Richmond Road-Ulsoor corridor. The state government has also laid the foundation stone for the Chalukya Circle-Hebbal elevated road project and has sanctioned Rs 800 million for it. The project, however, is now headed to a tender negotiation due to a 41 per cent mismatch in the BDA’s cost estimate and the quote of the lowest bidder. The BDA has also proposed the implementation of three flyover projects to ease traffic on the Old Madras Road in Bengaluru. Meanwhile, construction work on the 10-lane, 118 km Bengaluru-Mysuru highway is expected to commence by December 2016. The Karnataka government has also laid the foundation stone for the Manipal-Ambagilu road widening project.
In terms of completed projects, the Mysore Urban Development Authority has completed construction work on the Rs 3.4 billion Mysore ORR project. The state government recently inaugurated the 34.5 km stretch of the Karnataka ORR project. The bridge across the Sharavati river in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka was also commissioned.
Kerala steps up focus on urban decongestion
In the past year, Kerala has made several attempts to ease urban congestion. A number of flyover projects were initiated and a few were commissioned for public use. Meanwhile, the state government initiated 10 mega road projects under the District Flagship Infrastructure Programme. In terms of project announcements, the state government has accorded its approval for the construction of three flyovers at Sreekariyam, Ulloor and Pattom at a combined cost of Rs 2.72 billion. The central government has approved the revised cost estimate of Rs 1.36 billion for implementing Phase I of the Karamana-Kaliyikkavila four-laning project in Kerala. KITCO Limited has also submitted the DPR for the four-lane M.G. Road-NH-47 bypass-Kakkanad road project to the state PWD.
The Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society has secured contracts for constructing flyovers at Ramanattukara and Thondayad. Reportedly, construction work has commenced on Phase I of the Ramanattukara flyover project. In September 2016, the Edappally Junction flyover was commissioned. The Kerala Road Fund Board has also reportedly completed 99 per cent of construction work under the Thiruvananthapuram City Roads Improvement Project.
Poll-bound Uttar Pradesh renews focus on road development
A key initiative in the state was the approval of a $300 million loan by ADB towards the upgradation of over 400 km of major district roads (MDRs) – the Uttar Pradesh Major District Roads Improvement Project. In addition, the state government has decided to provide counterpart support of $128 million to the project. With an implementation period of five years, the project is scheduled to be completed in March 2021. Bids have already been invited for upgrading the Hussainganj-Hathgaon-Alipur MDR, the Nanau-Dadon MDR and the Bulandshahr-Anoopshahar MDR.
In terms of announced projects, the Uttar Pradesh government has finalised the alignment of the Rs 130 billion Lucknow-Ballia expressway project. Under this project, the construction of the 346 km expressway is proposed to be divided into eight parts. Its access will be controlled as in the case of the Agra-Lucknow expressway. In April 2016, the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority shortlisted 10 applicants for the packages. Meanwhile, in March 2016, the foundation stone of the Rampur barrage-cum-bridge project was laid. The state cabinet has also approved the Sonauli-Ballia road widening project.
In terms of awards, in March 2016, PNC Infratech secured the contract for constructing a three-lane road on both sides of the Sharda Sahayak feeder canal from the Lucknow-Faizabad road to the Lucknow-Sultanpur road in Uttar Pradesh. It also received a letter of award for the Etah-Kasganj four-laning project.
Among ongoing projects, Phase I of the Hindon elevated road project in Ghaziabad is expected to be completed in December 2016. Meanwhile, around 88 per cent of the construction work under Phase I of the Agra ring road project has been completed. While the state government is likely to commence work under Phase II soon, it has already made provisions for Rs 2 billion for both Phase II and Phase III of the project.
With regard to project completion, the Pilibhit-Badaun-Bharatpur highway project was inaugurated in March 2016. PNC Infratech also commenced toll collection on the Bareilly-Almora section.
On paper, these states have undoubtedly lined up substantial opportunity for all stakeholders. However, past experience reflects the challenges in acquiring land and obtaining clearances faced by state road projects. Moreover, heavy reliance on the EPC mode is likely to put additional pressure on the already cash-strapped states. In the past, projects such as the Ganga Path expressway and MTHL, which were initially planned on a public-private partnership basis, had to be remodelled on an EPC basis due to limited private interest. That said, steps to attract greater private participation are required. Introduction of measures such as the land pooling scheme are steps in the right direction.