In the past few years, the road bridges segment has witnessed an increase in the size and scope of projects being implemented both at the national and state levels. The increased pace of project award activity in the national highway segment has further stepped up demand for these structures. The types of design and construction techniques used have also evolved. Different types of bridges such as cable-stayed, suspension, integral and extra-dosed bridges are being designed, and the standards of bridge design and engineering are continuously improving. The sector is also witnessing growing foreign participation in the areas of construction, design and technology.
Market size and key initiatives
As per recent Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) estimates, India’s national highway network has about 150,000 major and minor bridges. As per industry experts and an assessment by India Infrastructure Re-
search, the construction of every 2 km of highway typically involves the development of a bridge structure, either major or minor. Based on the length of national highways constructed since 2011-12, India Infrastructure Research estimates that from 2011-12 to 2015-16, almost 13,000 bridge structures were added to the national highway network.
Recently completed projects include the Rajahmundry-Godavari bridge project in Andhra Pradesh which was commissioned in April 2016, the Narmada bridge project in Ahmedabad commissioned in February 2016, the Baluaha Ghat-Gandaul bridge project in Bihar commissioned in December 2015, and the Basohli cable-stayed bridge in Jammu & Kashmir commissioned in December 2015.
A number of big-ticket projects have been awarded in the recent past. Some of these are the Bihar New Ganga bridge project, Bihar, to South Korea-based Daewoo E&C and Larsen & Toubro, in January 2016; the new six-lane Zuari bridge, Goa, to Dilip Buildcon-Mostobudivelnyi Zahin, Ukraine, in January 2016; and the Ulhas creek bridge, Maharashtra, to J. Kumar Infraprojects in February 2016.
The central government has also initiated a number of measures to augment capacity and streamline the maintenance of existing bridge assets in the country. In October 2016, the MoRTH launched the Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS). The IBMS is being developed to create an inventory of all the bridges in the country and rate their structural condition to ensure timely repair and rehabilitation work. This system is the largest platform in the world owned by a single entity, with a database that could exceed 150,000 bridge structures. So far, 115,000 bridges have been inventorised, of which 85,000 are culverts. In March 2016, the MoRTH launched the Setu Bharatam Programme to construct 208 railway overbridges (RoBs) and railway underbridges at a cost of Rs 208 billion.
The government has launched a number of online portals such as ePace for the real-time monitoring of projects, INFRACON for the empanelment of detailed project report consultants, and INAM Pro for material procurement to improve the conceptualisation and implementation of projects.
Opportunity in store
As of September 2016, the road bridges segment has 36 key projects in the planning/conceptualisation stage. These projects will entail an investment of Rs 402 billion and cover 118 km (cost and capacity estimates for several projects are not available). Nine projects among these are under bidding and will be awarded in the next one year. The mode of implementation for some of these projects has not been decided yet. State-wise, the maximum number of projects are coming up in Maharashtra followed by Kerala and Bihar, while in terms of investment size, Maharashtra again tops the list and is followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Several big-ticket projects are currently under bidding. These include the Mumbai Trans Harbour Sea Link and the Bandra-Versova Sea Link in Mumbai, and the four-lane suspension Durgam Cheruvu bridge in Telangana. Meanwhile, several new projects have been announced. These include the Ghatkopar-Kopar Khairane bridge project, the Rewas-Karanja bridge project, the Yamuna river bridge project and the rehabilitation of the Mahatma Gandhi Setu at National Highway (NH)-19 on the Ganga river at Patna.
The way forward
With the government’s focus on restarting stalled projects along with launching large flagship projects such as Setu Bharatam, it is expected that the market for bridges and elevated structures will see a substantial uptick in the level of activity. Nonetheless, challenges like geological surprises, delays in land acquisition and obtaining clearances, maintenance of old assets and the rehabilitation of bridges with running traffic need to be addressed on a priority basis.
The sector will continue to see increasing penetration of foreign expertise in the areas of construction, design and technology. New and innovative funding models are also being identified to ease pressure on state-level finances. Some of the key success factors for efficient project execution are a high standard of project management with equal participation of the client and contractor, especially in the case of large projects involving complex engineering solutions, methodology and materials.