Expressway development has been a focus area for the government ever since the launch of the National Highways Development Programme. While Phase VI of the programme envisaged the development of 1,000 km of expressways, on-ground progress has been seen only in the past two-three years with the fast-tracked implementation of the Delhi-Meerut and Eastern Peripheral Expressways.
In October 2017, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the Bharatmala Pariyojana, under which expressway projects with an aggregate length of 1,837 km are envisaged to be developed. Of these, 800 km of expressways will be implemented under Phase I of the programme for which an outlay of Rs 400 billion has been approved. As a result, expressway development has gained momentum and there are 10 projects at various stages of implementation. The long-pending Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway project too has finally inched forward.
The 379 km Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway has been included in the list of expressways to be constructed under the Bharatmala Pariyojana. The project is proposed to be implemented in three phases. Phase I has been further subdivided into two parts – Phase IA and Phase IB. Of the five packages being undertaken as part of Phase IA, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has awarded contracts for three packages in March 2018.
Approximately 3,444.85 hectares of land is required to undertake Phase I of the project. Of the total, 136.99 hectares is required in Maharashtra, 77.99 hectares in Dadra & Nagar Haveli and 3,229.87 hectares in Gujarat. Land acquisition for the project commenced in December 2017 and is still under progress.
The expressway starts at km 499 of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai national highway (NH-8) and ends at km 378.722 of the Ahmedabad-Vadodara Expressway (National Expressway [NE]-1). Phase I of the project includes the construction of a 274.02 km stretch from km 104.7 (km 390.86 of NH-8) to km 378.72 (km 80 of NE-1), spanning 54.4 km in Vadodara, 62.5 km in Bharuch, 57.3 km in Surat, 37.6 km in Navsari and 48.6 km in Valsad (all in Gujarat), 5.5 km in Dadra & Nagar Haveli and 8.1 km in Palgarh district, Maharashtra.
Phase II of the project spans a total of 78.38 km extending from km 26.32 to km 104.7 in Thane district, Maharashtra. Further, Phase III of the project spans 26.32 km extending from km 0.00 to km 26.32, also in Thane district.
Phase IA of the Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway comprises five packages and spans a total length of 124.31 km. It will be implemented on a hybrid annuity basis. In March 2018, NHAI awarded the contracts for Packages I, IV and V.
Package I of the project was awarded to IRB Infrastructure Developers Limited. It in-
volves the construction of the eight-lane 23.74 km Padra-Vadodara section from km 355.00 to km 378.74 of the expressway in Gujarat. The estimated cost of the package is Rs 20.43 billion. The concession period comprises 730 days for construction and 15 years for operations and maintenance thereafter.
Package IV of the project was awarded to Ashoka Concessions Limited, a subsidiary of Ashoka Buildcon Limited. It involves the construction of the eight-lane, 13 km Ankleshwar-Manubar section of the expressway from km 279 to km 292 in Gujarat. The estimated cost of the package is Rs 16.87 billion.
Further, Package V of the project was awarded to Sadbhav Infrastructure Project Limited, and involves the construction of the eight-lane 24.27 km Kim-Ankhleshwar road stretch from km 254.43 to km 279. The estimated cost of the package is Rs 13.11 billion and it is expected to be completed within 730 days from the commencement of construction.
Besides this, Phase IA also comprises two other packages – Packages II and III. Package II of the project involves the construction of the 32 km Sanpa-Padra section from km 323 to km 355 while Package III involves the construction of the 31 km Manubar-Sanpa stretch from km 292 to km 323 of the Vadodara-Mumbai expressway. The last date of bid submission for the two packages was March 3, 2018 and they are currently under evaluation.
Further, in April 2018, NHAI issued requests for proposal for the appointment of a consultant to provide engineering services for all five packages under Phase IA. The last date for submission of bids was April 5, 2018.
Benefits in store
The Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway will have several direct and indirect benefits. The direct benefits include faster connectivity, reductions in vehicle operating costs as well as a reduction in accidents, morbidity and mortality. Further, the expressway will have several indirect benefits such as the generation of employment opportunities, development of agriculture and increased forest cover.
The expressway will link the Ahmedabad-Vadodara Expressway to the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, thereby, providing expressway connectivity from Ahmedabad to Pune, a length of about 650 km. It is expected to reduce travel time from Vadodara to Mumbai to less than four hours from the present six to seven hours on NH-8. In addition, the expressway will link the big industrial cities of Vadodara, Surat, Bharuch, Ankleshwar and Mumbai, immensely benefiting the economy of these cities. It is also proposed to have a state-of-the-art automated traffic management system and world-class wayside amenities such as truck parking and service areas, fuel stations, etc. which will facilitate safe travel at high speeds.
The way forward
The Eastern Peripheral Expressway is likely to be completed within 500 days, against the targeted 910 days, while the construction of the 14-lane highway from Delhi to Dasna, under the Delhi-Meerut highway project, will also be completed in 15 months, against the targeted 30 months. These two projects set an example for the successful execution of projects of similar scope and size. With the award of contracts for three packages of the Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway, the construction process for the project has already commenced. However, timely and hindrance-free implementation of the project by the contractors and other agencies involved will be the key going forward.