The 341 km Purvanchal Expressway in Sultanpur district, Uttar Pradesh, inaugurated on November 16, 2021, is the largest infrastructure project to be completed by the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA). This expressway will serve as the backbone of eastern Uttar Pradesh, boosting economic development and providing jobs for a large number of people. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and multiple deadline extensions, the Purvanchal Expressway was completed in three years. The greenfield project, initially named the Lucknow-Azamgarh-Ballia Expressway, was first announced in May 2015, and land acquisition began soon after. The foundation stone was laid in July 2018 and construction work began in October 2018, with five contractors and eight civil packages. With the completion of the expressway, the state now has over 1,700 km of expressways, the highest in the country.
The overall length of the fully controlled six-lane expressway is 340.82 km, with a project cost of around Rs 225 billion, including Rs 118 billion for construction and a land acquisition (4,377 hectares) cost of roughly Rs 107 billion. It was built via the engineering, procurement and construction mode. The project’s financing pattern included Rs 111.97 billion from a state government grant and a Rs 113 billion loan from a consortium of banks. The lowest tenders were received at a cost nearly 5.19 per cent lower than the expected cost, resulting in a profit of approximately Rs 6.14 billion for UPEIDA. The expressway begins at Village Chand Sarai on Lucknow-Sultanpur Road (NH-731) in Lucknow district. The terminating point is near Village Haidaria on NH-19, approximately 18 km from the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border in Ghazipur district. A 3.2 km long airstrip has also been built on the expressway in Sultanpur district to allow Indian Air Force fighter planes to land and take off during emergencies.
Following the project proposal in 2015, land acquisition for the expressway began in 2016, and construction commenced in 2018. By June 2019, 10 per cent of overall construction had been completed, and 20 per cent by October 2019. Construction resumed in April 2020 following a month-long hiatus caused by Covid-19, and by August 2020, 52 per cent of the construction had been completed. By July 2021, 930 of a total of 934 structures and 95 per cent of the work had been finished, and by September 2021, 97 per cent of the work had been completed. The project was completed in November 2021. Eight civil packages were established for the project. Contracts were issued to five construction companies in October 2018 with a 36-month deadline.
One of the top objectives of the project is to create a long-lasting, safe structure that adheres to a variety of technical standards and engineering practices. The highway currently has six lanes (15 metres on each side, total 30 metres with a median of 5.5 metres), which can be expanded to eight lanes in the future. The right of way (RoW) is a 120 metre wide land corridor. The service road is a 3.75 metre black top in a staggered manner on each side of the expressway to facilitate easy movement for the inhabitants of adjacent villages, with a total length of 402 km. On the expressway, there are 11 entry and exit points with double trumpet interchanges and normal trumpet interchanges at the ends. There are 18 flyovers, seven railway overbridges, seven major bridges, 118 minor bridges, 271 underpasses, 13 interchanges (six with toll plazas), five ramp plazas, and 503 culverts on the expressway. A fuel station is located at each of the eight wayside amenities. Four compressed natural gas (CNG) stations and electric car recharging stations are also available. The proposed alignment intersects with one major road along the project stretch (Package II) across SH 31 at km 58+360 – Diamond Interchange – Slip Roads with Toll booths. Furthermore, 450,000 trees are being planted in the RoW of the expressway.
During construction, granular material was used for lower sub-base works; crushed stone aggregates for upper sub-base, base, surfacing and cement concrete works; sand for filter material and cement, concrete works, sub-base and filling material; borrow material for embankment, sub-grade and filling; and manufactured material such as cement, steel, bitumen and geotextiles for other related works. Geocells have been constructed on the expressway to prevent soil from being washed away by rain. Rubber was also added to the bitumen to increase the finished product’s quality and performance. Speed limits on the highway are set at 100 mph, although it was built to carry 120 mph traffic. The lighting arrangements made on the interchanges, flyovers, major bridges, minor bridges, and underpasses have solar backups.
The Purvanchal Expressway will connect the state’s eastern part to the state capital. Uttar Pradesh’s longest expressway will also link nine districts in Uttar Pradesh – Lucknow, Barabanki, Amethi, Sultanpur, Ayodhya, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur (from west to east). The expressway will also improve connectivity between Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, as well as between Lucknow and Ghazipur significantly on both the northern and southern routes. The original northern route covered 363 km and comprised NH-27, NH-135A, NH-28, NH-67, and NH-31. Travel duration was approximately 7.5-8 hours. The southern route had a total length of 354 km, passing through NH-731, SH-36, and NH-31, and took approximately 8-8.5 hours to complete. These distances have been shortened by the development of the expressway, and the travel time between Lucknow and Ghazipur has been decreased to 5-6 hours. Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh will be directly connected to Arrah and Patna in Bihar via the Purvanchal Expressway and NH-922, with the completion of the 17 km long, four-lane Buxar-ghazipur elevated Road (Bharauli in Buxar to Haidaria in Ghazipur).
A separate link road will connect the expressway to the Varanasi-Azamgarh highway. The Gorakhpur Link Expressway is a four-lane fully controlled access expressway with a project cost of Rs 58 billion and a length of 91.3 km. It is another link in the Purvanchal Expressway. The starting point is at Salarpur in Purvanchal and the ending point is at Jaitpur (NH-27) in Gorakhpur. The Lucknow outer ring road will be indirectly connected to the Purvanchal Expressway via NH-731. This highway, with a project cost of Rs 52 billion, will be 105 km long and directly connected to NH-27, NH-30, NH-731, and the Agra-Lucknow Expressway. The travel time between Ghazipur and Delhi has also been reduced to 10 hours now. Additionally, a proposal is being developed to expand the Purvanchal Expressway and connect it to Bihar from Ghazipur.
One of the most significant advantages of the Purvanchal Expressway will be improved connectivity between eastern Uttar Pradesh and the national capital, Delhi. An access-controlled highway, it will save fuel and time while also contributing to the reduction of air pollution. Additionally, it will aid in accident prevention, as a total of 16 ambulances will be available in each of the packages. It will contribute to the social and economic development of the communities located adjacent to the highway. The expressway will provide speedier forms of transportation to the country’s most disadvantaged areas, and is expected to significantly increase agriculture, trade, tourism and other industrial growth in the state. The expressway will contribute as an industrial stimulant for the development of handloom industries, food processing units, storage plants, and mandi- and milk-based enterprises as well.