Mumbai: Despite India being the second largest road network in the world, there is a constant need for the network to evolve and add more roads to this network if we want to connect the ever-growing population of the country. At the same time, as was clear when the US suffered the crippling economic depression of the 1930s, there is nothing like road-building to provide jobs and to catalyse economic growth.
In order to address this and other related issues, Free Press Journal-Moneycontrol.com is organising ‘India’s Road Ahead’ conference, on December 9, 2017 from 9 am onwards. Union minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari will deliver the keynote address at this conference.
According to NHAI data, the Indian road network comprises 33 lakh kilometres (km) with rural and other roads contributing more than 26 lakh km, followed by district roads, state highways, national highways and expressways. Today, the National highways— which a few years ago accounted for around 55,000-70,000 km out of 3.5 million km of roadways in India— has been expanded to account for around 2 lakh km. This has become possible because roads that used to belong to the state have now been taken over by the central government.
Meet the panelists: India’s Road Ahead conference by Free Press Journal and Moneycontrol
Commenting about the sector, Virendra D Mhaiskar, CMD, IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd said, “The sector seems to be in aggressive mode and given due focus, as the Government has come up with several ambitious projects under various schemes. However, the key challenge will be funding of the projects as present focus on certain models like HAM and EPC will not generate adequate funding; and on the contrary may financially burden the Government. In that case, there would be no option but to go back to BOT and TOT models and invite private investments and partnering with foreign funds, which would be a great opportunity for developers as well as a sigh of relief for Government as it would not have to spend.”
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According to the CARE report (released in 2016), the rating company had looked at 76 operational toll road projects (special purpose vehicle (SPVs)) of 21,735 lane km with aggregate outstanding debt of Rs 30,787 crore. “Nevertheless, toll collection is expected to witness healthy growth again from Q1FY18 subsequent to this transitory phase,”
The data of NHAI further revealed that about 65 per cent of freight and 80 per cent passenger traffic is carried by road. With the number of vehicles growing at an average pace of 10.16 per cent per annum over the last five years, it is vital for road sector to grow. Roads are not just to connect people or ease traffic but it can also open up employment opportunities. For instance, Maharashtra’s ‘Samruddhi Mahamarg’ which is an expressway that will connect Mumbai-Nagpur, will generate employment in the region. This project is implemented by MSRDC and has 24 interchanges. In an interview with FPJ in the past, Kiran Kurundkar, joint managing director (administration and finance), MSRDC said, “As a special planning authority, we will be bringing about growth in all the 24 access points of this expressway. This will bring about planned development in those areas and this will leverage prosperity in the region.”
Keeping in mind the FPJ-Moneycontrol conference, CP Joshi, secretary roads, PWD, Maharashtra said, “The challenges often posed to road building and maintenance organisation like PWD are many.” But the few challenges that exist are the exponential growth of traffic; rapid urbanisation and industrialisation of state; increased focus on tourism and related allied activities; due to new schemes like Jalyukt Siwar.., increased farm productivity; and the ever-increased need for good riding quality of road pavements as the consumer need of the people and to meet their expectations. During the conference, he plans to elaborate on solutions to make available smooth, safe, smart and sustainable road network for the State of Maharashtra.
Equally interesting will be what Afcons’ S G Paretkar, will have to say. He was responsible for completing the longest tunnel in India (almost 8 km long). This tunnel was constructed in order to avoid the long-winded route known as the Rohtang pass (which becomes inaccessible during winter). The tunnel took eight years to build and five years were spend merely building a complex stretch of just 500 metres. The tunnel was built in partnership with other organisations, particularly the road building wing of the army known as the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). The expertise gained from building this tunnel will help in building other tunnels as well. Commenting about the challenges in the Himalayas, Paretkar said, “Since Himalayas is the youngest mountain, it is highly weathered. Hence, full of surprises. Adding to it is the formation of one-sided contract agreement that creates difficulty in operation and there is a need to revise it to neutral agreement.” He also added that the availability of resources for tunnelling in India are extremely challenging as the technology is relatively new here. “Hence, we require to develop own resources like manpower, machineries to economise the project cost.
In fact, tunnelling will become extremely crucial for many of the road projects in India. This will be especially so in the North and the North-East. Earlier India planned to build roadways and bridges. But in view of protests from locals against destroying their ecology, the government and the military have come round to the view that tunnels would be both safer and desirable, even though the costs would be higher.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari stated as much when he recently gave his keynote address at a conference on tunnelling organised by the MIT-WPU. Said Gadkari that the ministry is constructing 20 tunnels in Jammu and Kashmir within two years. He also added how these projects will act as an employment opportunity to the qualified students in the valley. Commenting about the contribution of road sector in employment, Rajat Gupta, senior partner in McKinsey’s Mumbai said, “In last 2-3 years, the road sector has seen tremendous growth and has also created lot of employment. This sector has also helped in creation of large enterprises. In the last decade, EPC or road contract companies have grown 10 times but in times to come these companies will grow 10 times further and for that they will not have to wait for 10 years.”
And finally, at the FPJ-Moneycontrol.com forum, there will be a discussion on the economic benefits that the roads project will bring to India.
The conference promises to be extremely interesting and relevant.
(Our Hashtag on Twitter: #IndiasRoadAhead)
Attendance strictly by invitation
Venue: December 9, 2017, 9 am onwards at ITC Grand Central, Parel, Mumbai
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