New Delhi: State-run fuel retailers Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOCL), Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL) are among companies that have bid for the National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) ambitious wayside amenities programme, according to two government officials aware of the development.

Under the scheme titled “Highway Village", the government plans to develop 150 sites along national highways with a range of amenities such a helipads, motels, village haats or markets, shopping malls, electric charging stations, fuel stations, parking for cars, buses and trucks, restaurants and food courts, dhabas for truckers, repair shops and dormitories for drivers.

The scheme pushed by transport minister Nitin Gadkari is aimed at improving long-distance driving experience for commuters and providing employment to local youth, as also a platform to local farmers to sell their produce.

The scheme is aimed at encouraging frequent breaks during the journey and reduce driver-fatigue related accidents, with the helipads expediting evacuation for medical emergencies and providing disaster relief.

According to the scheme, these villages will be developed on the public-private-partnership (PPP) model wherein NHAI would be providing land for the proposals, while the investments will be made by the bidders. In response to the Request for Proposals (RFPs) for 34 Highway Villages floated last year, NHAI received bids for 21 sites, with a majority of them placed by state-owned oil marketing firms.

“The first bundle comprised 34 sites out of which bids were received for 21 sites last week. Most of these are being eyed by OMCs," said a government official on condition of anonymity. He added that the technical and financial bids will be opened in next one month to take a final decision and the sites are likely to see an investment of around Rs500 crore in total.

Another official who also didn’t want to be identified and is part of the bidding process confirmed the development.

State-owned oil firms are exploring ways to diversify revenues as a means to combat crude oil price rise and narrowing refining margins. According to analyst reports, the marketing margin on auto fuels for the third quarter was at Rs0.27 per litre, the lowest since diesel deregulation in mid-October 2014.

Queries emailed to NHAI, IOCL, HPCL and BPCL remained unanswered.

According to the government’s plans, the sites shortlisted in the first bundle are in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Areas with more than 5 acres will be developed under the brand name of “Highway Village".

“The private entity will be assisted in getting free access permission to the facility, assistance in land use conversion etc. along with co-branding, logo and signage, and will be required to sign a service-level agreement with NHAI," the government said in a 3 August statement.

NHAI has been trying to raise resources to fund its ambitious work programme by monetizing publicly funded, operational national highways through the toll-operate-transfer (ToT) model. The state-run authority is also planning its first equity-funding model for its upcoming expressway and economic corridor projects, auctioning them before they are built as reported by Mint on 19 March.

“Shri Gadkari called on individuals owning land along national highways to come forward and participate in the endeavour. The minister said that these wayside amenities would not only benefit the highway commuters, but also the local population. The sites will promote local handloom and handicrafts by having shops selling these items. Local cuisine can be made available at the eateries in these site," the statement added.

NHAI’s greenfield expressway projects under the Rs5.35 trillion-Bharatmala programme aims at building 34,800km of national highways. Out of this, 9,000km will be economic corridors and 800km expressways, many of which are greenfield projects.

“About 20 lakh people will get direct and indirect employment from these sites. All in all, the development of these sites will bring economic development to the villages along the highways," the statement said.

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