Road project plans delayed by 3 months

Road project plans delayed by 3 months

New Delhi: Issues hindering the road transport and highway ministry has ensured that the ministry’s target of completing awards for some 11,700 kilometers of national highway stretches will be delayed by three months to June next year, highway minister Kamal Nath said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at the annual Economic Editor’s Conference hosted by the Indian government.

The highway sector had been affected over the past two years by a series of problems, including questions over bid regulations as well as the global financial meltdown, ensuring that the National Highway Authority of India, or NHAI, missed several targets. In 2007-08, the authority only awarded 1,203 kms of highways for redevelopment as against a target of 5,738. In 08-09, this went down to 639 kms awarded, as opposed to the target of 10,610 kms.

"The challenge is two-fold: bridging the deficit and meeting the phenomenal demand," Kamal Nath said, of the country’s highway program. In the five months since he took over, Nath said the highway authority has set up a 150 special land acquisition units as well as 10 regional offices of the highway authority.

The ministry has also worked to remove the "huge amounts of irritants," that were hampering award of projects and private sector participation, he added. Nath said the reccomendations of a committee--headed by Planning Commission member B. K. Chaturvedi--had suggested that the limit on crossholdings between bidders be increased to 25% from the current 5%, something that would be addressed immediately.

The committee was also looking at other suggestions such as allowing highway projects to be run by limited liability companies and liberalizing foreign borrowing norms for the sector, he said.

The ministry is looking at setting up mega highway projects of between 500-1,000 kilometers worth around Rs4,000 crore. A draft report for the

proposed expressway network connecting major cities has recommended that some 17,661 kms of access-controlled expressways be built, he added. An

expressway division has been set up within the highway authority as well.