New Delhi: To give a boost to its ambitious Bharatmala plan, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will bring all future road projects such as economic corridors and coastal roads under its aegis.

The total investment for this flagship programme is estimated at Rs10 trillion—the largest ever outlay for a government road construction scheme.

According to government officials working out the details of the scheme, the total road length to be developed as expressways under Bharatmala will be around 51,000km. In the first phase 29,000km will be developed with an outlay of Rs5.5 trillion.

Bharatmala will replace the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) which is expected to be completed this year, with only 10,000km of highway construction left under the scheme launched in 1998 by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The decision to merge these road projects with Bharatmala was taken in a meeting earlier this month. Also, the marquee project would be vetted by the Public Investment Board (PIB) headed by expenditure secretary before the Union cabinet’s approval is sought.

“A cabinet note on details of the project will be soon circulated among the members of PIB by the ministry of road transport and highways," said a government official requesting anonymity.

Apart from the expenditure secretary as its chairman, the PIB also comprises secretaries in the department of economic affairs, Niti Aayog, statistics and programme implementation, and ministry of environment, forests and climate change.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that projects such as Sagarmala and Bharatmala will prepare a strong base for infrastructure development, enabling a person to travel across the country on a single road.

The Sagarmala programme envisages construction of new ports to harness the country’s 7,517km coastline and set up of as many as 142 cargo terminals at major ports at an estimated cost of Rs93,000 crore.

“The road ministry has already started its preparation of the project by outsourcing work of detailed project reports for various projects. The cabinet note for Bharatmala is likely to be circulated by year-end so that the project is government’s major announcement in the Union budget," said a second government official who also didn’t wish to be identified.

As part of the radical rethinking on improving the transportation architecture, India will invest as much as Rs3.96 trillion in creating and upgrading infrastructure this financial year. The NDA government has evolved a new integrated infrastructure planning paradigm comprising roads, railways, waterways and civil aviation.

India has an ambitious highways construction goal of 41km per day. The current rate of construction is 22-23km per day.

“As per the discussions the road map is ready from the ministry of road transport. In case of projects to be implemented under the EPC (engineering-procurement-construction) model, the National Highway Authority of India will be given full autonomy irrespective of project cost. However, in case of projects under public private partnership (PPP), the projects after a certain amount will go to the ministry of road transport and highways for clearance," said a third government official requesting anonymity.

The government had awarded 9,655km of highways construction contracts till February out of a target of 25,000km. It has also raised its construction target to 15,000km as against 6,000km constructed last year. Out of this 6,467km was constructed till February.

Queries emailed to the spokesperson for the ministry of road transport and highways on Monday remained unanswered.

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