Centre may adopt new way to measure highways

MoRTH says it built a record 2,503 km of four-lane highways and nearly 800 km of access-controlled highways upto January in FY24. (Photo: Mint)
MoRTH says it built a record 2,503 km of four-lane highways and nearly 800 km of access-controlled highways upto January in FY24. (Photo: Mint)

Summary

  • The new method would mean that the mere 7,000-8,000 km of highways expected to be added annually would become 32,000 lane-kilometres when the number of lanes is taken into calculation.

New Delhi: The government plans to shift to a new method of calculating the length of highways to “better capture" the actual work on this key infrastructure, two persons aware of the plan said.

The traditional linear method of calculating the length of highway, used now, will be junked in favour of measuring lane-kilometres.

This would mean that a four-lane highway of 1 km each will be considered a four-km road. At present, it would be considered a one-km-stretch – irrespective of the number of the lanes.

The switch – favoured by the Niti Aayog – would integrate Indian systems with internationally adopted and methods and allow the government to present a realistic picture of actual highway construction.

With plans to build almost 50,000 km of access- controlled highways under the government's vision 2047 plan, the new method of would bring out the real picture of development of world-class roads with a minimum of four lanes going up to eight.

“We planned this switch earlier in 2018 but a political backlash to the proposal prevented from this shift. Now, with country looking to only construct wider and faster expressways, lane-kilometre will bring out real picture of complexities in new highway construction. The government may consider adoption of lane-km soon after the Vision 2047 plan of the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) gets cabinet approval," said one of the two persons quoted above.

Queries sent to MoRTH remained unanswered at press time.

“The switch is a step in the right direction. It will give a complete picture of the motorable length of highways available for users. The new method of calculation will help draw a qualitative distinction between a 50-km, two-lane highway and a 50-km, six-lane highway with the latter being assessed as 300 km of highway constructed as opposed to 100 km in the case of the former," said Ashish Suman, Partner, JSA Advocates & Solicitors.

“Also, the new method will provide a better overview of the cost and expenses incurred by contractors in constructing each lane. This will give a better understanding of the actual volume of activity in the highway sector."

The US and certain provinces of Canada are among places where the lane-kilometre or lane-mile method of measurement is followed.

However, adoption of the system has remained controversial in the country with a section of the opposition terming it as an attempt to present an exaggerated picture of development work. With four-, six- and eight-lane expressways expected to be built under Vision 2047, the changes will almost quadruple the construction-km of highways.

Government officials aware of the development said that adoption of lane-km has become important, given plans to add 60-75,000 km of highways and roads in the next 10-15 years.

The work thereafter would be to maintain the existing roads and widen portions where traffic is projected to rise. So, work will largely go on converting single-lane highways to two lanes with paved shoulders, 2 lanes to three or four lanes so on, which would not ordinarily be captured under the present system of calculating highway construction.

MoRTH says it built a record 2,503 km of four-lane highways and nearly 800 km of access-controlled highways up to January in the current financial year (FY24). This is a 16% increase over the same period of the previous year and 2.5 times the annual construction in FY14.

MoRTH expects that in linear terms only about 7,000-8,000 km of highways may get added annually but, being wider roads, these would take the length to at least 32,000 lane-kilometres.

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