Ministry weighs fenced-off highways within easy reach



Access-controlled roads are fenced off with railings along their length, so no one can enter them randomly.

NEW DELHI : India will have a wide network of fenced-off highways and expressways in the next 10-15 years that will allow commuters to get on to them by travelling no more than 100 km from wherever they begin their journey, a top road ministry official said.

According to road transport and highways secretary Anuraj Jain, the ministry is finalizing a new Vision 2047 programme, with a focus on building an extensive network of greenfield “access-controlled" expressways.

The network of roads will provide smoother and faster connectivity, especially along the economic corridors, border regions and far-flung areas, and help reduce the logistics cost in the country.

Access-controlled roads are fenced off with railings along their length, so no one can enter them randomly. Not all highways in India are fenced off— many are allowed to run through towns and cities without any barriers on the two sides.

“We started building expressways on a large scale for the first time under Bharatmala programme. Later, a study under Logistics Efficiency Enhancement Programme (LEEP) suggested that building greenfield expressways would benefit substantially in reducing logistics cost in the country. So, under Vision 2047, we are looking at a network of greenfield access-controlled highways," Jain said

“The Vision is that in every 200 km grid you have an access-controlled highway. What this means is that anywhere in the country about 100 km on either direction of your travel, you will hit an access-controlled highway. And once this is available, suddenly the logistic parameters become good," he added.

The ministry’s Vision 2047 programme has already been presented to the council of ministers.

Specific projects under it would be separately approved by the cabinet before a go-ahead is given to its implementation.

While the secretary did not reveal specific construction targets under Vision 2047, people privy to the development said the programme may entail construction of 30,000-35,000 km by of access-controlled highways and expressways by 2047, the 100th anniversary of Independence.

In fact, the ministry expects to complete the work much earlier —in the next 13-14 years if adequate funding is provided for the programme.

The Vision programme is also likely to merge the existing Bharatmala scheme that was envisioned under two phases.

The first phase involves the construction of 34,800 km of highways, including some access-controlled stretches. This is slated for completion by 2027 at an estimated cost of over 10.5 trillion.

As of July 2023, 47 expressways with a combined length of just over 5,000 km were operational, and around 9,000 km more are under construction.

Once Vision 2047 is approved, another set of 27-30 projects may be taken up to build 30,000 km of access-controlled highways running across the country, taking the total network of such roads to around 45,000 km.

National Highways with a total length of about 145,000 km serve as the arterial network of the country. Overall, road projects exceeding 65,000 km in length, costing more than 11 trillion are in progress.

Of this, work on more than 39,000 km length has been completed. Work on the remaining 26,000 km is in progress.

The ministry of road transport and highways has received a record allocation of 2.7 trillion in the budget for 2023-24 to complete major infrastructure projects.

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