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'Should construct 13,000 km of national highways in FY24'

February 21, 2024 13:18 IST

'The vision now is not just to look at national highways as a number of kilometres, but quality as well.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy National Highway Authority Of India/X

Highways secretary Anurag Jain said on Friday the Ministry of Road and Highways (MoRTH) is looking to double its FY24 numbers in the last three months of the financial year to construct 13,000 kilometres (km) of national highways.

It seeks to award 10,000 km of projects to maintain the pace of infrastructure development.


What does the Interim Budget signify for the road transport and highway ministry?

At Rs 2.72 trillion, our capital expenditure increased by 5 per cent. The base has been so high -- our budget increased by three times in the last four years.

That too, when the fiscal deficit is likely to come down to 5.1 per cent and well in line with the fiscal glidepath.

The estimates are very realistic. The multiplier effect of infrastructure on the economy is visible in industrialisation and manufacturing, and keeping us resilient to global headwinds.

The vision now is not just to look at national highways as a number of kilometres, but quality as well.

Highways with four lanes and more have increased by 2.5 times to 46,720 kms, while those with two lanes or less have halved to 14,350 kms, which are now only 10 per cent of the total highway network.

What is the national highway development plan under Vision 2047?

Currently, the plan under the vision has been drafted as a cabinet note.

After necessary clearances, we can start the implementation process and share the whole plan.

Broadly, logistics efficiency through more access-controlled highways and high-speed corridors is a core tenet of the vision.

With previous years seeing double-digit allocation growth, do you agree with the assessment that more could have been done on Capex?

This Budget is a vote-on-account and there is a 5.3 per cent increase in capex.

Moreover, we have also changed our philosophy -- with the proposed Build Operate Transfer (BOT) reforms, private sector investment will increase.

We have found that roads built on BOT and Hybrid Annuity Mode (HAM) are superior in quality to roads built on engineering procurement and construction mode.

Our course now is to do all major projects in HAM or BOT.

So, private capital will come in a big way. We are close to finalising the new BOT model concession agreement, under which we aim for zero arbitration and risk limitation.

Is MoRTH looking at concerns around capex absorption down the line?

According to our vision for 2047 and discussions with the finance ministry, we will not have any absorptive capacity concerns for the coming 10-12 years, while we continue to build the infrastructure and we are looking to meet those targets by 2037.

Is there a proposal to increase the defect liability period for contractors in EPC projects?

We have not made a final decision yet. I had first proposed establishing a ten-year defect liability period, but we are doing expert consultations right now to assess the impact on the sector.

The ministry had shared concerns with the Union cabinet over awarding of highway projects due to non-approval of Bharatmala's revised estimates. What has been done to expedite awarding?

We are trying to be more aggressive on highway awarding, and are optimistic we will award 10,000 km of projects by the end of FY24.

What is the highway construction target going forward?

My assessment is that we should be able to construct 13,000 km of national highways in FY24.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Dhruvaksh Saha
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