NEW DELHI: In the next four to five years, at least 20,000 km of major national highways will get rid of frequent cuts on the medians and will be barricaded to prevent stray animals coming on to the main highways. The main carriageways will be designated for the fast moving and heavy vehicles to ensure these ply seamlessly and at high speed.
This project, which also includes expanding the identified stretches to at least four lanes throughout the corridors under Phase-I of ambitious Bharatmala scheme, will cost around Rs 3.85 lakh crore.
At present, around a dozen types of of vehicles including slow moving ones such as cycle-rickshaw, tractors and motor-cycles ply on highways, which not only slows down the speed but also results in more traffic crashes. According to an analysis done by the highways ministry, while a four-lane road in Japan can carry up to 40,000 vehicles (PCUs) per day, similar stretches in India breach the carrying capacity once the numbers cross 20,000 PCUs and need to be expanded to six lanes requiring land acquisition and high investment.
Considering the need to make existing highways more efficient rather than building more expensive greenfield roads, the road transport and highways ministry under Nitin Gadkari has sent the proposal to upgrade the identified stretches as “access controlled” ones, a concept which has been adopted by most of the developed countries. Access controlled roads have limited and designated entry and exit points instead of the present practice of every office or establishment joining the main highway. Segregated service roads are used for coming on to the main highway.
Some of these corridors that have been identified will be Mumbai-Kolkata and Mangalore-Bangalore, Ludhiana to Kandla and Porbandar to Silchar, primarily connecting the hubs of major economic activities, which includes ports, manufacturing hubs and trade centres.
Sources said the prime minister’s office has already given the go ahead for empowering NHAI board, which has members from different ministries, to appraise and approve work under this scheme rather than taking each decision to Cabinet. This was the model when Atal Bihari Vajpayee had rolled out the country’s first ever major highway development programme -the Golden Quadrilateral.
NHAI is already preparing detailed project reports of nearly 12,000 km for this massive programme. According to highway ministry’s estimate, about 60,000 km of the existing NH network carries about 80% of the goods transports by roads. Highways minister Nitin Gadkari has already announced to undertake develop more logistics hubs and introducing high capacity trucks that can carry more loads.