The Centre’s ambitious highway development programme, which had stalled for the better part of 2000, is again picking speed.
Two days before the financial year comes to a close, the Road Ministry has not only surpassed the target for 2011-12 but created a record of sorts by awarding a whopping 7400 km of road projects -- the highest so far – as against its original target of awarding 7300 km of roads.
This, road ministry officials said is about 40% more than what was awarded last year.
Though, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) – the central agency under the road ministry which builds highways across the country – is still way behind meeting its ambitious target of constructing 20 km of highways per day, ministry officials said that if the present trend of awarding over 7300 km of roads continues, it would be able to achieve the target of building 20 km of roads per day by 2014.
“We are hopeful of constructing 20 km of roads every day by 2014,” said a senior road ministry official.
Also, ministry officials said that in a reversal from earlier trend where government was giving grants (in the form of viability gap funding) to road projects, developers are now finding highway projects so lucrative that they are offering hefty premium to get them.
“NHAI is estimated to earn over Rs 30,000 crore from the highway projects awarded so far during 2011-12. These earnings could go even higher as some of the bids for highways are yet to be opened,” said a ministry official.
Helping in the turnaround, industry experts say, is the growing confidence in the sector which is seen as giving good returns on investment coupled with policy changes bought about by the government in the model concession agreement which helped in attracting private players.
In 2011-12 while NHAI has awarded 49 projects of 6491 km, the road ministry through state agencies awarded 9 projects totaling 908 km.