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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

South-bound Fernandes shuns Delhi expressway plans

Moushumi Das Gupta and Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 04, 2013
First Published: 00:19 IST(4/7/2013) | Last Updated: 03:00 IST(4/7/2013)

There is a shift in focus of the UPA government’s ambitious plan to build high-speed, access-controlled expressways after the recent Union cabinet reshuffle.

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After taking charge as road minister in 2011, C P Joshi had taken up development of two new tolled expressways — Delhi-Jaipur and Delhi-Ludhiana — on the public-private partnership mode.

The road ministry had started working on the project report for the Delhi-Jaipur expressway, connecting Delhi with Joshi’s home state Rajasthan.

To make the expressway — which costs double that of a highway — viable, seven townships were proposed along the 270-km corridor. “A dozen meetings had been called and state governments were on board,” a ministry official said.

The ministry had also proposed an expressway connecting Delhi and Chandigarh, which was later changed to Delhi-Ludhiana upon PMO’s intervention.

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These projects have been put into deep freeze, thanks to change of guard in the ministry. “The projects have not been shelved but the earlier momentum is not there,” an official said.

New road transport minister Oscar Fernandes, who took charge on June 18, had asked officials to revive the Mumbai-Vadodara expressway project that was shunned by Joshi to favour the Delhi-Jaipur project.

Like Joshi, Fernandes has also shown affinity to his home state Karnataka. He has asked his ministry to work on a new expressway connecting Bangalore and Chennai.

Planning commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia was oblivious of the ministry’s changing priority when he said Delhi-Jaipur and Delhi-Ludhiana expressways could be taken up as national projects for monitoring by PMO.

He also emphasised on the 12th plan target of constructing a 1,000-km expressways at a cost of R16,000 crore. In the second year of the plan period, the ministry had not made any progress.

In such a scenario, achieving the target appears to be a remote possibility. Apparently, even the PMO was not aware of the plans when it decided to put expressway projects under the national monitoring committee headed by principal secretary to PM Pulok Chatterji.

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