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Golden Quadrilateral Phase-I to be completed next year

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Once completed, the GQ project would cut down travel time by 20-25 per cent. The likely financial benefits to the economy, as per the World Bank estimate, mainly on account of lower fuel costs, is said to be around Rs 8,000 crore per annum.

KOLKATA, Sept. 19

THE first phase of the 5,846-km long `Golden Quadrilateral' (GQ) project of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), linking the four metros of Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai, will be completed by the end of next year.

The non-access control four-laning NH project, which requires alignment along the existing roads, with underpasses and flyovers near important crossings is likely to be completed ahead of schedule at the insistence of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Out of the 38-lakh-km of roadways in India (the second largest in the world), national highways account for 58,000 km and the balance fall within the purview of the States. These, however, take care of 40 per cent of the total traffic handled by all roads.

The proposed national highways development programme of the Government entails huge investments, as each km of NH costs nearly Rs 4-4.5 crore to build.

Participating in an interactive session organised by the Merchants Chamber of Commerce (MCC) here, Mr Ashoke Joshi, Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India, said laying of nearly 1,000-km of roads on the GQ project had already been completed, and awarding of contracts for the construction of only some 136-km roads was now left.

Once completed, the GQ project would cut down travel time by some 20-25 per cent, said Mr Joshi. The likely financial benefits to the economy, as per the World Bank estimate, mainly on account of lower fuel costs, is said to be around Rs 8,000 crore per annum.

Responding to queries on the funds side, he said some Rs 6,000 crore had already been collected on account of the Central Road Fund, by way of levy of a cess of Re 1 on every litre of diesel and Re 1 on every litre of petrol.

Mr Joshi said 50 per cent of this corpus was going towards building of rural roads, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, and another Rs 1,000 crore to the various States for building non-NH roadways. The distribution, he pointed out, was on the basis of a clearly defined formula, worked out essentially on the basis of fuel sold in the respective beneficiary State and the geographical limits.

In order to impart equity to such distribution, Mr Joshi said some 60 per cent disbursement was based on the fuel sold and the balance 40 per cent on area of the State, so that no State felt deprived. Utilisation of this money by the States so far had been somewhat slow, largely owing to difficulties in the awarding of contracts or floating of tenders.

Mr Joshi said the balance (out of the Rs 6,000 crore collected through the fuel cess) of Rs 2,000 crore was being given to the National Highways Authority of India to help it raise resources from the market by way of bonds or other borrowing instruments. A portion of the cess collections, some Rs 330 crore, is given to the Railways for building road ove bridges.

Asked on the proposed North-South and East-West express corridors, Mr Joshi said contracts for work to begin would be awarded by the end of the current year, and the project was expected to be completed by 2007.

He said it would normally take some 20-25 months to finalise a major road construction contract.

Denying the charge that contracts were mostly awarded to foreign construction agencies, he said out of the 136 contracts awarded (for the NHDP programme) so far, only 30 had gone to foreign agencies, 30 to joint ventures with Indian parties and the remaining to all Indian parties. The average size of a single road construction contract is put at Rs 150-200 crore.

Mr Sunil Kanoria, President of Merchant Chamber of Commerce, said there was an increasing need for NHAI to co-ordinate its efforts with the various States for the development and continuation of road projects taken up during the NHDP programme.

He said the unsuccessful model of NHAI for highways development could be replicated, of course with suitable changes and amendments for development of roads in various States.

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