Logistics

Highways turn death traps in Govt's effort to cut costs

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018

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Under pressure from the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission to reduce cost of building highways, safety is becoming a casualty, say highway engineers.

National highways and State highways constitute about six per cent of the total road network, but account for 60 per cent of fatalities due to road accidents.

To reduce cost of building highways, the safety features such as underpasses, flyovers, tend to become a casualty at design level.

Talking about a national highway development project between Delhi and Agra, Mr A.P. Bahadur, former Chief Engineer, Ministry of Road transport and Highways, said, “The original (proposed) project cost for building that stretch of highway was an estimated Rs 8.56 crore a km. We were told to reduce the cost.” The cost was subsequently lowered to Rs 3.6 crore a km.

“To do this, the features that were knocked off included 15 minor bridges, 29 vehicular underpass, 59 pedestrian underpasses, 25 flyovers, and stretches of service roads,” Mr Bahadur said while talking in a seminar on road safety to highway engineers and design consultants. Mr Bahadur is now a public-private partnership (PPP) expert in ADB.

“Don't (design) make unsafe or cheap highways. Put your foot down. Let it be recorded on file that you suggested these features but had to compromise on suggestions to reduce costs,” he advised. Several consultants present in the seminar reiterated that they are under pressure to control costs while designing highways.

Earlier, the Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Dr C.P. Joshi, also said that road design should not be an ad-hoc generalisation to justify adopting some inferior and unsafe features to save money.

Suggesting that finding an appropriate balance should be our foremost priority, he asked the road engineers not to compromise with the appropriate and safe road design. The workshop was jointly organised by National Highways Authority of India and Indian Road Congress.

mamuni@thehindu.co.in

Published on April 01, 2011

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