Bituminous road tussle; Arbitral Award for GMR against NHAI

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NH-53

The GMR Pochanpalli Expressways project on NH-7, Andhra Pradesh 412 Lane Km on BOT Annuity based for 20 years. GMR won through international competitive bidding from NHAI in October 2005 and was completed on schedule. Built to world-class standards, four-laning of this road has eased traffic congestion and provided a tremendous boost to trade and commerce in the region.

Pochanpalli Expressways; The bitumen used for road construction

The design of Pochanpalli Expressway’s flexible pavement is primarily governed by the fatigue cracking in the bituminous layer and pavement deformation/ rutting in the subgrade and other non-bituminous layers. The modified bitumen performs better against exposure/ oxidation as compared to ordinary bitumen, which has been proven over the years. This fact has been endorsed by practising engineers as well as academicians. As such, considering the benefits of modified bitumen, especially against oxidation, it is always advocated to use modified bitumen in the wearing coat. Following these considerations, the GMR Pochanpalli Expressways project was completed.In This type of bituminous road the aggregates are bound together by grouting bitumen into the voids of the compacted aggregates. Bitumen gains certain unique properties that are inbuilt in it during its manufacture.

The bitumen road was considered as this material is free from hydrocarbon and hence not toxic. The by-product is refined to maximum to get rid of organic materials and impurities.The bitumen has a highly adhesive nature, which keeps the materials in the road mix bind together under strong bonds. These become stronger when the mix is set i.e. ready for vehicle movement.

Bituminous road application

Factors for considering bituminous road;

  • Generally Bituminous roads do not develop cracks on the surface for long periods.
  • Maintenance cost of this road is also very less.
  • Bituminous roads are waterproof, non-slippery, smooth, durable and it provides a comfortable road surface for the traffic.
  • It can withstand the adverse natural effects caused by heavy rain, excess heat and change in temperature.
Bituminous road surfaces

NHAI raises concern

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), however, was insisting on relaying bituminous coats every 5 years. NHAI has been persisting GMR to give a detailed plan for carrying out 2nd periodic renewal work by 15 June 2020. There were discussions on renewal work on its own at the cost of GMR and levy damages, in case GMR fails to act. There were talks of cost, consequences and termination of the Concession Agreement in the event of failure of GMR to give a detailed plan and carry out renewal work.

Arbitral Award filed by GMR Pochanpalli Expressways

The Objection to Arbitral Award was filed by GMR Pochanpalli Expressways Limited and was argued by Manoj K Singh, Founding Partner of Singh & Associates through videoconferencing. Ankur Mittal, the Advocate, represented NHAI. The argument was heard by Justice C. Hari Shankar.

In the arbitration matter of GMR Pochanpalli Expressways Limited Vs National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the Delhi High Court has stayed the Arbitral Award where under the Arbitral Tribunal directed GMR Pochanpalli Expressways Limited for carrying out renewal work by relaying bituminous coat over the entire stretch of road which forms part of NH-7 being developed by GMR (Hyderabad-Nagpur section). The subject matter relates to the National Highway Project concerning 4 laning of the Adloor Yellareddy-Gundlapochampally section of NH-7.The matter will be heard on July 24, 2020.

High court to decide

The issue for consideration before the High Court is whether the GMR is required to carry out regular periodic maintenance work every five years in the entire stretch of project highways irrespective of the surface roughness index and pavement riding quality. In case the High Court finally decides that the GMR is not required to carry out renewal work every five years if the surface roughness of the pavement is within the permissible limit, it will be a huge relief to the concessionaires across the country who has to unnecessarily undertake renewal work every five years at enormous cost. GMR has also claimed more than Rs. 100 Crore towards expenses incurred by GMR in renewal work undertaken in the year 2014, which will be the subject matter of consideration before the High Court.