The National Highways Authority of India or NHAI, was formed in 1988. It’s the nodal agency of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in India. NHAI looks after the management of the complete network of National Highways in the country. It is currently undertaking developmental activities under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) in phases aimed at the improvement of more than 25,000 km of arterial routes of the National Highway Network in India. NHAI is also responsible for implementing other projects on National Highways, primarily road connectivity to major ports in India. Besides NHAI, State Public Works Department (PWDs) and Border Road Organisation (BRO) carry out the development of the National Highway.
NHAI is continuously working towards the facilitation of enhancing digital upgradation, toll management, project bidding standardisation etc. Here are the major announcements and project updates of NHAI till April 2023.
Major Announcements and Project updates of NHAI in April 2023.
NHAI hiked toll fees from April 1, Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway Exempted
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has implemented its toll fee hike of up to 7 percent across the country. The toll revision is an annual affair as per the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008. In 2022, toll tariffs saw a hike of up to 15 percent for all types of vehicles plying on national highways. The average toll tax being collected across the country’s expressways is Rs 2.19 per kilometre currently.
Expressway routes that see a high number of four-wheeler traffic such as the Delhi-Meerut Expressway, will see a hike of Rs 5 in toll fees. Other major routes such as the Eastern Peripheral Expressway and Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway will get costlier by 5 to 7 percent. Minimum toll tariffs on major routes will range between Rs 35 to Rs 105. Toll prices for heavy vehicles will see a hike of as much as Rs 40 from current rates.
Recent data reveals that in FY 2022, toll worth Rs 33,881 crore was collected on national highways, a 21 percent jump from FY 2021. Moreover, toll prices across the country have risen by 32 percent, since 2018-19. One of the indirect effects of such toll hikes is the increase in cost for essential items that are distributed across the country through freight. The increase in already inflated essential commodity prices impacts the lives of ordinary citizens.
However, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) decided to suspend the recent toll fee hike on the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway indefinitely, after facing criticism from the public and commuters. The Expressway was inaugurated in April.
The toll fee increase, which amounted to a 22% jump and was supposed to take effect from Saturday, had become a contentious issue in poll-bound Karnataka. Pratap Simha, BJP MP from Mysuru, had a round of discussions with the NHAI chairperson, project director of the Expressway and chief engineer Vivek Jaiswal on the withdrawal of the revision. Simha expressed his difficulty in accepting the toll fee hike, even though it was per NHAI’s annual rules, as minor works related to the highway and service roads are still underway at various points along the Expressway. BT Sridhar, who is the NHAI project director, confirmed that the decision to revise the toll charges has been put on hold.
NHAI makes ‘BBB’ or higher credit compulsory to bid for National Highway (NH) projects
For bidding of National Highway (NH) National Highway (NH) projects built in public-private partnership projects Infrastructure construction firms now must have BBB’ or higher credit rating. If any bidder doesn’t meet the credit rating benchmark, it will have to submit a “letter of comfort” from its bankers or financial institution, while bidding for the project.
This is for the first time the highway ministry has set such a parameter for private construction entities. The move comes amid reports of contractors bagging projects under Build Operate and Transfer (BOT-Toll) and Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) facing difficulty in arranging funds to start work, which delays the project implementation.
The ‘BBB’ rating, classified as investment grade, indicates that expectations of default risk are currently low and the capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered adequate.
Several projects have also been delayed because many highway builders are facing a fund crunch.
The NHAI Sukhad Yatra app is set to be updated
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is set to upgrade its Sukhad Yatra, a mobile application (App), which provides road quality-related information and enables highway users to report any accident or pothole on the roads. The idea is to upgrade Sukhad Yatra mobile app as a world-class unified platform for highway users in India for road-related information or services with a strong in-built highway grievance redressal and escalation mechanism.
The upgraded version is likely to have a slew of new features such as information on fuel stations, wayside amenities, hospitals, banks, and police stations along the highways and details of important stretches — expressways and state highways. The revamped app will also provide information on road accidents, road under-maintenance status and blind spots.
The app will also help in locating parking facilities, dormitories for drivers, miner workshops for repair along with air filling station, spare parts shop, helipads for emergency evacuation, tourist sites, and will also be equipped with weather forecast facilities.
The parliamentary standing committee on Transport, tourism and Culture has also recommended adding more services to the mobile application and improving complaints escalation and redressal mechanisms. The 31-member panel of parliamentarians headed by YSR Congress Party MP V Vijayasai Reddy also suggested NHAI to ensure that the app is available in Hindi and other regional languages to facilitate more users.
FASTag-Based Payments at Forest Entry Points enabled by NHAI
To facilitate a seamless and efficient entry process for vehicles entering into the forest area, Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IHMCL) a company incorporated by NHAI to carry out Electronic Tolling, inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve spread across the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The initiative aims to provide a FASTag-based payment system at Forest entry points and will extend the benefit of a collection of Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC) fees via FASTag at various entrance points of the Tiger Reserve.
The FASTag system employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to enable automatic toll payments at toll plazas and affixation of FASTag on all 4-wheelers & above vehicles have been mandated across India. By enabling FASTag – based payments at forest entry points, visitors can avoid long queues and delays, allowing them to savor the natural beauty and wildlife of these areas without any hassles.
This partnership between IHMCL and the Forest Department is a significant step towards promoting sustainable tourism and preserving natural resources by curbing vehicular emissions at the forest entry points.
NHAI to develop 10,000 km of Optic Fibre Cables (OFC) infrastructure in India by 2025
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is set to develop around 10,000 kilometres of Optic Fibre Cables (OFC) infrastructure across India by the fiscal year 2025, an official statement has said. State-owned NHAI’s special purpose vehicle National Highways Logistics Management Limited (NHLML) will be handling the project of implementing the network of “digital highways” by developing integrated utility corridors along the national highways to develop Optic Fibre Cables infrastructure.
As per the report, around 512 km on the Hyderabad-Bangalore corridor and 1,367 kms on the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway have been identified by the authority to carry out the pilot tracks for the development of digital highways. The OFC network will facilitate internet connectivity to remote regions across India and will assist in accelerating the country’s shift to the modern-age telecommunication technologies like 5G & 6G. The 246-km Delhi-Dausa-Lalsot section of the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway was recently inaugurated. The track features a 3-meter dedicated utility corridor which will be used for the purpose of laying optical fibre cables. This will play the key role for rolling-out a 5G facility in the region.
The work for building Optic Fibre Cables (OFC) infrastructure along the national highways has already begun with a target to complete the project in about a year. The OFC network will allow direct plug-and-play or ‘fibre-on-demand’ model for the telecom/internet services.The network will be leased out on a fixed rate allocation system on an ‘open for all’ basis via a web portal to eligible users. It also added that an official OFC allotment policy is in the process of finalisation, with consultations being held with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as well as the department of telecommunications (DoT).
NHAI to build Wayside Amenities for helipad, drone landing facilities along national highways
The government plans to develop helipads and drone landing facilities along the national highways (NHs) to tackle emergencies, the union minister for road transport and highways.
While speaking at the Indian Merchants Chamber event in Mumbai, the minister for Road Transport and Highways said that National Highways Authority of India is creating world-class “Wayside Amenities (WSA)” at more than 600 locations along the National Highways which will also have helipads and drone landing facilities to assist in dealing with medical emergencies, such as car accidents and organ transplants
Mr. Gadkari, government also plans to develop these facilities as wayside amenities:
- Good toilets
- Dormitories for truck drivers
- Facilities for charging electric vehicles
- Trauma centres
- Retail outlets for promoting handicrafts and locally-manufactured products
Several other facilities would be available to ease road travel for commuters, including fuel stations, bank ATMs and medical clinics. These amenities would be set up every 40-60 km of the existing and upcoming national highways and expressways.
Further, the WSA will provide opportunities for investors, developers, operators and retailers. All the upcoming highway projects will have such provisions. This will also boost the local economy and create jobs for the locals. The NHAI is in the process of awarding 150 wayside amenities for the FY 2023-24.
NHAI project updates in April 2023
NHAI to complete the ECR expansion work on Mayiladuthurai – Karaikal stretch by July 2024
National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has accelerated the pace of East Coast Road expansion works in Mayiladuthurai and Karaikal districts and intends to complete them by July 2024.
NHAI has been implementing the project to widen National Highway-32 connecting Chennai and Thoothukudi through East Coast Road. The infrastructure development project is crucial for the coastal districts of the State as it connects Chennai and Thoothukudi ports via Karaikal port. The project also gains significance as it would improve connectivity between coastal areas.
The expansion works are under way at an estimated cost of ₹2,661.75 crore for a 55-km stretch from Kadavacherry bordering Cuddalore – Mayiladuthurai districts near Sirkazhi to Vanjore near Karaikal – Nagapattinam districts.
Gurugram sections of Dwarka Expressway to be completed by June
The work on the Gurugram sections of the Dwarka Expressway will be completed by the end of June, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials said on Thursday, adding that the cloverleaf near the Kherki Daula toll plaza, which is a key structure that will connect Dwarka Expressway with Delhi-Jaipur highway and the Southern Peripheral Road, is ready and undergoing load testing currently.
The 29 km long Dwarka Expressway is being built at a cost of ₹9,000 crore and it will connect Shiv Murti on Delhi-Jaipur highway near Mahipalpur with Kherki Daula after passing through several residential sectors of Gurugram. The highway project was taken over by the NHAI in 2018 and work on it was started in 2019.
NHAI identifies 16 black spots on Mumbai- Bengaluru highway in Pune & Satara
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has identified a total of 16 black spots along the 140 km stretch of the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway in Pune and Satara districts and started taking short-term remedial measures.
Of the 16 black spots, 10 are identified in Pune and six in Satara districts (see graphic), showed the list of such points updated by NHAI. Union road transport and highways ministry and Indian Road Congress norms state that a 500m patch of a road registering five or more accidents with fatalities or grievous injuries in three years should be considered a black spot.
Five people were killed and 22 others were injured after a multi-axle truck rammed a private bus that was going from Kolhapur to Dombivli in Thane on the stretch between the Katraj viaduct and Navale bridge in Pune. The short-term measures for these black spots have been carried out as per the recommendations. But long-term measures, such as increasing width, reducing gradient and ensuring additional lanes are being worked out with the local authorities.
Discussed above are different updates of NHAI activities as in April 2023. NHAI has been entrusted with the responsibility of the National Highways Development Project along with other minor projects, it is vested in the development, maintenance and management of approximately 50000 km of National Highways.
To explore for updates on NHAI, keep watching this space.
References – indianexpress.com, timesofindia.indiatimes.com, pib.gov.in, business-standard.com, hindustantimes.com, financialexpress.com