Golden Quadrilateral Project
In August 1998, the NDA Government under AB Vajpayee announced an ambitious national highways development plan and its first phase consisted of the Golden Quadrilateral project, which essentially meant improving road connectivity among the major cities situated in four corners of the country.
The total road length, which was to be four-laned in the process, was 5,846 kilometres or less than 10 per cent of total length of the national highways. This project was slated to be completed by 2005, yet it was completed only in 2012.
However, undeterred by the slow pace of progress, the government announced more ambitious projects and setting even more unrealistic deadlines. The second phase of NHDP was announced to cover the 7,300 kilometres long North-South Corridor connecting Srinagar in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, including spur from Salem to Kanyakumari (Via Coimbatore and Kochi) and East-West Corridor connecting Silchar in the east to Porbandar in the west.
As of April 2012, 84.26% of the project was completed. It also includes Port connectivity and other projects — 1,157 km.
The third phase of NHDP involves the upgrade 12,109 of national highways on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis, which takes into account high-density traffic, connectivity of state capitals via NHDP Phase I and II, and connectivity to centres of economic importance. There are plans beyond this. As of now about 24 per cent of the total length of National Highways (NHs) is single lane/intermediate lane, about 51 per cent is two-lane standard, and the balance 25 per cent is four-lane standard or more.
The table given above show that NHDP projects have been much delayed and the deadline seem to be unrealistic right since the beginning. However, government has taken up steps recently to expedite the projects under NHDP. They are as follows:
- Formation of a High Level Expert Settlement Advisory Committee for one-time settlement of old cases pending in courts. This is for contract disputes.
- Government plans to bring in the new mode of Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC). Projects that are not viable under PPP such as those in far-flung areas, would have to be undertaken under EPC mode. (discussed in next issue)
- In order to remove the bottlenecks and ensure seamless movement of traffic and collection of toll as per the notified rates, the government had decided to introduce passive radio frequency identification (RFID) based on electronic toll collection.
- Environment clearance (EC) excepted for areas less than 5 hectare, for highway projects.
- State governments have been requested to constitute high-level committees under their Chief Secretaries (as Nodal Officers) with the NHAI’s Regional Officer as Member-Secretary, for monitoring pre-construction activities for NHAI projects. Most states have constituted the committees.