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Roads ministry gives expressways the SEZ turn

To lure real-estate developers to participate in government’s expressways programme,the road transport and highways ministry plans to allow...

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi |
November 18, 2009 3:15:39 am

To lure real-estate developers to participate in government’s expressways programme,the road transport and highways ministry plans to allow them to create special economic zones (SEZs) along these superfast routes. The government plans to invite bide for four expressways under National Highways Development Programme (NHDP) phase VI to be built at an estimated cost of over Rs 20,000 crore over the next six months.

“The plan is to develop special economic zones around the expressways and provide additional traffic,increasing the viability of the projects,” roads secretary Brahm Dutt said today while unveiling a joint study by Transport Corporation of India and Indian Institute of Management (Calcutta) on operational efficiencies of movement of freight traffic in India .

Ministry officials,who have already held the first round of talks with major real-estate developers for the proposed projects,have got a positive feed-back. “In the second round the minister himself would be meeting these developers to discuss the idea,” Dutt said. Various models will be looked at for executing the expressway projects,including the current build-operate-transfer model and the one followed by Uttar Pradesh for development of the Ganga expressway.

Under the system,a construction company or developer having varied experience will be appointed by the government to prepare a detailed study-cum-plan of the entire stretch to be developed along the road. The company will then propose a development model for the land adjacent to the national highway or expressway (as the case may be) and will quote a project cost. The government has identified four projects including Mumbai-Vadodara link,Chennai-Bangalore and Kolkata-Dhanbad for phase VI of NHDP. The idea is to ensure fast movement of people and goods on an access-controlled route.

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This is,in fact,necessary as almost 65 per cent of freight moves on roads today and suffers 15 per cent loss on account of poor conditions of roads and multiple stops.

Even as a separate expressways division has been set up within the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for the time being,the ministry plans to set up a separate statutory authority for it. “A draft expressways authority bill is being prepared by the Planning Commission and it is almost 80 per cent complete. Once complete,the draft will be discussed with all stake holders and finalised,” Dutt said. The Planning Commission has assigned the task of drafting the bill to Gajendra Haldea,who was the principle author of the model concession agreement for the roads sector.

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