Government lowers target for highway construction (Lead)

April 26th, 2010 - 8:34 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) The Indian government has lowered its target for building highways to 12-13 km a day this financial year from 20 km, Road and Transport Minister Kamal Nath said here Monday.
“To do 20 km of highways a day, you need to have in place 20,000 km of work-in-progress. We still have a long way to go in this regard and we need to ensure that roads that are built are not at crossroads with the people… For that (target of 20 km per day), we need to develop a system which requires adequate infrastructure, manpower and technology,” said Nath, inaugurating the ‘India Infrastructure Summit 2010′ organised by FICCI.

He also said that the government proposes to introduce a national permit scheme for freight movement by road next month for hurdle-free transportation of goods across India.

The government last year had set a target of building 20 km of highways every day as part of its plans to improve infrastructure, crucial to the country’s economic growth. It has allowed 100 percent foreign direct investment in the sector.

But so far it has been able to build less than 10 km a day due to problems in acquiring land and awarding contracts.

The Minister said the government will award contracts to build 15,000 km of highways by March 2011, of which 6,000 km is the backlog.

He added that in the last 11 months of 2009-10, 32 road projects were awarded as against 8 projects in 2008-09. “The expectation is that by the end of the current financial year about 50 road projects will have been awarded,” he said.

An Ernst and Young report on infrastructure, released Monday, suggested that the government should provide additional incentives to developers and increase the duration of concession period for projects to attract international bidders for the development of the road sector.

“Roads are the most preferred mode of transportation in the country and account for 85 percent of passenger traffic and 65 percent of freight traffic. National Highways, which account for only two percent of the total road length, carry 40 percent of the total traffic,” it said.

With a total length of 3.3 million km, India has the third largest road network in the world next to the United States and China.

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