Armed with the new Motor Vehicles Act, e-tolling and instruments like InvIT, for Road Transport and Highways Minister Gadkari “funds have never been a problem or will be a problem” when it comes to highways or infrastructure building.
“We have spent Rs 17 lakh crore in the highways and shipping sectors combined in the last five years…Coming five years will see infusion of Rs 15 lakh crore in highways sector alone to provide world-class roads including 22 green expressways,” Gadkari told PTI in an interview here.
The minister said with e-tolling coming into force, the toll income alone will cross Rs 8,000 crore per annum as ever since the FASTag system has been made mandatory at national highways, toll income has seen a jump of Rs 25 crore per day.
A total of 10 million FASTags have been issued till mid-December ever since the government made FASTags mandatory to facilitate digital payments to ensures hassle-free movement across 523 toll plazas. Some relaxation has been given on booths for the time being.
“Ever since the FASTag system has been introduced, it has resulted in increase of Rs 25 crore in toll income per day, which is expected to go up. We expect over Rs 8,000 crore per annum on account of e-tolling,” Gadkari said.
On the agenda for year 2020 is completing the about Rs 12,000-crore Char Dham project for all weather connectivity to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
Besides, he said efforts are on to complete a highway through Uttarakhand for making the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra easy and about 75 per cent of the work has been completed. Currently, the famous pilgrimage place can be reached only through the arduous Lipulekh pass and Nathu La route, opened by China in 2015.
Terming the passage of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 as one of the landmark achievements, Gadkari said its impact will soon be visible with reduction in accidents, which are a cause of major concern.
“There have been encouraging reports that people are following traffic rules.. I am confident in the coming years, there will be huge reduction in accidents,” Gadkari said, adding that there was shortage of 22 lakh drivers pan India and this will be fulfilled by quality training to drivers in driving centres.
Challans worth about Rs 700 crore were issued across the country till November, as per the government.
Nod to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to set up Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT) and monetise national highway projects will prove another milestone in highways development, the minister added.
InvITs are instruments on the pattern of mutual funds and are designed to pool small sums of money from a number of investors to invest in assets that give cash flow over a period of time.
The Cabinet in December authorised NHAI to set up InvIT, which will enable it to monetise completed national highways that have a toll collection track record of at least one year and NHAI reserves the right to levy toll on the identified highway.
It will also facilitate corpus of special institutions to be invested in the infrastructure sector.
“We expect pension and other funds to come forward,” he added.
The minister said roads and highways are the lifeline of the economy, connecting remote and far-flung areas and ensuring efficient transportation on regional as well as pan-India basis and added that development of national highways has a multiplier effect in terms of facilitating trade and enhancing the overall economic development of a region.
On TOT (toll, operate, transfer), he said NHAI has identified more operational national highway stretches under nine more TOT bundles.
So far, the first bundle of TOT projects comprising 10 stretches has been monetised by NHAI. An amount of Rs 9,681.50 crore was generated from the first TOT bundle, while bidding process of TOT bundle 2 was cancelled. Later, NHAI awarded nine project stretches under TOT bundle-3 on November 29 for an amount of Rs 5,011 crore.
Further, the fourth TOT bundle comprising six project stretches has also been invited by NHAI with bid due date of January 14, 2020 with Initial Estimated Concession Value (IECV) of Rs 2,165.77 crore.
The minister said that under Bharatmala, the ministry has identified stretches for development of about 26,200 km length of economic corridors, 8,000 km of inter corridors, 7,500 km of feeder routes, 5,300 km border and international connectivity roads, 4,100 km coastal and port connectivity roads and 1,900 km expressways.