NHAI to prioritise road projects on financial viability
Projects with high traffic density, quick monetisation to be taken up first
Eyeing asset monetisation in a big way, the government is now proposing to take up projects based on financial viability under the ambitious Bharatmala programme that entails construction of 60,000 km of national highways across the country.
Projects with high traffic density, and their ability to be monetised almost immediately after completion, and yield revenue thereby will be taken up first. The idea is to recycle assets faster, an official with direct knowledge of the matter said, requesting anonymity. “We want to see that projects are monetised as soon as they are ready, and the funds can be put into building more roads,” he said, adding that the government will resort to a combination of toll securitisation and toll-operate-transfer (TOT) to make debt sustainable.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been exploring different ways of financing to meet its hefty road construction targets, amid limited budgetary resources. “Bharatmala will be implemented as per financial viability of projects,” said another official, adding that projects that are financially more viable will be taken up on a priority basis, so that they can be brought to yield more revenue.
NHAI is also working on a policy along the same lines, the contours of which are not yet finalised, a third government official said, asking not to be identified. “We are working on a strategy…. We have a long list of projects in Bharatmala... We have to see, that stretches with high traffic density will be prioritised, and then (we can) take on other projects later on,” the official said.
The first phase of the Bharatmala programme approved in 2017 includes construction of 24,800 km of national highways, in addition to 10,000 km of balance road works under the National Highways Development Programme. The initial cost estimated for Bharatmala-I was Rs 5.35 lakh crore. This may now go up to Rs 10 lakh crore on account of rising land acquisition costs, the government has said.
A total of 225 projects, with aggregate length of nearly 10,000 km, have been approved by the government so far, minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said.