Govt planning NHAI revamp to make highway projects more viable: Gadkari

At the same time the minister said despite decentralisation of powers and empowering project directors and regional officers of NHAI to take decisions for projects up to Rs 50 crore
To make highway projects more financially viable, the Union government is once again planning to switch strategy, and this time it is looking at revamping the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

While addressing an Assocham webinar, Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday said the government was taking steps in this direction.

The total length of national highways at present is about 150,000 km, about 2 per cent of the length of all roads, but they carry about 40 per cent of total traffic.
“We are taking steps for the revamp of NHAI....major reforms are needed in the Authority,” Gadkari said.

The minister said the need of the hour was to devise bankable projects suitable for the market with acute precision and accuracy, citing how the NHAI devised Rs 5,000 crore highway monetisation projects under TOT 
(toll-operator-transfer) mode that only foreign players could bid for.

“It took six months to convince them (Authority) to come out with small Rs 500 crore packages for asset monetisation under TOT, as Rs 5,000-crore package can only be bid by foreign players,” Gadkari said, adding “the project mode should be market-driven and bankable” and not just decision taken in “boardrooms”.

Likewise, instead of engineering, procurement and construction mode, the NHAI was in favour of build-operate-transfer mode for building 3,000 km of highways, but tenders were not yet out, he said in the webinar on 
Covid-19 Impact and Investment Opportunities in Roads and Highways.
Gadkari also cited delays in setting up road side amenities and stressed the government was planning to set up 2,000 petrol pumps along highways.

He also expressed displeasure over NHAI seeking time from players for reconciliation of disputes, adding his happened in 22 cases.

At the same time the minister said despite decentralisation of powers and empowering project directors and regional officers of the NHAI to take decisions for projects up to Rs 50 crore, a large number of such issues were being referred to the headquarters.

He said all transfers in the NHAI had been made digital.


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