Rajasthan is one of the most favoured tourist destinations of India for both domestic and international traffic on account of its rich array of historical forts, palaces, art and culture.
In terms of area, Rajasthan is the country's largest state. Its size and strategic location means that it is traversed by substantial traffic linking the neighbouring states to the north and south.
The National Highway (NH) road corridors currently accommodating this traffic are the NH-8, NH-11, NH-12, NH-14 and NH-15. Using these corridors, however, presently requires vehicles to plan indirect routes and travel substantially longer distances than strictly necessary from a purely geographic standpoint.
The Government of Rajasthan (GoR) therefore began to conceptualise the idea of developing a series of linking roads to enable more direct and rapid north-south connectivity. Four road corridors, aggregating to more than 1,000km, were duly earmarked for development (to two-lane paved/hard shoulder configuration), in line with world-class standards.
Through this ground-breaking new Mega Highways Project, the GoR has demonstrated its commitment to proactively improving the state's infrastructure, with a view to boosting industrial and economic growth, and fully leveraging the region's enormous business and tourism potential.
Certainly, the development of these roads represents an important milestone, one that is expected to significantly enhance Rajasthan's attractiveness as an investment and cultural destination, and which could serve as a dynamic blueprint for similar road development projects across the country.
Indeed, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS), a leading company, which has extensive expertise in developing similar road projects in other states, has actively associated with the GoR in positioning the Mega Highways Project as one of the country's iconic infrastructure projects.
Day-to-day operation involves user fee collection, and opens up other revenue generating activities, such as land banking. A number of beneficial value-added services have also been set up, including 24-hour accident relief and highway patrolling, emergency/SOS helplines at regular intervals, and on-call vehicle breakdown and tow-away services. In addition, a number of environmental, social and tourism initiatives have been developed along the roadside and in adjoining villages, together with a comprehensive range of road user amenities such as restaurants, shops and kiosks.
The cost of the Mega Highways Project, estimated at Rs 1,500 crores (approximately US$335 million) has been funded by an innovative and dynamic financing plan. [Crores are a widely-used Indian unit of measurement: 1 crore = 10 million].
Pursuant to this, the project has been implemented through a far-reaching Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, the first time such a mechanism has been proposed in India for developing such long stretches of road.
The scheme has notably enabled the GoR to fulfil its strategic vision proficiently and cost-effectively by leveraging the budgetary resources of the state government to attract private capital in road projects; ensure efficient utilisation of these funds to create good quality road assets without cost and time over-runs; establish appropriate systems and contractual structures for effective operations and maintenance of the road assets, and stimulate incentives for design, construction, and operation and maintenance mechanisms that are aimed at minimising full life-cycle costs.
Once again, a keyword for the project has been replicability. The PPP model adopted could be readily emulated elsewhere in the road sector, particularly where liability is based mainly on diverted traffic. Indeed, the approach has already been replicated for about ten new projects taken up, or being taken up, by RIDCOR in Rajasthan. International transportation officials gather at key IRF Workshop
Join us 16-18 August, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, when several top-level international transportation officials have confirmed their attendance at IRF's 2nd Annual Executive Workshop on Performance-Based Contract and Evaluating Asset Condition.
The workshop will also feature presentations from leading international private sector companies such as Colas Infrastructure, Delcan, Halcrow, Resource International, and Transfield Services.
Among speakers for this exciting programme are Les Hawker, Asset Manager, Transport for London, UK; Moh Lali, Executive Director, Alberta Transportation, Canada; Connie Sorrell, Chief of System Operations, Virginia Department of Transportation (DOT), USA; Kirk Steudle, Director, Michigan DOT, USA; Doug Wipperman, Contract Innovations Policy Specialist, Ministry of Transportation, Ontario, Canada, and Butch Wlaschin, Director, Office of Asset Management, Federal Highway Administration, USA.
In a time of constrained budgets, the workshop is designed to help road operators and agencies around the world understand and learn to apply performance-based maintenance contracts to lower operating costs.
Featuring new case studies, lessons learned and roundtable discussions led by top public and private sector experts from Canada, the United States and Europe, this is a must-attend for road and transport agency executives as well as relevant technical staff, consultants, contractors, academics, researchers and other engineers and managers involved or interested in operations and maintenance.
The advantages of the project for the GoR are immediately evident. The project has notably enabled the achievement of a major thrust to infrastructure development within a mere 24 months. This has been accompanied by high-quality service levels and huge savings, estimated at some Rs 3,000 crores (approximately $670 million) in maintenance costs over 30 years. Moreover, the government's own investment benefits from a return on equity of 15%/year. Its initial support is paid back, and it also receives available surplus from the project.
The initiative has further been shown to have multiple ancillary benefits across the board. First there are direct perks to road users in terms of vehicle operating cost and travel time savings, notably due to improved accessibility and road quality. Safety has also been enhanced through the provision of modern road furniture and signage.
These impacts have been accompanied by a number of indirect benefits, such as tangible improvements in the health and education of local populations, a significant appreciation in the value of adjacent land and improvements in environmental standards, aesthetics and awareness.
In a wider perspective, the project has additionally been marked by various important spin-off effects.
The new, more direct north-south road corridors will increasingly attract more of the important traffic currently plying other competing routes, thereby opening up enormous potential for developmental activities in the region, including scope for improvement of cross-connecting interior roads to further extend the network and boost the economies of new areas.
Already, a large number of small-scale industrial units and several medium/large industrial units have relocated to, or established themselves in, the area. The improved roads made possible by the project will not only enable more economical transportation of goods but also spur tourism by generating employment and developing a ready market for the region's rich and varied handicrafts, thereby contributing significantly to the socio-economic development of the state.
Employment has also, of course, received a direct boost from the large number of local people engaged for work on the project itself, and agricultural activity in the area has experienced an upsurge given that it is now much easier to transport produce, particularly perishables, to new markets in adjoining districts and growth centres.
In short, the project has opened the hinterlands of the new road corridors to a host of new large-scale economic and social development opportunities.
In this respect, it aptly characterises and fulfils the aims and ambition of the InARoaD Awards, which are aimed at people who are passionate about their achievements in advancing transport in developing countries and emerging economies, and are prepared to invest their time in presenting a project file in exchange for public recognition of the excellence of their work.