India’s new expressway link

Accelerated road construction methods are being used to build an expressway link in India, setting records along the way
Concrete Paving, Compaction & Testing / April 12, 2021 5 mins Read
By Mike Woof
From the air, the size of the operation can be appreciated
From the air, the size of the operation can be appreciated

India’s massive economic growth over the last decade, recent pandemic excepted, has triggered a huge upswing in vehicle ownership. At the same time, the Indian Government has been managing a massive increase in road construction, boosting the country’s network. Building new road links has been crucial to cutting the country’s chronic urban congestion and also improving transport between the major cities and industrial centres, which is further assisting the Indian economy.

Paving quality was optimised, along with the scale of the operatio
Paving quality was optimised, along with the scale of the operatio

With a strong focus on developing a national highway network, India has been following the lead set by the US with its interstate programme, which commenced in 1956 under the leadership of then president Eisenhower. Construction of the interstate network was regarded as crucial for the security of the US by Eisenhower, who had been a general in the US Army and well understood the need for a rapid and efficient mobilisation of the military. However, Eisenhower also appreciated the value of transport for business, with the interstate system delivering an even greater spur to the development of the country’s economy, due to the speed flow of goods it provided.

Many developing nations around the world have learned from the boost the interstate system gave to US economic progress. Both India, as well as its neighbour China, have accelerated their highway construction programmes to help achieve similar goals.

Equipment from other manufacturers also contributed to the record attempt
Equipment from other manufacturers also contributed to the record attempt

One important project underway in India at present is for the construction of the Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway in the State of Gujarat in the west of India. This new route is being built with four lanes in either direction and will improve transport to and from the city of Mumbai, one of India’s most important economic centres for trade and industry. When complete, the expressway will form part of the route connecting India’s capital, Delhi, with Mumbai and will become one of the most important stretches of road in the country.

The expressway is being built for the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the route will be tolled. Its construction will help reduce congestion on existing roads and will boost capacity, cutting journey times for users.

Tipper trucks were used to tip the concrete in front of the slipformer
Tipper trucks were used to tip the concrete in front of the slipformer

In 2018, Indian contractor Patel Infrastructure was awarded the package of works to build two sections of the expressway by NHAI. The independent engineer partnering with the contractor for the two stretches, totalling 63km, was Aarvee Associates Architects Engineers & Consultants. Design expertise was provided by Specialised Engineering Services. Meanwhile, the concessionaires for these sections were Patel Vadodara-Kim Expressway Private Limited for Package III and IRCON Vadodara-Kim Expressway Private Limited for Package II.

The alignment passes through the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli while the Spur to NH-4B lies in Maharashtra.

Of particular note was that the engineering firm and the contractor decided to build the stretch using pavement quality concrete (PQC). Because of the high percentage of large transport trucks expected to use the route, it had been realised that the PQC surfacing would cope well with the heavy traffic load and comparatively high ambient temperatures in daytime. In these conditions the PQC surface would allow a long working life, with low maintenance requirements and no risk of rutting through a combination of the high temperatures and high traffic load.

Material deliveries continued during the night
Material deliveries continued during the night

With much of the alignment for Patel’s stretch of the expressway running through farmland with predicable geology and topology, the road could be built with a comparatively standardised design from km 292 to km 323. The project team realised that the conditions meant an accelerated construction method could be utilised to speed the overall building process.

The full design width of the expressway, with four traffic lanes in either direction plus shoulders, came to 46m. This allowed for a 4.5m median strip, 750mm edge strip on either side and 15m for the traffic lanes on either side. In addition, the design allowed for a 3m paved shoulder plus a 2m earth shoulder on either side. The 15m-wide traffic lanes and 5m shoulders on either side were designed with a -2.5% slope to help with water run-off.

This structure was designed to sit on top of several layers of base materials, with steeper slopes and proper drainage on either side of the full expressway width. Sitting on top of the base, the stretch was designed with a 500mm sub-grade, two upper layers of 100mm and a 300mm thickness of PQC for the running surface.

With the design established, the contractor then commenced its construction work in 2019, with a planned completion date expected in late August 2021.

After securing the two adjacent packages for the project in 2018, Patel Infrastructure opted to buy a concrete slipformer capable of laying four lanes of the expressway in a single pass. The company approached Wirtgen India for the order; the first paver of its kind to be manufactured.

Efficient concrete production was crucial
Efficient concrete production was crucial

Although concrete pavers capable of paving greater widths have been used for applications such as canal construction, this is thought to be the widest use of a slipformer in road building.

Preparatory clearance and earthmoving for the expressway started in 2019 and by the end of the year, Patel was ready to start with the concrete paving work. Wirtgen supplied one of its SP-1600 pavers, specially modified to be able to handle the 18.75m width of PQC required for the contract. This was commissioned in February 2020 and as its capabilities became apparent, Patel Infrastructure made the decision to attempt a world paving record using its new equipment. Two other pavers were also to be used, able to pave widths of 10.5m and 8.25m. Using this equipment, the aim was to lay over 2km of the PQC road surface within a 24-hour period.

However, plans to set the record in 2020 were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. During an internal progress review meeting at Patel Infrastructure’s head office in December 2020, the firm’s managing director and project team decided to make the attempt on the world record on 1st Feb 2021.

Discussions were then held between the technical team from the head office and world record registration agencies to plan the attempt.

For the target to be reached, several key factors had to be set in place.  One of the prime factors was ensuring that there would be sufficient concrete production capabilities. Patel Infrastructure reasoned that planning for 75% of maximum capacity from the six batching plants it was using producing PQC would be sufficient. Two of the plants had outputs of 240m3/hour, two had capacities of 112m3/hour and two had capacities of 60m3/hour. Over the 20-hour supply period and running at a realistic 75% of output, the plants would be able to produce 12,360m3 of the PQC needed. Coordinating the operation of the plants did call for extensive planning of materials supplies, both to the production facilities, and from there to the construction site.

Trucks were on hand to transport the concrete to site
Trucks were on hand to transport the concrete to site

At the chosen site, the construction workers prepared the bed for the section up to DLC level well in advance to allow the laying of PQC for the record attempt. Meanwhile, discussions were also held with technical teams from the equipment suppliers including Wirtgen, Schwing Stetter and JCB. And planning was also carried out by Patel Infrastructure’s procurement team to ensure that the necessary raw materials, including cement, fly ash, dowel bars and tie bars were readily prepared.

Detailed discussions were then held on 20th January 2021 at the main site office to finalise factors such as detailed route plans for the movement of loaded tipper trucks as well as empty tipper trucks and to prepare the site team. All site personnel, equipment operators and truck drivers were briefed on the movement plan so as to optimise efficiency. It is worth noting that 120 trucks were used for the operation, requiring considerable coordination to ensure that each vehicle was in the right place at the right time.

In addition, factors such as the temperature, humidity and wind velocity were also monitored on an hourly basis for the week prior to the date chosen for the record attempt to ensure that the weather conditions would be suitable.

TCS graph

Prior to the attempt, final preparations of the site had to be carried out, including laying the separation membranes, setting out the stringlines, stocking dowel bars and tie bar and stocking the curing compound. At the same time, spare parts for the paver and batching plants were also stocked while the various equipment manufacturers were asked to be on standby mode to provide assistance if required. Activity charts were prepared for each department head while monitoring was also put in place for videoing of the operation.

To give an idea of the material quantities needed, 4,676tonnes of cement, 1169tonnes of fly ash and 350tonnes of ice slab were used for the attempt.

Production of the PQC commenced at 07:00am from all six batching plants and paving then started at 08:00am. During the entire 24-hour period, all six plants produced continuously and the three slipform pavers being used for the project operated without a break.

The pavement quality concrete (PQC) was laid across four lanes for the project and the work equated to 10.32 lane km of roadway. The contractor was able to lay concrete across an area of 48,711m2. A total of 14,613m3 of concrete was laid in the 24-hour period, itself a record. Using this equipment, Patel Infrastructure was able to pave a record 2,580m stretch during 24 hours.

The feat by Patel Infrastructure has been recognised by both the India Book of Records, and the Golden Book of World Records.

The route linking Delhi with Mumbai, the Delhi-Mumbai National Corridor is one of the most important routes in India. Designated the NH 48 section of the Golden Quadrilateral, the route links India’s capital with its financial centre, carrying an appreciably high volume of traffic.

At present, around 80,000 vehicles/day travel along the route and this is expected to grow to 100,000 vehicles/day within the next two to three years, with further increases to come.

The busiest stretch has been the Vadodara-Mumbai National Corridor, featuring three lanes in either direction along much of this section. However, even with three lanes in either direction the existing expressway is struggling to cope with current traffic volumes and is not anticipated to be able to manage with the future anticipated demand.

To address the issue, the Indian Government came up with its Bharatmala Pariyojana scheme for the new route. And to deliver the required capacity, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) opted to build a new tolled expressway with four lanes in either direction running for the full 1,300km between Delhi and Mumbai. When complete in 2022, this will be India’s longest Access Controlled Expressway.

Package III of the Vadodara – Kim Expressway starts from km 292+000 and ends at km 323+000 (31.00 km), with its entire length in Bharuch district in Gujarat State.

For the stretch running from Vadodara to Bharuch, the contract was awarded to Patel Infrastructure. The concession agreement was signed with NHAI on 11th May, 2018 and the expressway concession is for a 17-year term. The concession period includes the design, engineering, financing, procurement, construction of the project; operation and maintenance.

YES Bank Limited has underwritten the funding of the Project. Meanwhile, YBL is inviting participation from banks and financial Institutions for the project loan.

The concrete paving records set by Patel Infrastructure come at a time of rapid highway construction in India. The Ministry of Transport has overseen the construction of 8,169km of National Highway routes (NH) from April 2020 to 15th January 2021 for the financial year 2020-21. The rate of progress for road construction in India has been impressive by any measure, achieving an average speed of around 28.16km/day. This shows an increase in the rate of construction also. During the same period in the previous fiscal year, 7,573km of roads were constructed, at an average speed of 26.11km/day. However, India’s Ministry of Transport was hoping to deliver a construction target of 11,000km of roads having been built for the fiscal year ending on 31st March 2021.

Material supplies had been arranged in advance and safety measures were taken
Material supplies had been arranged in advance and safety measures were taken

The Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway (VME) alignment passes through the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Union territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, while the Spur to NH-4B runs through Maharashtra.

Much of the route passes through agricultural land, with the landowners having been compensated accordingly. The industrial area in Surat meanwhile is focussed primarily on textile industries, which are associated with the production of yarn as well as manufacturing of textiles, including a large percentage of synthetic goods, with much of the output destined for export from India to other countries.

Bharuch is an administrative district of Gujarat located in the southern portion of the state, and the district covers an area of 5,253km2. Bharuch is a centre for industry in sectors as diversified such as chemicals and petrochemicals, textiles and pharmaceuticals. The nearby Dahej port means that the area also has a major focus on the shipping trade as well as ship building activities. Overall, this strong industrial activity ensures that the roads in the area are well used by heavy vehicles carrying goods and raw materials.

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