Govt aims 45 km of roads a day in FY24 Apextalk

New Delhi: India’s highway construction is projected to accelerate this fiscal year, setting a record for the highest-ever road length built in a year, despite a potential economic slowdown due to global factors.

The ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) has internally set a goal to construct at least 45 km of highways a day this year, according to two people privy to the development. At this pace, a record 16,000 km of roads will be developed in a year.

This ambitious objective follows the ministry’s failure to reach its targeted road construction for the past two fiscal years after achieving a record 13,298 km in the pandemic-stricken year of 2020-21, at a rate of 36.4 km per day. The pace then slowed to approximately 29 km in FY22 and is predicted to remain unchanged in FY23. Data available up to February 2023 shows a mere 24 km of daily road work last fiscal, resulting in 8,064 km of highway construction.

Graphic: Mint

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Graphic: Mint

“Road construction will pick up pace in the current fiscal as awards of roads improved substantially in the last few months, and many of the projects where work was nearing completion, especially in the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, will become operational soon. If adverse weather pattern does not impact work this year, record levels of highways will become operational in FY24,” said one of the two people cited earlier.

While the government aims to achieve a daily construction rate of 45 km, the official target may be set slightly lower, closer to last year’s 12,200 km, as delays in clearances, land acquisition, and increasing input costs could hinder some unprofitable road projects with unattractive traffic projections for investors.

Queries sent to the ministry of road transport and highways remained unanswered till press time. But officials said 45 km is a modest target, and the actual work accomplished in FY24 may be more.

All road construction agencies have been asked to expedite highway construction and address issues holding up progress swiftly. The ministry is also expected to hold several high-level inter-ministerial meetings with state government officials to resolve project-related challenges and initiate work immediately.

The central government has increased MoRTH’s budgetary allocation by 36% to 2.7 trillion, reflecting its commitment to complete delayed road projects. The government is also eager to finalize all significant road projects before key state elections later this year and the general elections in 2024.

Highway construction in the pre-pandemic period of FY20 spanned 10,237 km at a daily rate of 28.04 km. The pace increased during the first pandemic year (FY21), when lockdowns indirectly accelerated construction, resulting in a record 13,327 km of highways built at 36.51 km per day. In FY22, the rate slowed again to 10,457 km at 28.64 km per day.

For FY22, the road ministry initially aimed to construct 14,600 km of highways—or 40 km per day. However, it later revised the goal to 12,000 km. Similarly, for FY23, the target remains low at 12,200 km, even though road minister Nitin Gadkari previously suggested that 18,000 km of highway construction at a daily rate of 50 km could be considered.

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