The NHAI Crisis Part 2: Making Roads the Right Way!
While we need more roads in India, there are several issues that we need to resolve, including improving old and existing roads, widening them and adding services along with the roads.  As I mentioned in my previous article, we need to bring in practical perspective to the road infrastructure. However, what we need is a system—not simply individual projects. The projects should work together to achieve better transportation performance. What does that mean? 
 
Better Highways Systems Have Defined Characteristics
 
In general, a good highway system must allow for one-entry-one-exit between destinations. Thus, if you are travelling from Mumbai to Delhi, the vehicle should enter on the highway once and exit at Delhi. It should be able to by-pass all the cities in between.
 
Low fatigue for long distance means two things—allowing high average speed and longer hours of travel. It should be possible to operate transport vehicles 24x7 (using driver pairs). There should be adequate rest stops facilities. 
 
The hub & spoke design of highway system makes it economical to use large capacity trucks on trunk routes and small capacity vehicles to reach the city. This means the long-haul trucks should be able to get in and out of truck parks or logistic hubs quickly. It means we need many logistic hubs wherever there is a flow of goods out of the highway. The size of these hubs will depend upon the size of trade in that place. 
 
The highway system should also be isolated, i.e., local traffic should not interfere with the highways. It can be done by using exits at longer intervals. This means highways need to be fenced. We cannot have grain laid out, cows sitting and people having picnic in the median garden in a highway system. This reduces the speed on the highways and creates bottlenecks or worse accidents. I have seen this on GQ roads.
 
Throughput design means that we aim for certain number of vehicles per day between city pairs and compute the number of vehicles per day in each of the segments of the roads. The throughput is estimated using adequate buffers based on models that use various variables such as economic activity between city pairs etc. Thus, within a Mumbai-Delhi highway, you may need different lanes. Mumbai to Vadodara may need six lane road, Vadodara to Jaipur may be four lane whereas between Jaipur to Delhi may need six lanes.
 
Transportation systems are flow-based design systems. The flow of traffic is the focus. Anything that stops the flow leads to losses. This means seamless lane modifications rather than abrupt ones. It means having buffer capacity even at exits.
 
Thus, our Mumbai Delhi highway easier exits for Surat, Ahmedabad, and types of projects Vadodara city itself. If the volume is not designed properly, then you will end up with bottlenecks at these exits.
 
Four Types of Projects
 
The projects that together will become an efficient highway system are of four basic types—each with different earning and benefits.
 
Revenue earning projects benefit the stakeholders—either through reduced time, reduced fatigue, lower cost, and more capacity. The traffic on these roads is ready to pay for these advantages. Such routes have a mix of people and goods traffic. These routes can have many different types of support facilities. The supporting infrastructure is also more (to account for higher traffic loads and efficiency demands).
 
Connectivity projects aim to connect remotely located citizens and locations.
There is no expectation of profitable traffic on these roads. This is cost-based infrastructure. Unfortunately, we still have places that do not have ANY road in the country. These projects will have all the basic infrastructure, but nature and number of facilities will, of course be different.
 
Enabler projects are those which by themselves do not yield any benefit but help improve revenues of other projects. These could be feeder roads, debottlenecking, setting up electronic tolling, etc. Upgrading connectivity projects to revenue earning projects also fall into this type.
 
Finally, there are build-and-they-shall-come projects. These projects are undertaken in anticipation that development may take place along this corridor and in future it becomes a valuable infrastructure. The name comes from a railway constructed in US which led to development of western parts. There are challenged and coordinated development planning is required to achieve the goals of these projects.
 
Two Ways to Prioritising Projects 
 
Return on investment method is generally used for revenue generating projects where the expected revenues can be measured and estimated. But it cannot assess the benefits of projects in all cases.
 
In such cases, incremental benefit method, is used to measure and compare benefits from existing roads and potential gains when the project is implemented. It gives a clear performance benchmark for the design of new projects. Thus, if the project is meant for de-congestion then you measure time.
 
Smoother project Execution Requires Pre-planning
 
Stakeholder onboarding allows the concerns of stakeholders to be addressed transparently BEFORE the project is cleared. Many projects are delayed in courts by activist groups for unreasonable reasons. If every act of the executive and every step of execution has to go through validation by courts, then development will be costly and delayed. Part of this opposition to the project can be avoided using this process.
 
Complete handover- complete takeover style is better suited for infrastructure. The entire project stretch should be handed over at a particular date and the vendor should hand it back on designated dates. The more firmly we can adhere to these dates the lesser it costs and better the quality of the output.
 
This means completing land acquisition BEFORE awarding of tender is critical. Infrastructure projects are entirely a deadline-based ventures. The equipment, teams and experts used is of high-value and cannot remain idle. If the project commencement and construction has hiccups it becomes too costly too quickly.
 
Effective monitoring is critical. Monitoring is both internal and external. It includes monitoring of quality of materials and the technical process. It also means you need to have clean, updated financials available online for easy inspection by general public through a website. Monitoring is best
 
Focus on Enabling Projects First
 
When we evaluate the projects under the Bharatmala Scheme, enabler projects seem to show the maximum promise. These have great potential in unleashing the earning capacity. It also benefits the end user delivering perceptible improvement in road experience.
 
Debottlenecking type of projects have great cost-benefit advantages. It involves streamlining the lanes across the highway, building by-passes, decongesting the entry and exit points etc. Such projects lead to improvement in outcomes at substantially lower cost. 
 
Electronic tolling is a project that needs to be undertaken on war footing. NHAI needs to focus on converting all tolled roads to 100% electronic tolling roads. This should reduce the toll leakages and reduce corruption in tolling (we will discuss this in next article).
 
Developing proper logistic parks with focus on transportation efficiency will also help improve the utilisation of roads. The flow of goods to this park (both from city side and from highway side) should be smooth.
In the next article, we will examine the reason for mess current mess in NHAI.
 
You may also want to read…
 
 
(Rahul Prakash Deodhar is a private investor and Advocate, Bombay High Court. He can be reached at [email protected], on twitter at @rahuldeodhar or at his website www.rahuldeodhar.com)
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    COMMENTS

    Ranbir Lamba

    5 days ago

    Stretch according to reach. Cut your coats according to cloth
    Don't do haphazard construction go as per priority of needs & money available .

    RAMESH JAGANNATH MODI

    1 week ago

    What would be the status of investors who had invested in NHAI Tax Free Bonds? Should they retain these bonds?

    REPLY

    Shishir cera

    In Reply to RAMESH JAGANNATH MODI 1 week ago

    You r asking a pussy

    Aarey & Metro3: Supreme Court Asks Maharashtra Govt not to Cut More Trees
    The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government not to cut more trees in Aarey colony for proposed carshed for the Metro3. 
     
    A Special Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) told the state government not to cut any further trees in Aarey and maintain status quo till further hearing. 
     
    A delegation of students wrote a letter to the Chief Justice seeking the Supreme Court's intervention on concerns of cutting down of over 2,500 trees in Mumbai's Aarey forest. Some 1800 trees were cut in the night, the students had said. The Chief Justice converted the letter in to a PIL, which was heard today.
     
    Justice Mishra says that felling of trees should be halted for now and adds that survival rate of the saplings be analysed.
     
    Representing Maharashtra, solicitor general Tushar Mehta suggested the Bench that the case be taken up by the environment bench when the court reopens after Dussehra break. He also said, "No further cutting is required anymore. We are all concerned about the ecological impact."
     
    On 21st October, the matter would to be taken up by the forest bench of the apex court to examine whether it is forested area or eco-sensitive zone.

     Appearing for petitioners' senior advocates Sanjay Hegde and Gopal Shankaranarayanan told the court that the issue whether Aarey is a forest or not is pending with the Supreme Court. They also told the court that National Green Tribunal (NGT) is hearing the issue whether the area is eco sensitive zone or not.

    The submission came on court's queries whether the area was forest or eco-sensitive zone.

    The Supreme Court also sought report from Maharashtra government on the afforestation drive to compensate the tree cutting.

    Meanwhile Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court over 20,000 trees were planted in last few years by the government. But, it failed to convince the top court, which asked the state to place a report with photographs mentioning how many trees have since survived.

    The Aarey issue has been flash point between environmentalists, residents on one side and proponents of infrastructural development on the other side.
     
    Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon which has more than five lakh trees, together with Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is known as the green lungs of Mumbai.
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    COMMENTS

    Deepak Narain

    1 week ago

    2500 fully grown trees cut for providing space for carshed for Metro 3. Instead of coming by their cars, the Metro users could come by taxi and the trees could be saved.
    They all must be 50 or more years old. It takes years to grow and they cut them over-night in a hurry. Very sad, really! Nobody is genuinely concerned. The world is talking so much about climate change and care nothing about it. Ours is a society of hypocrites.

    REPLY

    B. KRISHNAN

    In Reply to Deepak Narain 1 week ago

    Sir, with due respect, the "car shed" is not meant for cars/vehicles of commuters, but in this case the "car shed" is for the metro cars and their maintenance etc.

    B. KRISHNAN

    1 week ago

    There is a report that the metro line (for which these trees are being cut) will reduce the carbon print by several lakh tons per month, in Mumbai. Blindly stopping of developmental work is short-sighted!

    Rajiv Gupta

    1 week ago

    SC should seek answers in hearing on 21.10.19 & put in public domain:
    1. Why HC did not exercise due diligence in allowing time for appeal & maintaining status quo till then.
    2. Did the HC not anticipate that trees will be cut overnight & then there will be no case left for the SC to decide?
    3. Why there was a rush & the trees cut during the night by the Metro authorities?
    4. Who all were involved in the sinister plan of cutting the trees so that there is no case left for SC to decide?
    5. Was the decision fixed in advance & made known so that tree cutting at such a vast scale was fully organized?
    6. Why people & activists taken for a ride & jailed ?
    7. Was cutting of trees & creating a depot at Aarey the only solution?
    8. Why a solution of alternative site in Jogeshwari given by Mr. Waikar of Shiv Sena not considered favourably & implemented?
    9. Is development at any cost sustainable strategy?
    10. Versova to Ghatkopar metro--is there any study to show decrease in traffic on roads? Traffic in Sakinaka area is still chock a block. We are twenty years behind in terms of development & thinking about it.
    11. Is SC fully satisfied with the conduct of the HC in this matter?'

    Pankaj Mahidhar

    1 week ago

    Judiciary in India from top to bottom is the biggest road block to development and even justice itself. It picks up matters adhoc without understanding the implications and delays vital projects for years at the cost of the common man. Leaving vital matters related to life and death of people, it will pick up trivial matters without adequate understanding of the matter and hold the projects to ransom at the behest of few rogue activists.

    REPLY

    B. KRISHNAN

    In Reply to Pankaj Mahidhar 1 week ago

    Capricious is what I would call the judiciary's way of reacting to civic issues.

    Hemant

    In Reply to Pankaj Mahidhar 1 week ago

    Well said.

    The NHAI Crisis Part 1: How many roads do we need?
    As per media reports, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has racked up debt of Rs1.78 lakh crore and contingent liability of at least twice that amount.
     
    It means theoretically we are looking at about Rs5 lakh crore debt and contingent liabilities. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked NHAI to stop building roads till the solution to funding problem is found. So, is it a cause for worry? How should we fix NHAI? The problems and issues with NHAI are multi-fold. In the next few articles we will dissect the problems facing NHAI, the causes and solutions to these problems. We will also analyse the fundamental problems with our transportation policy. 
     
    It is not Roads but Transportation that is important
     
    Roads are but one piece of the transportation infrastructure. Ultimately, the objective of transportation is to move people and goods over long distances in a cost and time effective manner. 
     
    World Bank Indicator called logistic performance ondex (LPI) helps measures the effectiveness of transport infrastructure. It is the weighted average of the country scores on six dimensions: efficiency of the clearance process (i.e., speed, simplicity and predictability of formalities) by border control agencies; quality of trade and transport related infrastructure (e.g., ports, railroads, roads, and information technology); ease of arranging competitively priced shipments; competence and quality of logistics services (e.g., transport operators, and customs brokers); ability to track and trace consignments; timeliness of shipments in reaching destination within the scheduled or expected delivery time. 
     
    Germany is the top performer in LPI for 2018 with an overall score of 4.1/5. For comparison, India’s overall score was 3.18/5. 
     
    In general, developing countries like China and East Asian tigers hover at around 3.4 mark whereas developed countries are stacked around 4.0 mark. 
     
    In a nutshell we can deduce that at same level of infrastructure Germany is able to deliver much better value for logistics. 
     
    There are two important take-aways from this. First, no matter how many roads we construct, there is need for supporting soft infrastructure so that the benefits of better roads, railways and ports can evident.
     
    Second, all the infrastructure needs to work in an interconnected manner. Thus, there must be effective feeder routes for cargo and people terminals in roads, railways, ports and airports. And the information support should also make transit easier.
     
    Road Infrastructure has Two Roles
     
    If we imagine transport network as series of hub and spokes, first role refers to trunk routes represent hub-to-hub transport and second role refers to last-mile routes representing the spokes. 
     
    In the first role, roads work as an alternative form of transportation between hubs.
     
    These hubs can be connected by alternate modes of transport as well. However, India relies more on road transport for trunk haulage than other countries. Other countries use waterways (inland and coastal) and railways as main drivers. 
     
    To offset the trunk haulage part of the problem, NDA1, under prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee embarked on Golden Quadrilateral project. The project involved making highways connecting the four corners of the country AND two additional roads along the diagonals (East-West and North-South links). NHAI operates in this phase of the transportation network.
     
    The last-mile road infrastructure helps all modes of transportation. Thus, you can go to another city by train or by air, but to reach your home, the final part of journey will be made by road. The same is case with goods. The goods may be moved by land (trucks), rail or ship or air, but their last mile journey will be made on road. Thus, last mile road infrastructure is most critical part of the puzzle. 
     
    How many roads do we have?
     
    Indian road network density is about 1.8 km/ sq. km. For comparison sake, Germany is 1.8, France is at 1.51, UK is 1.64, China is 0.51 and United States is 0.70. For smaller city nation of Singapore, the density is 4.8 while dense Belgium has 5.0. 
     
    However, we must be careful in interpreting these numbers. The data simply says length of road. Ideally, lane-kilometres is a better measure. Reporting by various countries may have different units (i.e. km vs lane-km) and hence create discrepancy. 
     
    So, does India have more roads than we need?
     
    Actually, no. Indian roads suffers from various shortcomings.
     
    First, road network depends on density and dispersion of settlements. Thus, China where most of population is concentrated along the east coast can do with lesser road networks. In terms of geography, density and dispersion of population India is closer to European countries than to US or China. 
     
    Second, many of the roads, while technically roads, are not usable. Therefore, in many cases it was found that transporters prefer longer routes because they take less time. 
     
    Third, Indian efficiency of connectivity is not high. In many cases, the last mile connectivity is missing or grossly inadequate. Ideally, municipal corporations should be developing these roads. However, central government has decided to build some of them under the Bharatmala project.
     
    Finally, there are several design inconsistencies. For example, on a single highway, the number of constructed lanes itself and the number of lanes available for traffic keeps changing.  To add to that, the changes are abrupt creating choke points.
     
    There are inadequate shoulder lanes for breakdowns, not enough buffer zones at turning points etc. 
     
    We need more road projects
     
    Despite the number of roads already existing, we need more roads. A large part of this requirement will come from improving old-existing roads, widening them, adding services along the roads.  Some additional hub-to-hub connections will have to be established. In that sense, Bharatmala project is a welcome initiative.
     
    We need to bring a more practical perspective to the road infrastructure. It isn’t about simply paving the roads. The number of services needed to support modern road infrastructure is numerous. If we have to improve our performance on LPI index itself, we need to upgrade customs infrastructure, port infrastructure, operator training etc. These, while not directly under the purview of NHAI or road development body, are essential pieces of puzzle.
     
    In the next article we will discuss how to manage road projects the right way.
     
    (Rahul Prakash Deodhar is a private investor and Advocate, Bombay High Court. He can be reached at [email protected], on twitter at @rahuldeodhar or at his website www.rahuldeodhar.com.)
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    COMMENTS

    Baskaran

    2 weeks ago

    I just returned from USA after visiting my children who are in seattle and Chicago. 8 lane roads criss cross the huge country carrying massive traffic and
    automobiles with a speed of 1 mile per minute barring peak hours. These roads were built in 1930 to 50 s. Now they are crying that US is lagging behind China by 50 years in infra. Where is India? In stead of creating a scare on huge debts give constructive solutions to monetise the assets. When the private sector is not willing to invest due to various reasons Government has to chip in. Give creative and innovative ideas in fund raising in stead of
    crying hoarse on debt. It is inevitable if we have to develop.



    REPLY

    Ranbir Lamba

    In Reply to Baskaran 2 weeks ago

    Bribe is deep rooted virus & Babus are never punished. To remove virus pass law like China. Take bribe & face firing Squad. Dereliction of duty punishment hard labour for life .
    Then see at 40% of budget all infra are made to withstand 100 years.

    No NPA no debt will exist

    Gur Amrit Bhalla

    2 weeks ago

    Is there any doubt on this issue???!!! India desperately needs all new roads, we cannot commute for lack of good roads connecting the country. There are innumerable accidents, deaths on our tight and potholed roads. If you add more transport vehicles the choked, broken 16th century roads will become worse and what takes us now 6 hours to do 100 KM's will start taking 12 hrs and we will then curse our government. We've suffered for 70 years please give us proper international level roads now, we pay honest taxes for "toilets, gas connections, Jan dhan yojanas, assistance to lower classes" PLEASE all we request you is for good roadsare so we can smile and travel.

    Ramesh Poapt

    2 weeks ago

    quality... more important than km. is it compulsion?!!

    Ranbir Lamba

    2 weeks ago

    Haphazard creations & lack of control leads to disaster. Better to move the ladder step by step rather then spread network all over. Now none of roads will be completed & money almost sunk at point of no return. Catch 22 situation

    As per media reports, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has racked up debt of Rs1.78 lakh crore and contingent liability of at least twice that amount.

    It means theoretically we are looking at about Rs5 lakh crore debt and contingent liabilities. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked NHAI to stop building roads till the solution to funding problem is found. So, is it a cause for worry

    REPLY

    Gur Amrit Bhalla

    In Reply to Ranbir Lamba 2 weeks ago

    I agree with Ranbir Lamba it is completely a haphazard situation. Construction is underway everywhere, roads are incomplete, before completing a patch they break everything, schedules are not followed, money is siphoned away, contractors leave the job incomplete and run away. The process needs strict monitoring both for quality, responsibility and completion. Even an ordinary village child will tell you this even they know what is happening. Contracts should be given to big
    companies. Once punitive action is applied to delayed projects, bad construction things will change. As of now crores of rupees of our country's good money has gone down the drain. Our country needs a new minister and officers of "Vigilance" to really stop corruption which is still rampant.

    Ranbir Lamba

    In Reply to Gur Amrit Bhalla 2 weeks ago

    Sack Babus + black list contractor. Recover cost from Babus & contractor as the projects have been left half way. Recover cost from contractor

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