about 6 months ago
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“Why can’t India have roads like these?”

This is an often repeated, rueful remark, by all of us who have travelled abroad. We simply cannot believe that roads can be so seamless and smooth with no moon like craters and pock-marked stretches, making a simple ride into a bumpy, back-breaking drive. We all jokingly say, “if you want a woman to have a quick delivery, just let me sit in a car and get driven on the roads; the baby will be out soon!”

So while we have tried to do everything possible to attract FDI into India, what we seemingly had no control over is the roads – the very delegates who visit sites used the same bumpy roads and wondered whether they were doing the right thing by investing in India.

The roads we have are terrible and we often just dismiss it as a byproduct of acute corruption – right from getting the road contracts to adulteration of material used, roads are the best super-fast highways for corrupt officials.

Thus when we read the news that there is now a rating mechanism developed for highways, we at first felt a sense of disbelief and then like always, cynicism.  This rating mechanism is developed by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and this is for assessing the 18,668 km of completed 4/6 lane NH stretches in India that cover 343 toll plazas. This initiative has been taken as per vision of improving the quality of public services. The fundamental objective of highway rating is ‘Minimum time with maximum safety in stress free environment’ from highway users’ perspective. 

A quick look at how this works:

A total of 39 parameters under three broad criteria have been considered - Highway Efficiency, Highway Safety, and User Services.

The Highways are evaluated for a total of 100 marks.

Maximum weightage – 45 marks, has been given for Highway Efficiency, which in turn is calculated on the basis of 15 parameters including operating speed on the main carriageway, delay at the toll plaza, the volume of traffic, payment quality, and functionality of drains have been covered.

Highway Safety weightage - 35 marks and covers 14 parameters pertaining to accidents, ambulance services and response time, illegal median openings, and facilities disturbing traffic.

User Services - 20 marks and it considers 10 parameters including the number of medians and footpaths, cleanliness, the functioning of toilets and availability of drinking water, encroachment, and illegal hoardings, etc. 

The highways getting rated – Agra – Mumbai (1,084 kms), Pune – Vijayawada (856 kms), Mumbai – Kolkata (1,927 kms) and Bangalore – Kanyakumari (655 kms).

This will also rate  projects according to the mode of implementation and status of completion under BOT (Toll), BOT (Annuity), HAM, EPC works, and for Authority’s Engineer, Independent Engineer, and DPR Consultants.

The rating would be considered a qualification criterion for awarding new projects to vendors, thereby increasing their accountability.

This will be a regular exercise regular as ratings will be done twice each year- April and then October.

Well, the first set of ratings for 219 highways were released earlier this month and the findings:

The number one - 102.30 km, six-lane NH-48 linking Ahmedabad to Vadodara in terms of efficiency, safety and user services.

Second best - 141 km long stretch of Goa, Karnataka to Kundapur section of NH-66

Third best -  93 km long four-lane stretch of NE-1, linking Ahmedabad-Vadodara.

The worst stretch was the 45-km Indore-Dewas section of NH-3, which connects Agra to Mumbai, scoring poorly on all parameters. 

Second worst - 63.5-km section of the Delhi-Haryana Border to Rohtak on NH-10.

The third worst - 41-km Visakhapatnam to Anakapalli stretch of NH-16 that goes through the east coast of West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Highways managed by L&T, IRB Infra topped the NHAI rankings list. Navayuga, Patel Engineering(in JV) and Dilip Buildcon also feature in the top 10.

This is a good attempt and we only hope (the cynicism setting in) that these ratings are not open to corruption too. Its an international practice and maybe the roads will only get better…..

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