July 30, 2014
Even before Jaypee’s Yamuna Expressway was inaugurated, NHAI awarded R-Infra a project to upgrade the parallel NH-2, showing a lack of coordination between authorities
For the Jaypee Group, which built the 165-km expressway between Delhi and Agra, the news Reliance Infrastructure would rebuild the parallel national highway between the two cities came as a dampener.
Inaugurated in 2012, Yamuna Expressway is still struggling to make money. It will be competing with National Highway-2 to attract traffic. Jaypee had built the expressway for Rs 13,000 crore, with a concession period of 36 years. But even before the project was inaugurated, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) awarded Reliance a project to upgrade the parallel highway to six lanes, at a cost of Rs 1,900 crore.
Reliance has already started collecting toll on the highway; the project will be ready in the next two years. The 180-km Delhi-Agra highway is part of the ambitious golden quadrilateral project, connecting the four metros.
Analysts say the NHAI project will snatch traffic from the expressway, owing to its lower toll rate. “In the current environment of limited infrastructure funding availability, efficient resource allocation is the need of the hour to improve infrastructure. This is a classic example of lack of coordination between authorities at the state and the Centre,” says an analyst with Ambit Capital.
Analysts say infrastructure and industrial projects are planned independently, without considering the supporting logistical infrastructure needs of the project and without collective assessment of the impact on the environment by several projects in a particular area. The key concern is the lack of sound planning for large projects and the absence of coordination between ministries.
While Jaypee did not comment on queries sent by Business Standard, Reliance Infrastructure officials said while bidding for the project, they factored in the traffic diversion to Yamuna Expressway. However, the actual diversion was much lower than expected, they added.
Reliance officials say the toll rate at Yamuna Expressway is about 85 per cent higher than at National Highway-2, and this will lead to the national highway breaking-even faster. The officials added there was severe traffic congestion on the Delhi-Noida road leading to the Yamuna Expressway.
Compared to the national highway, Yamuna Expressway is an access-controlled road, with all exit points located far from villages, making travel to these areas long and difficult. Also, the quality of service roads connecting these villages was questionable, said a Reliance Infrastructure spokesperson. “Roads such as Yamuna Expressway have a tendency of users driving rashly, increasing the risk of accidents on the expressway, as observed on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Also, as National Highway-2 connects towns and villages, road users find this safer compared to Yamuna Expressway,” the spokesperson added.
Bankers say both projects are funded by public sector banks and if any of these turns sick, these banks will be asked to restructure the debt or takeover the project. They add to avoid duplication of work, each project should be meticulously planned from an engineering, financial, contractual, environmental and social perspective, along with inter-linkages and land acquisition before construction. “This will help save project developers, banks and the common public a lot of pain later,” says a city-based banker.