NHAI not averse to PPP

November 7, 2013

Saikat Das |

SUMMARY- EPC route was adopted for projects that received or were expected to receive poor response in PPP bid
The column “Toll time for UPA” (FE, September 25, goo.gl/3yr40K) highlighted a few issues and included a commentary on the reported reluctance on the part of NHAI to follow the government policy of building highways through PPP. Here, I aim to clarify the issues raised in the column (in bold).NHAI is not keen on following government policy of building projects through PPP but wants to go back to the bad old cash contracts wherein NHAI engineers decide whether a road has been built properly and then release payments.

NHAI has awarded more than 150 projects on PPP since FY10 under the model concession agreement (MCA) and most of these are in various stages of implementation. However, since FY13, a large number of projects under PPP mode did not receive any response from the bidders. Seventeen projects on BOT (toll) and three projects on BOT (annuity) did not receive any response even though these projects were put to bid at least once, and even five times in some cases. The reason for poor or no response to the bids for BOT (toll) road projects is acute shortage of equity and over-leveraged and deeply stressed balance sheets of the prospective developers. Private equity funds and other players are not willing to fund the equity requirements of new or under-construction PPP projects. For want of suitable empowerment, NHAI is not able to proactively manage the concession agreements even in situations where the underlying conditions have undergone a drastic change. Even if NHAI gets bids in few BOT (toll) projects, it is likely to be sub-optimal. In such a stark backdrop, NHAI had proposed that all projects, where there has either been or there is likely to be poor or no response, should be taken up under EPC mode. However, NHAI is not against PPP and is still inviting bids on BOT (toll) basis in appropriate cases.

The contention that NHAI is planning to go back to the old EPC contract on item rate basis is misplaced. NHAI has adopted the EPC mode whereby the design and construction responsibility is assigned to the contractor for a lump-sum price and the monitoring and supervision is to be undertaken through a qualified firm selected through a transparent process as per the new EPC guidelines. In fact, India’s PPP success story is almost entirely attributable to NHAI which carried out over 240 highway projects through PPP mode.

Instead of junking privatisation process, NHAI can moot for higher VGF.

As per the MCA, VGF is limited to 40% of the TPC which is roughly equal to 50% of civil cost. Any further increase in VGF will undermine the private partnership in the project. There is a need for a judicious mix of PPP and EPC projects on the basis of viability and optimally roll out of projects available on shelf.


NHAI engineers’ insistence on more over-bridges instead of underpasses raises the cost as it does not make sense to make a 4/6 lane road go over an existing 2-lane structure.

The myth that NHAI is insisting on sub-optimal solutions, providing overpasses (wherein the crossroad will go over the highway) instead of underpasses is not based on technical considerations but seems to be based on the experience of green-field motorways abroad without taking into account ground realities from an Indian perspective.


NHAI’s proposal for stopping toll collection during construction period of 4/6 lane projects shall increase financial stress to the developers.

Our proposal is based on experience, public perception and future perspective. During construction, many road diversions are created, resulting in a constraint of carriageway, hampering smooth flow of traffic. Taking advantage of the present MCA, the concessionaires, under the pretext of NHAI’s default on account of non-availability of land in isolated pockets, do not carry out the work with due diligence even on the available fronts. It was observed in most of the four- to six-lane projects that the concessionaire does not get any bonus from additional revenue for early completion of the project as toll collection commences from the date of commencement of construction.


NHAI need not counter-sign every loan refinancing, which is the crux of its dispute with IDFC on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, as long as the amount it pays on termination of a project remains unchanged and the agreement to get a part of the upside toll once traffic on a road exceeds a certain target.

Breach of trust, hoodwinking concession agreements cannot be good business practice. However, the matter is sub-judice. As per the concession agreement, the concessionaire shall not make any modification to any of the project agreements without prior written consent of NHAI where the modification has or may have the effect of increasing or imposing any financial liability or obligation on NHAI in any manner. One cannot jump to any conclusion at this juncture.


The author is DGM, LA & coordination, NHAI



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