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Saturday , 4 December 2021

Mega Highway Plan

As we look at it, if I have a two-lane road with paved shoulder without a divided carriageway, it carries traffic up to even 20,000 PCUs a day but ideally it should not be carrying a traffic of about 15,000 PCUs. The moment we make it a divided carriageway, immediately the capacity goes to 40,000 PCUs and if you make it an access controlled divided carriageway of four lanes, the carrying capacity goes to 80,000 PCUs. That is how it makes the difference and increasingly the Ministry also has to take recourse to building of new National Highways keeping in view these kinds of growth parameters as they come along and also planning for a perspective of about 30 to 40 years. But we need to look at the road accident data in the country as a matter of serious concern. We need to assess accidents taking place due to road engineering defects or due to other reasons.

More than the road engineering defect, what really creates problems is the subsequent joining of arterial road creating a black spot. There is a requirement of creating interchanges whereby traffic can be regulated. We are revisiting our access guidelines and putting some kind of a caveat that as on the date of completion of a national highway it is our responsibility to address all such inter-connectivities and the interchanges. But anything coming up subsequent to the completion of it before, it will have to be at the cost of whosoever is seeking that access to the Highway. They will have to provide for that feature before we allow an access. That is perhaps one way to put a control on the emergence of larger number of black spots in future as we go along.

However, analysis shows that the accident is largely in terms of two wheelers, it is largely the over-speeding and unabated speeds with which people go. In case of light motor vehicles, it is again over-speeding, going beyond the controllable systems. In case of the heavier vehicles, particularly the freight vehicles, my own assessment is that the accidents are caused not because the driver is not trained, not because the driver is unruly, because of fatigue and sleep while on the driving seat.

Ultimately, it depends on a combination of technology as well as maturity of the road users’ compliance to the rules of the road which are going to play a definitive role in containing this disturbing trend of the accidents and fatalities as they occur. I am sure that the temptation to go in for overloading of heavy vehicles would get contained as increasingly the roads are going to be equipped with more and more weigh in motion devices and I would only request the Industry to implement that.

Even in terms of Ministry’s own regulations, when we have increased the loads limits, the permissible band is within 5%. The Industry also has to look at what intervals equipment would require calibration and re-calibration as per the control of weights and measures because if we do not keep that kind of a sanctity of a weigh in motion bridge measurement, then it is a challenge to the technology.

Will having an integrated road plan involving States and Central government will be more effective?

While it makes a lot of sense to have an integrated plan, I think the states have to get into that mould of taking their own responsibilities. What has happened is not withstanding the transfer of 42% of the divisible resources as per the last finance commission recommendations, every state is trying to get more and more of the state roads declared as National Highways. So, there has to be a very clear benchmarking on what is supposed to be a national highway and what is supposed to be a state road. It is important that we work on the NH with the corridor approach. They pass through multiple states; these are economic corridors or passenger corridors and these are passing through the state capitals. The second part what we have found is, all these years, you rarely find a road which is a crow flight road because the road has been constructed to connect destinations. So, if it is a 1000km road, it must pass through connecting 20 major destinations and it takes its curves and shapes as it has to connect those en-route destinations. So, the thinking is on, the plan is on

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