Yudhvir Singh Malik, Chairman, National Highways Authority of India, tells Mangala Chandran about the various steps he is taking for better facilities, road safety and the use of technology on the highways
What role are technologies going to play in the maintenance of roads and highways constructed by the NHAI?
I get mails and complaints from people regarding the poor operations and maintenance of certain stretches of highways which we have constructed. As long as we go with the traditional system of O & M, the Project Development Officer has to visit the sites at least once a month and take note of missing features and requirements for immediate maintenance for the users’ convenience. Now with technologies available, we are thinking of mandating the use of these technologies at least twice a year to run through the road stretch which has been completed, so as to capture the health conditions of the road and take action regarding the road maintenance. We are looking at the extent to which we can bring in the use of technology to eliminate the subjective element in this regard.
We have observed that the maintenance agencies are not meticulous. There is a gap in the expectations and delivery and I think both, the enforcement agencies and the executing agencies, are responsible.
Even at the time of operation of DPR, use of LIDAR helps in determining the right alignment in both the new and old by-pass projects. While our DPRs are getting revised, we are incorporating those features. It is important to not only provide the technology but also understand how it will be used to measure the health of the road, and also to understand whether the concessionaires have the equipment or not. We need to check if they have people to collect & interpret the data and submit it in the form of a report. Instead of shocking my staff with information invasion, for the time being, we are letting the technology round up the health condition of the road twice a year — once pre-monsoon and then, post-monsoon. In those six-month intervals, we can address and attend to the road condition. I am sure it will improve the satisfaction level of the user considerably. This way, we can ensure proper O & M of the road stretches which are already being constructed.
The road safety features on these stretches of roads and highways are nearly missing.
We should ask ourselves if we are being professional enough while designing the roads as that has a substantial bearing on the road safety features. I look at some of the DPRs provided for every kilometre; for example, in a structure like pedestrian underpass or cattle underpass, to see if the features are sufficient and if they are meeting the requirements.
We are now making changes in the requirements of our DPRs. We are doing away with the pedestrian and cattle underpasses because with mechanization of agriculture, what people would need is not being provided by an underpass. A farmer needs easy pass through cross-over to other side with a tractor- trolley or a local bus. I have requested my colleague to re-design this aspect as a requirement of DPR itself. By reducing the number of these structures, we can provide service road on both the sides. For example; if we are passing through an inhabited village area, let us go 50 metres extra and provide them with service roads or provide the last houses on either side with underpass where the location permits. Thus, the day-today requirements will not force them to come on the main carriage road. If you are going to provide a cattle underpass, they will not be able to take tractor-trolley across. This will force them to come on the main carriageway.
We have found in our discussions that when we provide a vehicular underpass with a vertical clearance of five and a half meters, and increase the width by 10-12 meters, then it allows a local bus, tractor, trolley… everything to pass through. So, you reduce the local traffic coming to main carriageway to that extent and that becomes a safety feature as well. Apart from that, proper road signage and markers are a must.