New Delhi: The Central government's Bharatmala Paroyojana, which will increase the number of national corridors from six to 50 and double freight on national highways to around 80 per cent, will be rolled out by December next year, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Wednesday.
Bharatmala is part of a huge and ambitious road construction and expansion programme of over 83,677 km over five years at a cost of about Rs 7 lakh crore, which was approved by the Union Cabinet on Tuesday.
Gadkari told the media here on Wednesday that work on the approved highway projects will "begin before the end of 2018".
He said Bharatmala will considerably improve India's rankings in the Logistic Performance Index and generate huge direct and indirect employment in construction activity.
"Bharatmala, the new umbrella programme for the highways sector, focuses on optimising efficiency of road traffic movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps. It will be a major driver for economic growth and help realise the Prime Minister's vision of a 'New India'," Gadkari said.
The first phase includes 24,800 km of roads, including 9,000 of economic corridors, 2,000 km each of border and coastal roads, and 800 km of greenfield expressways, as well as 10,000 km of balance road works under the National Highway Development Programme, taking the total length of roads to 34,800 km at an estimated cost of Rs 5,35,000 crore.
The minister said work had begun on detailed project reports of 25,000 km.
Bharatmala is likely to result in increasing average vehicular speed by 20-25 percent, reducing supply chain costs by 5 to 6 percent and besides giving impetus to production and exports. It has potential to create 10 crore mandays of employment during the construction phase while another 22 million permanent jobs are expected to be created by the increased economic activity.
Noting that Bharatmala is the "biggest ever programme approved by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in its history," Gadkari said it will enable the country to bridge the "highway sector infra deficit" by 2022.
"Bharatmala programme includes development of 44 Economic Corridors, 66 Inter Corridor Routes and 16 Feeder Routes. It not only aims at connecting economic centres seamlessly but also decongesting them. It will improve India's connectivity to Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. A special emphasis has been laid on upgrading the infrastructure in the northeast and multi-modal integration with River Brahmaputra," Gadkari said.
He said that apart from developing highways, the programme aims at developing logistics parks.
Gadkari said Bharartmala will be transparent and corruption free and, in synergy with Sagarmala, boost connectivity to coastal areas to enable port-led economic development and coastal tourism.
The entire effort at ramping up infrastructure, including in the shipping space, is expected to create one crore jobs besides adding 2-3 per cent to the GDP.
"Bharatmala will give the country 50 national corridors, compared with six at present. 70 to 80 per cent of freight will move along the national highways against 40 per cent at present. The programme will help connect 550 districts through national highways, compared with around 300 districts at present," Gadkari said.
The Minister said apart from Rs 5,35,000 crore for the first phase, there is a requirement of Rs 1,57,324 crore for ongoing projects under various schemes, and thus, overall outlay will be Rs 6,92,324 crore over five years.
Officials said that the Gross Budgetary Support for the Bharatmala project and existing schemes in five years will be restricted to Rs 2,37,024 crore from the Central Road Fund, Rs 59,973 crorebudgetary support, Rs 34,000 crore from expected monetisation through toll-operate-transfer route and Rs 46,048 crore collected as Toll-Permanent Bridge Fee Fund by the National Highway Authority of India.