IRF Conference Highlights Road Construction Technologies & Solutions

International Road Federation (IRF) organized a two-day Conference-cum-Exhibition titled ‘Revolutionizing Road Infra with Modern Equipment, Technologies, Sustainable Materials, and Policy Guidelines’.

At the National Conference-cum-Exhibition, which was held at the Manekshaw Convention Center in New Delhi on 29 February and 1 March‘24, the experts discussed the latest technologies and road design used across the world, for sustainability in construction and safety on roads. Over 300 delegates were present including 20 road construction companies and manufacturers of road construction equipment (such as motor graders, road rollers, asphalt mixing plant, forklift trucks, crawler excavators, cranes, wheel loaders, etc).

International Road Federation (IRF)

While inaugurating the conference, Anurag Jain, Secretary, MoRTH, informed, “The Union Ministry of Road and Transport Highways (MoRTH) has in the last nine and a half years built around 92,000 km of National Highways and by end-March 2024 it will have completed 95,000 km. Earlier, the Ministry was focusing on building National Highways and corridors, and now it is focusing on multi-modal corridors and last mile connectivity as well under the PM GatiShakti platform. We are also focusing on High-Speed Corridors through integrated planning and synchronised implementation.”

“Use of the latest technologies, including GIS, Toll collection, Artificial Intelligence, and daily coordination with civil aviation, railways, and various other related departments, has helped us to revolutionise the planning process for developing vision-based transport models for the future. The high-speed corridors are being built for the next 50 years, envisaging likely congestion due to increasing population. This will help avoid construction of by-passes and redoing of roads again and again,” he said.

“These high-speed corridors are also being constructed with significant value engineering at the DPR level, using new technologies, raw materials, and safety features. The Ministry has identified most of the black spots on the National Highways in the country; most of which will be remedied by the end of March 2025 and the remaining by end-March 2026,” added Jain.

He also discussed Vikshit Bharat of 2047 and provided insights into the GatiShakti program, emphasizing the synchronization of road infrastructure development with other sectors such as railways, waterways, and airports, and discussed making policies that would encourage waste management and recycling in road construction across various sectors.

International Road Federation (IRF)

Anouar Benazzous, President, IRF (Geneva) said “The role of infrastructure planners, designers, and contractors is changing fast; they now need to embrace emerging technologies, digital tools, and intelligent transport systems (ITS). Countries around the world and lending institutions need to implement the right processes and set up regulatory frameworks, while infrastructure developers need to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge, and systems in place to build sustainable infrastructure. Empowering mobility means empowering the people.”

“Traditional funding and financing instruments have not been designed to address the high-risk and uncertain investments required to decarbonise the transport sector. This means unique financial approaches are needed, with different instruments and sources. We must also invest in developing the skills of people at all levels,” he added.

K K Kapila, President Emeritus, IRF, said “The need for efficient and sustainable road infrastructure has become even more crucial for the fast progress in the country. Roads need to be well-designed and well-maintained to meet the growing population and increasing urbanization. Road infrastructure development can be revolutionized by incorporating modern equipment, cutting-edge technologies, sustainable materials, and comprehensive policy guidelines.”

He invited experts in the field to present their research papers for promoting environment-friendly technologies and materials in road construction, and emphasized the five-Es of road safety while acknowledging the ongoing efforts to reduce accidents, and the various initiatives being taken, including those by the Government of India.

International Road Federation (IRF)

Lt Gen Harpal Singh (Retd), President, IRF-India Chapter, advocated the use of advanced technologies such as AI, GIS, and drones through different stages of road project development from the DPR stage to implementation. He informed that technologies like Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Building Information Modelling (BIM), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can facilitate planning, implementation and management of real-time data and provide insights, enabling better planning, design, and maintenance of roads. Recycled materials, bio-based binders, and permeable pavements, can contribute to a greener future and provide more cost-effective solutions.”

He emphasized the significance of incorporating innovations in road construction and advocated the use of plastic waste in pavements, and the need for integrating innovative technologies into IRC guidelines and practices for use by industry.

Sudhendu Jyoti Sinha, Advisor at NITI Aayog and Guest of Honour at the Conference, discussed the increase in government funding that has multiplied 16 times over the last eight years, and the critical role of initiatives like PM GatiShakti in accelerating infrastructure development.

In his keynote address, V. Suresh, Former CMD of HUDCO, discussed housing developments, the need for integrated townships, and imperatives for promoting safer bridges and construction practices. He strongly advocated the use of industrial waste like fly ash, phospho-gypsum, red mud, and various additives in concrete.

The conference delivered numerous insights on reducing carbon emissions and utilizing various industrial and waste materials for cost-effective road construction and for building a resilient transportation system. Discussions were held on developing innovative and intelligent construction equipment with lower carbon emissions and greater fuel efficiency, alternate fuels, and use of IoT for IT devices, particularly for providing advanced Driver Assistance Systems which would reduce dependency on drivers. The session was chaired by Prof (Dr). Manoranjan Parida, Director CSIR-CRRI and co-chaired by B K Prasad, GM Marketing, Tata Hitachi. Panellists were from companies like JCB, CERA, TEREX, AMMANN, and SAKAI.

In a Technical Session on ‘Innovative, Sustainable and Cost-effective Construction Materials & Technologies’ chaired by Shri Sanjay Nirmal, Secretary General IRC & co-chaired by Shri Harikishan Koppula Reddy, Cube Highways, presentations were made on technologies that ensure environmental sustainability, minimize use of aggregates, bitumen, etc. and which reduce the carbon footprint. It was felt that a resilient road infrastructure built with best global practices and collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders would guarantee world-class, safe, smooth, and smart road networks for the citizens of India.

Satish Pandey, Principal Scientist, CSIR-CRRI, gave a presentation on Steel Slag Road technology for sustainable road infrastructure development, using processed steel slag aggregates, while Dr. L R Manjunatha, Vice President, JW Cement, shared his views on low-energy cement. A presentation was made on thin white topping as a cost-effective and sustainable technology for rehabilitation of high volume traffic highways, by Vikas Thakar, M.D., Pavetech Consultants. Dr. AV Rahul, Assistant Prof. IIT Tirupati, discussed 3D concrete printing for fast and sustainable construction and Prof (Dr.) Dharamveer Singh, IIT Bombay, discussed various tools and technologies for understanding Bituminous Mixes and Pavement Performance.

International Road Federation (IRF)

Himanshu Agarwal, Chief Operating Officer, Zydex Group Road Vertical sharing insights on the role of Silane Technologies for Sustainable Road Infrastructure, stated, “As India’s GDP grows from $4 trillion to $30 trillion, road infrastructure will have a multiplier effect in providing last mile connectivity for people and commerce, optimizing logistic costs, ensuring productivity and societal health. Technology solutions are a must to build safe, pothole free, green roads with a design life of 20 to 50 years. Damage caused by ingress of water has a staggering cost in reducing life of the soil bases, requires raising the road levels above HFL, and damage to the top road network with ravelling and potholes prematurely.

D. Sarangi, Director General of Road Development, Special Secretary, MoRTH, while chairing the next technical session, highlighted use of sustainable bitumen due to depletion of fossil fuels and emphasized the importance of conducting trial stretches with innovative materials and collect data to analyse their performance.

Dr. Ambika Behl,
Senior Principal Scientist, CSIR, CRRI, discussed bio-bitumen with minimal pyrolysis and use of geosynthetics in flexible pavement. Minimol Korulla, Head (SISP) Maccaferri, talked on the use of Geosynthetics in Flexible Pavement. Arpan Ghosh, President (Engineering), Cube Highways, talked about PG bitumen to be used in highway construction; Atashi Das, Vice President at GR Infraprojects, discussed new edge technologies in pavement application; and Shashank Shekhar, co-Founder & CEO of MiCoB gave a presentation on 3D concrete printing.

Presentations on new research and innovations included Konala Varma, CEO, INAI (Hyderabad), on Intelligent Solutions through Technology and Engineering for Road Safety in the form of ADAS and Dr. Venkata Mutnuri, Technical Officer, of TIHAN, IIT Hyderabad gave a presentation on autonomous vehicle developed and tested at IIT Hyderabad. Chaman Tulsyan, President, Verma Industries, spoke on Rejupave technology; Prof Nikhil Saboo, IIT Roorkee, talked on bio-bitumen production from sugarcane molasses; Ganesh Verma, CMD, Bhavya Srishti Udyog, spoke on bamboo crash barrier. A presentation on pavement surface and road asset condition capture technology using AI was made by Prerna Kalra, Co-founder, Hanu AI, while Dr.Ankit Gupta of IIT BHU, shared information on use of waste plastic and Biren Shah, CATS Global presented about Real-time Structural Health Monitoring.

On second day of the conference, in technical session on Innovative Technologies in Road Safety S K Popli, Advisor (RS), NHAI shared information on NHAI’s initiatives on road safety; Dipan Bose, Senior Transport Specialist at World Bank, discussed partnerships with different states and the Government of India to improve safety concerns; Dr. Joydeep Shome, DDG from NIC, presented the iRAD database for road safety enhancement; Teja Gudena, Executive Vice President, Netradyne, shared his views on Driver Assistance-cum-Monitoring System developed by Netradyne for road safety alerts from driver behaviour for fleet management objectives; Dr. Velmurugan, HoD, Chief Scientist, Traffic Engineering & Safety Division, CRRI, threw light on the project initiated in Nagpur for making improvements in road safety; Prof P Rajalakshmi, TIHAN Hyderabad, spoke about the TIHAN facility at IIT Hyderabad that serves as a hub for Safe, Sustainable, Smart, Next Generation Mobility.

International Road Federation (IRF)

A technical session on bridges and tunnels, featured speakers, namely, Alok Bhowmick, B&S Engineering Consultants, who discussed FRP composites as a wonder material that holds immense potential for future infrastructure applications; J. K. Goyal from CRRI talked about waterproofing in bridges; Dr. Narayan Chandra Pal, OSD-cum-Engineer-in-Chief from the Orissa Works Department, delved into bridge management systems; Yousef Rahimabadi, Team Leader of AE for NHIDCL ICT, made a presentation on green technologies for roads and tunnels; Satish Navanale, COO, Long Span Structures, spoke on long-span structures like bridges, drawing from his experience in Maharashtra; Dr. Harshavardhan Subbarao, CMD, Construma Consultancy, discussed sustainability calculators and their utilization from the initial stages of projects and emphasized the importance of considering carbon factors during material production.

The other technical sessions covered innovative technologies in project planning and design using IoT, GIS, AI, drones, BIM, 3D, and Digital Twin; DPR surveys, structural design, mixed design, project monitoring and road asset management. Tony Matthew from TRL India presented road asset management systems; Dr. Rakesh Kumar, Chief Scientist, CRRI, discussed macro technology trials; Gurpreet Singh Basra, Delivery-head AMNEX Info Technologies, spoke on data links and their role in database improvement; and Amit Saxena, Regional Sales Manager, Trimble, presented GIS and AI-based Monitoring Tools; and Dr. Saptarshi Sasmal, Chief Scientist, CSIR-SERC, Chennai presented on ServiCe Life Enhancement of Road Bridges.

Lt. Gen Raghu Srinivasan, Director General of BRO, as the Chief Guest of the Valedictory Session of the Conference provided first hand insights into the working environment that the BRO navigates during operations in the high-altitude regions of the Himalayan range. “In these remote areas, constructing roads is no ordinary feat. We confront extreme conditions, where the typical rules of road construction do not apply. Our biggest challenge lies in the working season, which are limited to just six months or less due to heavy snowfalls or torrential rains. Once the working season ends, we are forced to halt operations until conditions permit. Furthermore, our lines of communication are fragile and prone to disruption. Materials have to be transported over long distances and stored in remote areas. Every aspect of our work, from sourcing materials to executing projects, has to be meticulously planned within a narrow timeframe.”

International Road Federation (IRF)

“Despite these formidable obstacles, our dedicated workforce remains committed to fulfilling our mission to connect communities and to ensure national security. Roads serve as lifelines as they provide access to education, healthcare, employment, electricity, and an overall better life for those in all these areas previously used to be devoid of such opportunities.”

“While many may have experienced the beauty of mountains, there are a few places when the passes are closed or when the beautiful mountains become treacherous. This is where the Border Roads Organization steps in. For those travelling to the borders, I urge them to witness first hand transformation being brought about by our collective efforts with the road construction fraternity.”

Presentations were also made by several sponsors of the conference on issues such as pavement preservation, the importance of life-cycle analysis during pavement design, and so on. In the Valedictory Session, three best Posters presented in the conference and three best Start-up/Innovative Ideas were awarded Certificate of Excellence.
NBM&CW - April 2024
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