Highway Sector- Riding the Waves of New Change

Durgapur Xpressway

Developments taken place in the highway sector during the last few months have proved wrong the French saying that more it is changed, the more it remains the same. Riding the waves of new change, the road and highway sector in the country is inching its way forward to regain its past glory with revival of investors interest taking place in the sector scripting a new architecture of policy and implementation that anticipates the problems and suggest remedies. As a matter of fact, the revival of investor interest can be credited to 21 'out of box thinking' pulling out the sector from sluggishness to an attractive destination for the investors interested to construct world-class roads and highways in India. The significant changes include relaxing of the exit policy for the investors, innovative payment methods based on hybrid annuity and engineering, procurement and construction business models, reviving of stalled projects, leasing 104 existing toll –able projects to the private companies and global funding agencies. And the latest being, government giving 10% of road project cost in advance to ensure cash flow for starting highway construction and building mega NHs projects on lines of Golden Quadrilateral.

The business prospects for the highway sector have brightened as more road projects are being awarded and stranded projects are getting implemented. Simultaneously, regulatory resolution, and greater government spending have helped revive the sector, along with faster clearances and quick dispute resolution and last mile funding. However, the dispute resolution process needs to be recalibrated to rekindle private sector interest in infra sector, says a Deutsche Bank report.

Recent reports that nearly 97 road and highway projects entailing Rs.1lakh crore investment are ready to be awarded this year have enthused private sector and overseas investors interest in Indian highway sector. With its new hybrid annuity model, the government is confident of getting more than 55% of the total kms being put up for bidding to be funded by the private sector. On an average cost of Rs.1.3 crore per km, roughly worth Rs.3.25 lakh crore would be put up for bidding this year.

A lot of foreign investors, construction companies and funding agencies have come forward to bid for road projects in recent months. China Railway Construction Corporation has evinced interest for Rs.35,000-40,000 crore worth of highway contracts in India with over 3,000 km length. The company could also bid for several expressway projects that are considered to be high traction in terms of return on investment. This would be the single largest foreign investment in the country's highway sector if the Chinese government succeeds in fulfilling the criteria set by the government, disclosed NHAI, chairman after meeting the Chinese delegation in New Delhi to discuss this proposal.

NBM&CW September 2016

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