Don’t bid out 8,000 km national highway projects: Road minister told

NEW DELHI: The fate of developing 8,000 km of National Highway (NH) stretches under the government’s flagship programme now hangs in balance, with the finance ministry asking the road ministry not to bid them out without seeking fresh cabinet approval.
The direction from North Block comes at a time when the government has barely awarded 2,595 km of NHs for construction and widening during April-October, as against 5,007 km during the corresponding period last year.Even in its monthly report to the Cabinet, the road ministry has flagged this 50% fall in awards and has said, “If target for award has to be met for this year, decision on the proposal for approval of the revised Bharatmata Phase-1 or alternate programme needs to be taken expeditiously. Shortfall in award this year will reflect in the progress of construction in the FY 2024-25.”
While the Bharatmala-1 comprising 34,800 km NH was approved by the Cabinet in 2017, with an estimated investment of over Rs 5.3 lakh crore, so far, contracts for around 26,500 km has been awarded and the cost has doubled due to several reasons, including change in composition and configuration of projects such as construction of more expressways and economic corridors. In a recent communication, the finance ministry has told the road ministry that since the cost has increased beyond the approved amount, further projects can be bid out only after the Cabinet approves the revised estimate.
Sources said the road ministry had circulated the revised estimated cost of Bharatmala-1 in 2020 and consultations are underway.



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