The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways recently issued a fresh set of guidelines for granting Right of Way permission to telecom service licensees and infrastructure providers seeking to lay telecom cables and ducts on national highway land.
Guidelines allowing private telecom licensees to lay optical fiber cables on national highway land for mobile and basic telephone services had been issued in September 2000. Subsequently, revisions were carried out in the guidelines and communicated to all stakeholders in March 2006 and September 2010.
The new guidelines, to be followed uniformly across the country, have been framed taking into consideration the changing environment and various representations made by the public and private telecom service providers regarding laying of telecom cables on national highway land. The primary objective though is to bring about more clarity on the issue.
“Very often, after completion of the project, private telecom service providers start digging to lay cables, causing extensive damage to the highway. In case of BOT projects, a dispute then arises between the implementing authority, the telecom licensee and the concessionaire as to who would bear the cost of restoration. Considering that the new set of guidelines provides clarity in this regard, such disputes are no longer expected,” a source associated with the road sector told Projectmonitor.
The new guidelines clearly state that for PPP projects, in case of any financial loss due to laying or shifting of cables or cable ducts, compensation for the same would have to be borne by the telecom licensee in mutual agreement with the concessionaire. The MoRTH/National Highways Authority of India/implementing authority for the project is not going to be liable to the concessionaire for such loss.
Concerning shifting or alteration in the position of laid telecom cables required due to widening of highways and construction of bridges and flyovers, the guidelines point out that the telecom licensee would do the work at his own cost at a later date within specified period indicated by the respective agency.
The guidelines include measures to avoid repeated digging on the same route. In cases where cable ducts with sufficient space are already available along the national highway, the laying of cables would be encouraged in such ducts subject to fulfillment of technical requirements. Where ducts are not available, the first incumbent would be allowed to voluntarily lay extra ducts/conduits with extra capacity for meeting future needs. The extra capacity may be commercialized by the incumbent through mutual agreements with the state government/utility agencies. The central as well as state roadways authorities could also consider laying ducts/conduits at the time of construction of roads to facilitate laying of telecom cables. Suitable charges may be imposed in such cases.
Under the guidelines, the facility of RoW for laying underground telecom cables is available to all licensees of the Department of Telecom, irrespective of existing or future, and registered/licensed infrastructure providers. The enforceability of the permission granted would be restricted to the extent of provisions/scope of service contained/defined in the license agreement. A performance bank guarantee at the rate of Rs. 100 per route metre with a validity of one year initially needs to be furnished by each licensee to the Authority/designated agency as security. The licensee would have to undertake all restoration work subsequent to the laying of the cable at its cost. In the event the licensee fails to discharge its obligation, the Authority would have the right to forfeit the bank guarantee and recover the amount. In such case, the licensee has to replenish and reinstate the performance bank guarantee within one month. The licensee is liable to pay full compensation to the Authority/designated agency for any damage sustained as result of the exercise of the RoW facility.
As per the guidelines, the telecom cable would always have to be laid at the edge of the RoW. In case of restricted width of RoW, which may be adequate only to accommodate the carriageways, central verge, shoulders, slopes of embankments and drains, the cable needs to be laid beyond the toe line of the embankments and clear of the drain.
The guidelines mention that in order to expedite RoW clearances to telecom licensees in a time bound manner through an appropriate and effective approval mechanism, a single window clearance committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary of the respective state would coordinate all related activities. In case of national highway land, telecom licensees have to take permission from the highway administration. For national highway routes executed by state Public Works Departments, the concerned state Chief Engineer (NH) would act as the nodal point for coordinating all related activities whereas in respect of national highway routes held by the NHAI and Border Roads Development Board, their designated officers are to be assigned the task. Where the work involves laying of telecom cables along national highways in different states or national highway project of length exceeding 500 km. in one state, the Chief Engineer – Standard, Research, Technology (Road), MoRTH, would be the approving authority with the single window facilitation committee functioning under him.