The Indian government is revamping its plans for highway construction in an effort to expedite infrastructure development. Initially, the target for highway construction for the current fiscal year was set at 12,500 km. However, with a push from the Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, the government is now considering raising the target for the fiscal year 2023-2024 to over 14,000 km, which would be the highest ever road length built in a single year.
The decision to revise the target comes after the government failed to meet its road construction goals in the previous two years. Minister Gadkari has urged all construction agencies to accelerate their work to meet the growing demand for improved and faster connectivity. His vision is to increase the pace of construction from 11.6 km per day in 2014 to approximately 30 km per day.
The peak of highway construction was reached during the COVID-19 pandemic in the fiscal year 2020-2021, with a daily construction rate of 37 km and a total of 13,327 km of highways built. However, the pace of road building slowed down in the subsequent fiscal years, FY22 and FY23.
For the current fiscal year, it is expected that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will construct around 6,000 km of highways, followed by another 6,000 km by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), and approximately 2,000 km by the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL). NHAI had initially set a target of building 5,060 km of roads in FY24, up from the 4,882 km constructed in FY23. However, this target may be further increased, and NHIDCL is also expected to contribute an additional 400-500 km of highways.
An official from the ministry stated that construction will accelerate in the current fiscal year due to a significant increase in road project awards in recent months. Many projects, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, are nearing completion and will soon be operational. Barring any adverse weather conditions, the official expressed optimism that FY24 will witness record levels of highways becoming operational.
In the pre-pandemic period of FY20, highway construction totalled 10,237 km at a daily rate of 28.04 km. The pace increased during the first year of the pandemic (FY21) due to lockdown measures, resulting in a record-breaking 13,327 km of highways built at a rate of 36.51 km per day. However, in FY22, the rate slowed again to 10,457 km at 28.64 km per day. Initially, the road ministry had aimed to construct 14,600 km of highways or 40 km per day in FY22 but later revised the goal to 12,000 km.
Therefore, the Indian government is now considering an ambitious target of constructing over 14,000 km of highways in FY24, which would surpass any previous records for road length built in a single year.