Three more 4-lane highways in Gujarat
In a move which will boost road connectivity in Gujarat, which already boasts of a good road network, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) signed a concessional agreement worth Rs 4,308 crore with Gujarat Road Development Corporation to convert three two-lane roads into four-lane highways.These are Ahmedabad-Viramgam-Maliya, Halol-Godhra-Shamlaji, and Rajkot-Jamnagar-Vadinar highways. As clearances have been obtained, construction work will start immediately and will be completed in 30 months. L&T will build the roads under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) option of Gujarat Infrastructure Development Act. Taken together, their length is approximately 500 km.Government has invoked the Central government’s viability gap funding (VAG) facility. Under VAG, the Centre provides for funds for infrastructure projects in order to make them viable, as private parties are found not to be interested in them, given the low returns. L&T will charge toll on the highways for 20 years and, as per the agreement, will pay Rs 6,000 crores back to the government from the collections. The project has been pending clearance since February 2005, and the decision to go in for toll has come at a time when the Gujarat government has been mulling over a Bill to introduce “betterment charges” along the state highways as an alternative to toll. The betterment charges would be imposed on those involved in commercial activity along the highways. The view is that toll roads are ‘bothersome’ for users.