Transport

UP is on an expressway-building spree. The likely cost: about Rs 1 lakh crore

Uttar Pradesh is in love with expressways, be it any political dispensation in the state. While Mayawati as chief minister championed the case of twin expressways in Noida and Agra, Akhilesh Yadav constructed the expressway from Agra till Lucknow. Yogi Adityanath is now set to outdo his predecessors.

By the time Yogi’s tenure ends in 2022, UP could be covered by a network of eight expressways crisscrossing the state, totaling almost 2,500 kilometers — the highest for any state in India. And the Ganga Expressway is recently proposed to stretch 596 km from Meerut to Prayagraj but it could top the 1,000-km mark as the government plans to extend it to the state’s northwest border with Haridwar in Uttarakhand and to Bihar in the southwest in phase II.

“Expressways open up the state. We plan to join UP with expressways connecting all neighboring states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi and Uttarakhand,” statedAvanish Kumar Awasthi, the chief executive of the UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority.

THE LONGEST ONE

Yogi’s cabinet currently gave in-principle approval for the Rs 35,952-cr, 596-km, phase I of the Ganga Expressway. Though no money was given for it in the state budget presented on Thursday, as the project development would take one more year, ET has learnt that the government has plans for a phase II, under which the high-speed road will be extended 110 km from Meerut to the Uttarakhand border and 314 km from the other end to Ballia from Prayagraj through Varanasi. This will take the estimated length of the expressway to 1,020 km. It will be designed for speeds of 120 km per hour.

“We are appointing consultants to carry out a detailed project report and determine the project’s final shape,” Awasthi stated. The idea of this project germinates from the successful operation of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway and the Yamuna Expressway from Greater Noida to Agra which, instead of a total one-way toll of almost Rs 1,000 for a four-wheeler, sees good traffic from the national capital to the state capital.

UP has, in fact, granted Rs 100 crore in the latest budget to start expanding the Agra-Lucknow expressway from four lanes to six. “Compared to train or air travel, the expressways give a viable option for many — it is a five and-a-hour drive to Lucknow from Delhi. On a cloudy day, it may take a similar time to travel by road from Delhi than by air. The Agra-Lucknow Expressway is our biggest revenue earner,” Awasthi said.

THE INTER-CONNECTIONS

The 96-km Meerut Expressway from Delhi to Meerut is anticipated to be finished by the end of next month — the first leg of it was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. This road, once linked with the Ganga Expressway, will provide high-speed connectivity from Delhi to Prayagraj. The Eastern Peripheral Expressway around Delhi is being connected with the Yamuna Expressway.

UP last week invited bids for the construction of the 296-km-long Bundelkhand Expressway from Chitrakoot to Etawah, which will connect with the Agra-Lucknow Expressway. Bids have also been invited for a 91-km-long expressway that will link Gorakhpur to the under construction 352-km-long Purvanchal Expressway. Each of the two projects has been allotted Rs 1,000 crore in Thursday’s budget.

The first project is crucial for investors to come and set shop on what is being termed the ‘Defence Corridor’ in Bundelkhand and West UP, one of the most ambitious investment projects of the Yogi government. “You need a fast road for movement of goods manufactured in the Defence Corridor. Bundelkhand is poorly serviced by highways, on both sides, with the rest of UP as well as Madhya Pradesh,” a senior state government official stated.

COST AND POLITICS

A massive challenge in these ambitious projects is the cost, of construction as well as land acquisition. The Yogi government claims it is saving costs as it did by re-tendering the Purvanchal Expressway and saving Rs 619 crore. But the opposition Samajwadi Party says the re-worked expressway will, in fact, cost more than its estimates since the construction cost of Rs 12,000 crore is being entirely funded by a loan.

The Purvanchal Expressway is anticipated to cost nearly Rs 23,000 crore, while the Phase-I of the Ganga Expressway is projected to cost almost Rs 36,000 crore. Combined with other expressways being planned, UP may be required to spend almost Rs 1 lakh crore. The state government, however, feels the gains will outweigh the cost.

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