Road infrastructure is the cornerstone of an economy as it facilitates the flow of domestic and international trade and commerce. A powerful example of this notion is the growth story of India as one of the largest economies in the world. And roads, especially highways, have been a kernel to the rise of the nation as a major trade force in the subcontinent as well.
The movement of freight and passengers on roads and highways, however, has been facing challenges due to maintenance issues, technological bottlenecks, administrative pitfalls, and largely anachronistic engineering.
To overcome these challenges, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) has initiated a cluster project for the modernization of the country’s highway infrastructure and assigned it to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and its highway-operations Chief General Manager (CGM), Akhilesh Srivastava.
The mega infrastructure project involves the integration of advanced IT and construction technology to build the highways of future and help India emerge as the frontier of road economy in Asia. These mega infrastructure projects include Wayside Amenities (WSA), Electronic Toll Collection, use of industrial drones and remote sensing for highway projects, Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for expeditious land acquisition.
WSA, which is one of the first editions of the cluster initiated and helmed by CGM Akhilesh Srivastava, includes three sub-projects, which are: Highway Village, Highway Nest, and Highway Nest (Mini). Of these, the Nest and Nest (Mini) are already operational at several national highways in the country. The Village is being built under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, meaning that people who own lands abutting highways can develop the projects on those lands without selling them to the government.
WSA will act as safe halting points or ‘highway ports’ for highway commuters and provide them with basic to advanced comforts, including but not limited to, clean restrooms, emergency clinics, ATMs, petrol bunks, repair shops, hotels, branded restaurants, and purified drinking water. The Village, a large enclosure that is yet to be constructed, also will include conference rooms and helipads.
The ETC, which is already up and running at several Toll booths in India, is a part of the Digital India initiative to promote transparency in government services and digitalize them. The system allows the user to make electronic toll payment, easing the traffic flow and reducing the time taken at Toll gantries and plazas. The ETC uses sensors and computers to instantly deduct toll fee from vehicles with RFID-encoded FASTag stickers affixed to them.
Besides this, Akhilesh Srivastava and his team at the NHAI are also working on an advanced iteration of the ETC – Pay-As-You-Use. The system will use satellite-enabled technology such as GPS or GSM to track vehicular movement on highways and automatically deduct the toll fee. The technology can end the need for toll gantries and other expensive infrastructure.
The most notable part of Pay-As-You-Use is its distance-based toll tariff. The new system will bill the user only for the distance they travel, as opposed to the previous one that invoices them based on vehicle type. The first leg of the Pay-As-You-Use pilot will be conducted in the Delhi-Mumbai corridor.
These initiatives among others have put CGM Mr Akhilesh Srivastava on the forefront of highway modernization and recently won him the CIDC Vishwakarma lifetime achievement award. The NHAI CGM is spearheading the campaign for the complete digitalization and overhauling of the highways sector, which will further propel India’s emergence as a global economic front and a major trade power in southern Asia.