National highways are India’s arterial networks as they connect different regions of the country and facilitate trade and commerce. Even though they make up only two percent of all roadways, they constitute forty percent of trade routes within the nation. However, the highway network has had its own issues. National highways in India lack maintenance, and haven’t been complying with international standards, until now.
To solve these and other issues and build the roads of the future, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) initiated a cluster project that consists of several megaprojects. One such megaproject is Wayside Amenities (WSA), which is already operational on several NHs. The undertaking was proposed to develop enclosures with basic to advanced civic amenities on the highways.
The WSA project is serving multiple objectives. They are:
- To provide civic amenities
Highways in India have been claiming a large number of accident casualties since Independence. Although the cause of such incidents can be many, it is reasonable to say that that the conditions on highways are one of the lead causes. Other lesser acknowledged reasons behind the accidents are the distress caused by long journeys, the lack of basic amenities such as restrooms, and the unsafe, desolate stretches on highways.
So, in order to rejuvenate motorists and provide them with several safe halting points, the NHAI had proposed to establish civic amenities including motels along national highways.
- To provide employment opportunities
Through this project, the government is expecting to provide direct and indirect employment to more than two million people. Further, the project also enables the local populace to showcase their less-known indigenous crafts to highway commuters.
- To transform un-irrigable lands into public-commercial properties
The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) invited owners of lands abutting national highways to collaborate for constructing the megaproject, and it also promised easy conversion of un-irrigable or un-irrigated lands into public-private properties, thus helping the them (landowners) add more value to their properties.
The highway operations division under the NHAI has been assigned with the task of developing WSA. The MoRTH has come up with a three-structure amenity plan – Highway Nest (Mini), Highway Nest, and Highway Village.
- Highway Nest (Mini)
Highway Nest (Mini) offers packaged food, drinking water, ATMs, and restrooms. The NHAI is planning to develop the Nests (Mini) on either side of all the Toll plazas operated by it.
- Highway Nest and Highway Village
Both these models will be featured similar kind of facilities. The major difference is their size and a few facilities. Facilities that are going to be developed in less than five acres of space are Highway Nests and those that occupy more than five acres of space are Highway Villages. The Village may offer conferences and helipads, which Nest doesn’t offer. The Village is still in its pre-construction phase.
The NHAI, which embarked on a mission with the Government of India to modernise the highways sector, has been on the forefront of the cluster project. Its recent initiatives, such as FASTag, Advance Emergency Traffic Incident Management, RAMS, Wayside Amenities Project, etc., stand testimony to this.