K. Balchand

NEW DELHI: The Centre has embarked upon an ambitious programme to convert and develop the entire national highways (NH) network to a minimum of two lanes by December 2014.

The Road Transport and Highways Ministry has estimated that at least 19,064-km length of NH still continues to be just a single-lane stretch. The objective is to work out programmes to upgrade the stretches which do not fit into any of the approved programmes.

According to sources, at least 6,304-km length of NH which are below the two-lane standards are not included for upgrading under any of the approved schemes and the Ministry is struggling to put a plan in place to upgrade these stretches. The Ministry has identified about 3,770-km length of NH for improvement with the help of the World Bank, from which it intends secure a loan assistance of $2.96 billion in phases.

Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath has already discussed the matter with World Bank chief Robert Zoellick, who during his forthcoming visit to India is expected to take a decision in the matter.

The Ministry intends to improve another 1,963-km length of NH through budgetary allocations, taking up the various stretches under the Annual Plan of Works.

The Ministry first hopes to arrange funds for the widening of these stretches of NH before embarking on working out a plan for the improvement of the remaining portions of below two-lane standards.