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Road improvement tops agenda of infrastructure development

Special Correspondent
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Infrastructure development will be under active consideration of the government and as a first step to improve the road network in the State, the government had earmarked Rs.10,710 crore for the next three years.

According to the PWD Minister Ebrahim Kunju who was talking to a select group of reporters on the eve of the three-day infrastructure conference here, city road improvement project tops the agenda in infrastructure development.

For starters, seven cities would have the benefit of better roads with an investment of about Rs.3,500 crore. The other funds set apart include Rs.4,000 crore for State road improvement projects and Rs.750 crore for the Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP) phase two.

Responding to a query, the Minister said that there is stiff opposition to toll collection in the State and he blamed the media playing into the hands of the vested interests. Hence the government now wants to avoid toll collections from these newly developed roads. Land acquisition is another major hurdle which is resulting in long gestation periods for all developmental projects in the State.

The Minister also talked about a new concept of public private people’s participation which envisages people’s participation in infrastructure development.

The government is for people’s participation through local self- government institutions, he said, adding that this concept was mooted at the recently held Emerging Kerala Investors’ meet. The government is planning to take back 800 km of road entrusted to NHAI for development.

This will be developed by the State on par with international standards and there will not be any toll collections, he said.

The government has formed an SPV named Road Infrastructure Company Kerala Ltd (RICK) to improve 1,204 km of road in the State highways and district roads. The Cabinet accorded an administrative sanction of Rs 4,000 crore in this regard, the Minister said. In total, 62 roads including 29 State highways are grouped under the rehabilitation category and the remaining 33 roads under upgradation category.

The idea is to develop these roads into international standards without much land acquisition proceedings and toll will not be collected, he said. Regarding the KSTP phase II project, the Minister said the works included were upgrading 363 km of State roads, road safety, and sustainable environment management.

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