Highway linking four metros by 2003

BHUBANESWAR, SEPT. 2. The Union Surface Transport Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh, today said that the Centre has decided to accord the highest priority to the National Highway Development Project (NHDP) under which about 13,000 km of national highway will be made four and six-laned.

Addressing reporters here, Mr. Singh said under the project the Golden Quadrilateral connecting the four metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta (about 5,952 km) would be completed by 2003.

The North-South and East-West corridors, connecting Srinagar with Kanyakumari and Silchar with Por Bandar (about 7,300 km), would be completed by 2007. The conversion of these highways into four and six lanes will be done to match international standards.

The NHDP would require a total of Rs. 58,000 crores for completion of the entire project. Rs. 20,000 crores would be mobilised by cess on petrol and diesel, Rs. 20,000 crores through external assistance, Rs. 12,000 crores from market borrowings and Rs. 6,000 crores through private sector participation, the Minister said.

Mr. Singh said that the country had a total of 52,010 km of highway at present out of which 25,000 km distance required improvement. The entire distance will be made of riding quality by 2003, he added.

About development of the major ports, Mr. Singh said that the major ports having a capacity of 240 million tonnes handled 271.32 million tonnes of cargo during 1999-2000. As the major ports are continuing to be congested and their berth occupancy remains high, the Surface Transport Ministry plans to enhance the capacity of major ports to 374 million tonnes during the Ninth Plan.

A plan has been drawn for the expansion and modernisation of the major ports which includes construction of equipping new berths, acquisition of the state-of-the-art, equipment to match the emerging cargo mix, establishment of electronic data interchange, setting up vessel traffic management system, labour training and welfare, increased role of private sector and corporatisation of major ports, Mr. Singh said.

He further said that the Government was committed to increase the role private sector along with the public in shipbuilding and ship repair. Several measures are being taken to make the shipyards modern and more competitive.

Later, Mr. Singh inaugurated the four-laning of a 28- km-long stretch of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Jagatpur section of National Highway No. 5. The four-laning project was funded by the World Bank. The four-laning of the stretch would ensure smooth flow of traffic between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

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