Can India’s expressways fast-track housing growth?

While highways and expressways, can boost the real estate market along its route and change the urban dynamics of the region, the pace of development has been quite poor. We examine the reasons and possible solutions

Expressways across the country, are redefining distance and connectivity and also boosting the growth of regions along their route. The government, on its part, wants 11,500 miles of ‘controlled-access highways’ to be built by 2022. The country’s main highways, which comprise 2% of India’s roads and yet, carry 40% of the traffic, are to be widened and improved, as well.  However, ground realities often threaten to derail the development of fast modes of transportation.

 

The following facts indicate two different realities of expressways in India:

  • The government of India will construct 1,000 kilometres of expressways, under its flagship road building programme, the National Highways Development Project, at a cost of Rs 16,680 crores.
  • The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, has not only provided seamless connectivity between the two cities, but has also been a catalyst to the economic growth of adjoining regions.
  • Several expressways of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), are either incomplete or have failed to take off.
  • The $2-billion expressway from Delhi to Agra, has failed to take off, with the developer looking to exit this PPP project.
  • India’s longest expressway, an eight-lane, 1,047-kilometre road, from Ballia to Noida, the Ganga Expressway along the river Ganges, remains a non-starter.
  • The Dwarka Expressway has also run into several hurdles, although it is home to lakhs of new residential units.

 

See also: Ahmedabad-Mumbai Expressway: Creating new property destinations

 

The benefits for housing and the economy, from roadways

If expressways are deemed as crucial, why is there so much resistance? Vineet Relia, managing director of SARE Homes, maintains that the road sector of any nation, is the most critical factor for economic and social development. He points out to reports that suggest 1% growth in infrastructure, leads to an equivalent growth of 1% in the GDP. “To augment roadways and ensure quicker connectivity, the government has fast-tracked investments into the sector and announced many new expressways. However, the sector is still at a nascent stage and a lot more needs to be done, in terms of improving last-mile connectivity,” Relia explains.

Kishor Pate, CMD of Amit Enterprises Housing, feels that India’s pace of urbanisation, cannot be compared to most developed countries. “There are several limitations related to technology, funding and political will, which play a role in the deployment of expressways in India. Nevertheless, India does have several success stories. A prime example is the MumbaiPune Expressway,” he says.

 

What determines the success of expressway projects?

Experts maintain that the huge gap between the potential of expressways and actual success, can be attributed to planning and implementation, which varies from one region to the other. The volume of traffic, should be the main criterion for the selection of expressway corridors and corridors with the highest density, should receive focus. Then, the land acquisition should be tackled more professionally and the PPP model should actually be a partnership and not merely represent a grouping of contractors and owners.

If expressways are developed professionally, it can definitely change the urban dynamics of the region. For example, the stretch between Jaipur and Delhi, has seen immense industrial activity and is a crucial part of the golden quadrilateral. The expressway has not only reduced the travel time, but has also opened up opportunities for industrial and urban development of the locations along its stretch and also boosted tourism and other associated commercial industries.

“Locations must not only be well-connected, but also viable on all other fronts. If the quality of the real estate being developed in a location is sub-standard; if the properties are overpriced or if the projects are chronically delayed, then, the area will not pick up, despite excellent connectivity,” sums up Anil Pharande, chairman of Pharande Spaces.

(The writer is CEO, Track2Realty)

 

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