The Centre gave its green signal for investments worth more than Rs.27,000 crore in new highways and railway lines across the country to boost economic growth.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved infrastructure projects worth Rs.27,328 crore for expansion of railway lines in 11 states and development of 1,120 km national highways in five states.

“The Cabinet decisions are a continuation of the government’s commitment to support infrastructure development particularly expanding the national highways beyond the existing ones,” said Manish Agarwal, partner and leader, infrastructure, PwC India. “This will augur well for passenger and freight movement and is very positive for the infrastructure sector, he said.

Infrastructure boost

The government plans to increase its investments in the infrastructure sector. About 8,300 kilometres of roads involving more than Rs.1 lakh crore investments were revived, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech. Total investments earmarked in the current fiscal for roads and railways sectors amounts to Rs.2.18 lakh crore. The Centre is also augmenting port capacity by developing greenfield projects in both eastern and western coasts. In the aviation sector, the Centre plans to revive torpid airports.

The railway expansion programme includes nine projects involving 1,937 km of track construction at an estimated cost of Rs.20,867 crore. The projects include construction of second railway line between New Bongaigaon and Kamakhya in Assam. The government also gave its approval to build third and fourth railway line projects on the North South and East West Corridors of the Golden Quadrilateral.

The Railway Ministry said the “fully saturated” Golden Quadrilateral will get a “big boost” helping in transportation of coal, minerals, steel and other commodities. This will also enable transportation of more passengers along these routes.

“At present, the number of passengers and goods trains in the Golden Quadrilateral section is far more than its capacity resulting in heavy detention. These projects are essentially required for removing capacity constraints, reducing detention and for traffic growth,” the Railway Ministry said.

Among the projects approved are third railway lines between Kharagpur and Adityapur (Jharkhand), Itarsi and Nagpur (Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra), Ballarshah and Kazipet (Maharashtra and Telangana) and Vijayawada and Gudur (Andhra Pradesh).

Similar third railway lines will also be built between Rajnandgaon-Nagpur (Kalumna) in Chhattisgarh and Gondia, Bhandara and Nagpur Districts of Maharashtra, Mathura and Jhansi and Jhansi and Bina in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Besides, the CCEA has also given its nod to construction of fourth railway line between Jharsuguda and Bilaspur (Odisha and Chattisgarh). The construction of these railway lines is expected to be completed in four to six years.

Highway connectivity

As a part of the National Highways Interconnectivity Improvement Project (NHIIP), the government approved constructing 1,120 km national highways in Karnataka, Odisha, Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal with World Bank assistance. The work is scheduled to be completed by July 2024 at an estimated cost of Rs.6,461 crore.

These projects will ensure safe, fast and all weather movement of traffic on the proposed national highways mostly located in backward regions thereby improving socio-economic development, an official statement said. In a separate move, the CCEA has also approved waiver of penal interest on the Government of India loans availed by Cochin Port Trust to the tune of Rs.897 crore. The Cochin Port Trust had availed Rs.168 crore worth loans between 1936-37 and 1994-95 for various development activities from the Centre. Non-payment of loans had attracted penal interest of Rs.914 crore, according to an official statement.

The Cabinet also approved leasing out 4,060 square metres of Airports Authority of India (AAI) land to Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) for setting up Centre for Perishable Cargo and its future expansion at the Guwahati Airport.

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