India has the second largest road network in the world, aggregating 4.7 million km. And the countrys roads and bridges infrastructure, which was valued at $6.9 billion in 2009, is expected to touch $19.2 billion by 2017. The financial outlay for road transport and highways grew at a CAGR of 19.4 per cent in the period FY 2009-14.The plan outlay for 2015-16 stepped up budgetary support for Road Transport and Highways to Rs 42,912 crore ($ 6.47 billion).
The Indian government plans to develop a total of 66,117 km of roads under different programmes such as National Highways Development Project (NHDP), Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in North East (SARDP-NE) and Left Wing Extremism (LWE), and has set an objective of building 30 km of road a day from 2016. Here are some key developments in the sector:
OMT and HAM models
The NHAI had introduced the OMT model in 2009 for existing and near completion four-lane National Highways. It is providing consistent revenues. The concession period for NHAI projects is nine years, after which the project stretch is transferred back to the government authority. In 2013-14, ~5,150 km of road projects were provided under the OMT model by NHAI and state authorities. The OMT market will primarily be driven by a number of BOT players with existing projects and there will be rising penetration of OMT stretches in state highways, especially in Karnataka, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The number of projects bid out by NHAI and state highway authorities on OMT mode is expected to increase from the current 14 and 34 projects respectively to 30-32 and 55-60 projects respectively in 2017-18. The hybrid annuity model (HAM) is a mix of EPC and BOT formats, with the government and the private companies sharing total project cost in the ratio of 40:60 respectively. This new model will reduce financial burden on the concessionaire during project implementation. Compared to EPC projects, the shift to HAM would also ease cash flow pressure on the NHAI. NHAI is expected to introduce HAM for award of highway projects by year end.
Toll collection also holds huge potential ahead. NHAI has handed over the toll collection process to private players of toll management companies. The contracts awarded are usually short-term contracts (~3-24 months in case of NHAI projects and ~12-36 months in case of state authorities). The user fee is predetermined by the contracting authority and the right to collect the fee during the concession period lies with the private player.
According to industry experts, the tolling market is expected to increase 1.4 times from the current 12,150 km to ~16,900 km by 2017-18 and will primarily be driven by rising penetration of tolling stretches in state highways (especially in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Haryana) and the increasing number of stretches being awarded by NHAI on tolling basis. The number of projects bid out by NHAI and state highway authorities on a tolling basis is expected to increase from the current 120 and 102 projects respectively to 145-150 and 140-145 projects respectively in 2017-18.
The government has set a target to award 273 road projects covering a length of ~12,900 km worth of ~Rs126,700 crore during FY16 under various schemes. NHAI will spend the highest at ~Rs 72,000 crore, followed by ~Rs 24,000 crore by the NHDP. The NHAI is implementing development projects on 48,648 km of National Highways under different phases of NHDP. Out of this, work on 33,351 km has already been awarded and balance 15,297 km is yet to be awarded.
According to industry sources, potential opportunities include the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, a 135 km-long, six-lane expressway at a cost of $750 million; the 150-km Delhi-Meerut Expressway at $1 billion; and the 473-km Vadodra-Mumbai Expressway at $4.3 billion.
Going forward, new policy initiatives, such as the rescheduling or deferment of premium payable to the government and the CCEA approving the exit policy norms according to which developers can now sell 100 per cent stake in any project two years after completion, will ease the liquidity position of developers, encouraging them to bid for more projects and paving the way for further growth of the roads sector.
About the Author:
M Murali is Director General of the National Highways Builders Federation (NHBF).