Regulatory body for road-sector issues

Amid criticism over delay in constructing highways, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said the government will shortly circulate a draft Cabinet note along with a draft bill for setting up of a regulatory authority for the road sector to address issues such as financial stress and construction risk.

“Both the draft Cabinet note and draft bill for creation of Regulatory Authority will be circulated shortly,” says a budget document tabled in Parliament by the finance minister.
The road construction sector has reached a certain level of maturity but it faces challenges not envisaged earlier like financial stress, enhanced construction risk and contract management issues that can be best addressed by the authority, the document said.

The key functions of the proposed regulator are likely to be tariff setting, regulation of service quality, assessment of concessionaire claims, collection and dissemination of sector information, service-level benchmarks and monitoring compliance of concession agreements, among others. The minister also said that the country’s rural road network has expanded over seven times at 3.89 lakh km in the last 10 years.

Despite bottlenecks, in the nine months of the current fiscal (2013-14) 3,928 km of National Highways and 39,144 km of rural roads were under (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) PMGSY were added, he said. “In 2004, the country’s rural road network was 51,511 km which has reached 3,89,578 km today,” he said in his Interim Budget speech.

“We have added highways and rural roads under the PMGSY,” Chidambaram said.
PMGSY was launched on December 25, 2000 as a fully funded Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country.

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