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National Highways, the lifeline of the country, connect the vital regions across India from north to south and east to west stretching over 66,590km. Existing highways are upgraded to multi-lane, modernised with all amenities and new stretches developed. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) under the Ministry of Shipping Road Transport and Highways, has the colossal task of not just implementing the project but also maintaining the highways.

Operational since February 1995, the Government of India has launched major initiatives to upgrade and strengthen national highways through various phases of the National Highways Development Project. National highways constitute just two per cent of the 3.3 million km Indian roads, world’s second largest road network but carry about 40% of the total road traffic.

National Highway Development Project (NHDP) Phase I was approved by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in December 2000 at an estimated cost of 30,000 crore and comprised mostly of Golden Quadrangle (5,846km)  and NS-EW Corridor (981km), port connectivity (356km) and others (315km). So far seven phases have been approved for the development of highways.

Guidelines for maintenance

NHAI has laid down guidelines for the requisite maintenance to be followed by the concessionaires who have bagged the projects. Some of the concessionaires are Reliance, L&T,HCC, GMR, Gamman India Ltd, IRCON International Ltd, KMC constructions among others.

For routine maintenance work the concessionaire shall follow the operations and performance criteria specified in the respective IRC/MoRTH standards and specifications  conforming to the International Standards for the sound Pavement maintenance practices. More specifically, the responsibilities of the concessionaires inculde:

  • Ensuring smooth and uninterrupted flow of traffic during normal operating conditions;
  • Charging, collecting and appropriating Fee in accordance with the Fee Notification and this Agreement;
  • Minimizing disruption to traffic in the event of accidents orother incidents affecting the safety and use of the Project/Project Facility by providing a rapid and effective response and for this purpose maintaining liaison with emergency services;
  • Undertaking routine maintenance, including prompt repairsof potholes, cracks, concrete joints, drains, line marking,lighting and signage; Ensuring that a minimum two lanes should remain open for uninterrupted, smooth and safe traffic flow at ease during such time.
  • Undertaking maintenance works in accordance with Maintenance Manual and the Maintenance Programme;Keeping the project site/facilities in a clean, tidy and orderly condition, free of litter and debris and taking all and practical measures to prevent damage to the project facility or taking care of road furniture.

The concessionaires are also expected to prevent unauthorised entry & exit from the Project, and encroachments. Adherence to the Safety Standards is also their responsibility.

All materials used in the maintenance, repair and replacement of any of the project facilities should meet the design requirement and conform to the environment norms.

The highways pass through urban, semi-urban and rural areas. Says,  Sumeet khurana, MD-Dulevo India.“It is practically impossible to do manual cleaning in these long stretching roads. And even if one resorts to manual cleaning,keeping the quality of the job would be short of expectations. Further, it will require a concentrated force of labour to get this work done.”

Mechanised sweeping, as conceded upon by the concessionaire and NHAI, provides the possibility of quickly cleaning the long stretches of road more efficiently.

“Economically, using mechanised sweeping equipment will bring down the cost of cleaning the roads.” Accordingly to the NHAI guidelines, the frequency of cleaning highways is  as follows:

  • it’s an urban road it has to be swept once in two days.
  • if it’s a rural road it can be swept twice in a week.

Elaborating further, BR Srikanth, Vice President, GMR, the concessionaire to highways running along the major cities including Delhi, MP, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, says, “We have general level of cleanliness schedules for urban roads, semi-urban roads and rural roads. The cleanliness level required for urban roads is more than that for semi-urban roads which are less frequented.” Adds Khurana: “Normally these road stretches are more or less in 50-150km category.The size of the equipment depends on the area to be covered.The size varies according to the road stretch of 50m, 100km and more than 100km.”

Currently, four projects of GMR are under construction ofmanufacturer which one project has been completed and is operational on the 33km stretch between Chandigarh and Ambala. “We’ve small machine in this stretch and it will clean 5-6 kilometre everyday.Currently we are using the Dulevo 120 for Chandigarh-Ambala.We are still new to this modern mechanical cleaning and willtake some time before we get experienced. We will be using Dulevo 200 for the other highways,” said Srikanth of GMR.

“We will require three more machines for our other three other projects: Tindivanam-Ulunderpeth (72 km), Hyderabad-Nagpur road (101km) and Hyderabad-Bangalore road (60km).Most of these highways run on very small portion of urban stretch and more along the rural stretch. Thus the frequency cleaning will be much less,” added Srikanth.

The Dulevo machine deployed on the sloping roads clean the dust that gathers in the two edges of the shoulder of the roads. Apart from cleaning the concessionaire also ensures incident management where dead animals lying on the road have to be cleared. “Along with the sub-contractor, we regularly go forpatrolling and clear the carcass using the thrash vehicle.Cutting of grass on the median or on the side of the road and maintain landscape near the toll plaza are other areas of responsibility.

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