“American roads are not good because America is rich, but America is rich because American roads are good," US President John F Kennedy once said famously. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taught how to execute high-quality road network projects to modern India two decades ago. PM Narendra Modi consolidated on that vision and created records of highest per day and per week pace of National Highway construction. Yogi Adityanath also understood this early in his Chief Ministerial tenure –- that if he has to bring prosperity to Uttar Pradesh, specially to the Eastern and Bundelkhand regions, high quality road networks are the key. The unprecedented vision and pace with which the Yogi government has worked in the last four years on network of greenfield expressway projects, surely earns him a title of ‘The Expressway Man’.
In this article, I will take the readers through the journey of grit and determination of four large-scale expressway projects executed by the Yogi Adityanath’s government in the last 51 months.
Purvanchal Expressway Project
Before 2017, the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh was the most neglected region. Though Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav both won their parliamentary seats in eastern UP, but they never bothered to develop this region. Samajwadi Party (SP) & Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) made electoral promises for this region but never initiated anything.
Even before becoming the chief minister, Yogi Adityanath was a five-time MP from Gorakhpur, a Lok Sabha seat from eastern UP. He knew the challenges of the region like no one else. Yogi knew that an expressway in eastern UP, will boost the social and economic development of the covered areas as well as the income of agriculture, commerce, tourism and industries. An expressway in eastern UP will act as a catalyst for setting up of the handloom industry, food processing units, storage plant, mandi and milk-based industries.
The government planned a massive 341 km world-class expressway from Lucknow to Ghazipur. As it was a greenfield project the challenge was steep. Yogi’s team handled it efficiently and effectively. The minimum tender in this project has come down by about 5.19% from the estimated cost, which has given a profit of about Rs 614 crore to UPEIDA, the body managing the expressway work.
Despite the blockade caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Yogi’s team ensured that the construction of the expressway by the builders of all the packages move at the pre-pandemic progress rate. Till mid-June, the work of clearing and grubbing is 100 % completed, earth work 99.89% completed, subgrade work 99.28% completed, granular sub base (GSB) work 99% completed, Waste Mix McAdam (WMM) work 98.53 % completed, Dense Bituminous McAdam (DBM) work 98% completed, Bituminous Concrete (BC) work 76% completed and structures work is 99% completed. The total physical progress of the project is 90% completed. The scheduled date for completion of this project is October, 2021, which will be achieved. The main carriageway of this expressway is expected to open in next two months.
Once opened, the 341-km Purvanchal Expressway will become the heart line of eastern UP, starting from village Chandsarai in the district of Lucknow, and will connect nine districts till village Hyderia in Ghazipur district just 18 km before of UP-Bihar border. These 9 districts are – 1. Lucknow, 2. Barabanki, 3. Amethi, 4. Sultanpur, 5. Ayodhya, 6. Ambedkarnagar, 7. Azamgarh, 8. Mau and 9. Ghazipur. This is a six (6) lane world class carriageway and is expandable to eight (8) lanes. Airstrip is being developed on the expressway in Sultanpur district for the Air Force for emergency purposes. Important to note that close to 9,000 people have directly and indirectly got employment in the construction work of this expressway.
Bundelkhand Expressway Project
In previous governments, the projects and schemes from Lucknow never reached the remote districts in the Bundelkhand region of UP. Many Bundelkhand packages came and went but nothing moved much. With Bundelkhand Expressway Project Yogi reversed the trend of the decades of step brotherly treatment to this region.
Yogi government initiated a 300 km Bundelkhand express project from Chitrakoot to Etawah, connecting the seven districts — Chitrakoot, Banda, Mahoba, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Auraiya and Etawah. This four-lane divided carriageway is expandable to six lanes.
Through meticulous, transparent and efficient e-tendering process, the minimum tender has come down by about 12.72 % from the estimated cost, which has given a profit of about Rs 1,132 crore to the Yogi government.
Till last week, 99.37% clearing and grubbing work was completed, earth work was 92 % completed, out of 818 planned structures, 601 structures have been completed. The total physical progress of the project is 63%. The scheduled date for completion of this project of March, 2022. But the main carriageway of Bundelkhand expressway is expected to be operational by Dec 2021.
Gorakhpur Link Expressway Project
Gorakhpur Link is a four-lane (expandable to 6 lane) expressway stretching 91.3 km, will be linking four districts of eastern UP — Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, Ambedkarnagar, Sant Kabirnagar to the Purvanchal Expressway. Till mid of June-2021, 97.18% clearing and grubbing work is over and 49% earth work has been completed. More than 24% of the total physical progress of the project has been completed. The project is scheduled to be completed by April, 2022.
Ganga Expressway Project
With almost 600 km greenfield expressway project, Yogi government is in the process of building India’s second longest state expressway of India, starting from Bijauli village of Meerut to Prayagraj, connecting 12 districts of UP along — Meerut, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Amroha, Sambhal, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh and Prayagraj. It will be 6 lane expressway expandable to 8 lanes. The width of the Right-of-Way (ROW) of the expressway is proposed to be 120 metre on one side of the expressway. The land acquisition work of Ganga Expressway is going on a war footing. Almost 64% of the total 7,800 hectare needed for this expressway is being acquired. The Ganga Expressway pre-bid discussion is over, queries have been responded to and it will reach bid stage very soon.
In TV debate on UP infrastructure, a Bahujan Samaj Party spokesperson talks about 165 km Greater Noida-Agra expressway built while a Samajwadi Party spokesperson flaunts 302 km of Agra-Lucknow expressways built during their tenures. In last 15 years of both SP and BSP rule, only 467 km of expressways were built, that too limited only to western UP. In contrast, before December, 2021, the Yogi government will operationalise Purvanchal Expressway and Bundelkhand Express — adding a 641 km to the expressways road infrastructure in the state of Uttar Pradesh. And this 641 km will be achieved by the government in five years vs the 467 kms of both SP and BSP governments in 15 years. And with 91 kms Gorakhpur Link Expressway and 600 km Ganga Expressway, Uttar Pradesh will enter into a different league of high-quality road networks across the state. In 2020 even PM Narendra Modi praised Yogi Adityanath that Uttar Pradesh is becoming an ‘Express State’ under Yogi Adityanath’s leadership. And that’s why I call Yogi Adityanath, ‘The Express-Way-Man’ of UP.
Shantanu Gupta is an Author & Policy Commentator. Views expressed are personal.