• Budget 2017: Nitin Gadkari-led Road ministry seeks funds to decongest metros

    Earmarked funds to decongest crowded metros creaking under overloaded infrastructure, incentives to phase out old vehicles, and promotion of e-tolling may find a place among proposals for roads and highways in the Union Budget 2017-18.

    Sources said Budget-related discussions have seen Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari take up the proposals with Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, and also pitch for setting up of logistics parks along national highway corridors linking ports and manufacturing hubs.

    The initiative to decongest cities was spurred by complaints that day-to-day transport as well as doing business had become increasingly difficult in cities like Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

    Last year, Wipro chief Azim Premji and Biocon CMD Kiran Mazumdar Shaw had raised Bengaluru’s problems with Gadkari. “They had asked how we can rescue them from this growing problem. It takes nearly two hours for people to reach office. No city can sustain and progress if congestion on roads is not property addressed,” Gadkari had said then.

    The ministry is also pressing for larger budgets for highway construction, and is looking for measures to improve road safety through signage, rumbler strips, and traffic management systems.

    The ministry had noted that new road connectivity and improving the existing network in Bengaluru alone would need at least Rs 15,000 crore. Similarly, road projects in and around Delhi require an investment of Rs 50,000 crore. The ministry is looking for some budgetary support that can be supplemented by the states, and may involve a role for private industry too.

    With old vehicles, particularly trucks and buses, seen as big contributors to air pollution, the ministry is pushing for incentives to phase them out. The road transport ministry has already prepared a proposal for voluntary scrapping of old heavy vehicles, which includes provisions for owners to get some value from scrap and the original manufacturer getting some incentives too.

    The ministry has said that paying toll electronically could help reduce congestion at toll plazas and save several man-hours and fuel. He has suggested providing some incentive to such commuters. Sources said the minister pushed for developing logistics parks along national highways network, and to set up bus ports with better facilities.  Tavon Young Jersey

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