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  • The road sector has witnessed a surge in activity in the past three years. National highway projects covering about 34,000 km were awarded between 2014-15 and 2016-17, almost double the length awarded in the preceding three fiscals.

  • Around 20,000 km of national highways have been constructed since 2014-15. The current construction rate of national highways is about 18 km per day.
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  • The launch of innovative implementation models such as hybrid annuity has contributed significantly to the increase in activity. So far, 36 projects worth about Rs 330 billion have been awarded under this model. Expressway development has also gained momentum with 10 expressway projects at various stages of implementation.

  • In addition, the ministry has taken concrete steps to ease the operating and financing environment for the sector. Initiatives such as amendments to the model concession agreement (MCA), one-time fund infusion, exit policy, premium deferment, rationalised compensation to developers, and securitisation of cash flow in BOT projects have benefited stakeholders. As a result, the implementation of about 90 per cent of languishing projects is back on track.

  • The pace of road development in the Northeast has also picked up. NHIDCL is currently involved in the implementation of 175 projects covering about 9,000 km.

  • On the financing front, the government is actively considering new and diversified funding avenues. Long-term sources of financing are now being tapped. The launch of the toll-operate-transfer (TOT) model to monetise the existing asset base is one such step. Initially, 75 revenue generating operational projects will be bid out on a TOT basis.

  • The ministry recently listed rupee-denominated masala bonds worth Rs 70 billion on the London Stock Exchange. India's maiden sovereign wealth fund, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, has also identified the first batch of road projects for funding. Players like IRB Infrastructure Developers, MEP Infrastructure Developers and Reliance Infrastructure have initiated the process to list their assets under InvITs.

  • Asset sales are also gaining prominence with players like ITNL, HCC, NCC, Sadbhav Infrastructure Project, GMR and Gammon offloading stakes in operational as well as under-construction projects. On the buyers' side, several global investors are eyeing operational and revenue generating assets in India. Developers such as ITNL, Sadbhav, HCC, and Ashoka Buildcon have also refinanced debt to reduce costs.

  • Meanwhile, technological advancements continue to draw the ministry's attention. FASTag penetration has increased to about 350 toll plazas with the sale of over 350,000 tags as of March 2017. The Indian Bridge Management System has been developed to monitor the inventory of national highway bridges. Online platforms like e-Pace, Infracon, and INAM-PRO+ have also been launched.

  • The ministry is encouraging the use of new materials and techniques. It has issued specifications for the use of micro-surfacing, polymer/rubber modified bitumen, and fly ash-based cement to ensure cost effective and durable road construction and maintenance.

  • The road safety agenda has attracted greater attention with the passage of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The bill will address the issue of road safety by enforcing stiffer penalties.

  • Land acquisition remains a grey area although the NHAI has decided against inviting bids for projects till land has been acquired. Delays in obtaining statutory clearances, non-availability of soil/aggregates, utility shifting, and lengthy arbitration processes are other issues that continue to delay projects.

  • Going forward, MoRTH targets the construction of about 15,000 km of national highways during 2017-18. Plans are also in place to award 50,000 km of projects worth Rs 5 trillion in the next two years. Mega projects such as Bharat Mala, Setu Bharatam and Char Dham Connectivity, and the development of economic corridors are likely to provide significant opportunities in the sector. The government has also identified 2,000 km of coastal roads to improve connectivity between ports and remote villages.

  • The mission of this conference is to provide an update on the key trends and developments in the sector, assess the impact of recent government initiatives, and discuss the key issues and concerns. It will also highlight the upcoming opportunities in the sector, and showcase noteworthy initiatives, projects, technologies and best practices.
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