The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Peril on road to progress
- Study shows at least Rs 12,000 crore required to upgrade 'network of potholes'

Calcutta, May 23: The dream of a resurgent Bengal will remain unfulfilled if the government and its agencies fail to pump in between Rs 12,000 crore and Rs 42,000 crore in improving and upgrading at least 8,000 km of major highways in the state.

This is the bottom line of a recent study ' West Bengal's Road Network: An Assessment ' carried out by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

From assessing the performance of ongoing projects to identifying new avenues for resource mobilisation, the study covered an entire gamut of issues related to road network in Bengal.

'This is a status report on road infrastructure in the state and we want to help the state government in identifying the areas for improvement,' said a CII spokesperson. The chamber has already submitted the report to the department of industries.

The study suggests that if the Bengal government only widens state roads and adds one more lane, the government would need to construct around 8,000 km of road network in the next few years costing around Rs 12,000 to Rs 14,000 crore. The investment would be in the range of Rs 36,000 to Rs 42,000 crore if the government wants to upgrade from one to four lanes.

According to the report, the situation is 'grave' and investment is 'necessary' as industrial activity is growing along with congestion on roads. Besides, the average speed on national highways is around 80 km an hour, while for state roads it is between 40 and 50 km an hour and in certain cases 25 km an hour.

'It is evident that the need to build more roads and improve and widen existing ones is rather pressing,' says the study, which identifies centres, with a potential for industrial and economic development, which need proper road connectivity with Calcutta.

Besides, it also suggests how construction of new roads and widening of existing highways can give a fillip to business activity in sectors like information technology, IT-enabled services, iron and steel, tourism, biotechnology, retail, real estate and housing, gems and jewellery and agro and food processing. For Bengal's industrial resurgence to take 'firm root', the connectivity of industrial zones with arterial national highways like NH34, NH2 and NH6 must be improved expeditiously, the report adds.

The report also talks about some of the practical problems ' from lower capacity of alluvial subsoil to higher rainfall ' that confront road development agencies in the state. 'The climatic conditions of Bengal also ensure that roads need to be repaired more frequently and thus, more resources are expended on operations and maintenance than in other states,' it says.

The report explores funding options like encouraging private participation and also suggests increasing toll rates and proper enforcement to bring in more investments in infrastructure development.

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