The construction of Ganga Expressway, a fully access-controlled expressway, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh on 18 December 2021.
The 594 km long six-lane expressway will be built at a cost of over Rs 36,200 crore. The project is essential for Omni-directional development of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and joins a long list of big ticket infrastructure projects in the state.
The ambitious project to build an eight-lane expressway connecting eastern and western parts of Uttar Pradesh was initially floated by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government in 2007. However, the project could not see the light of the day and remained pending for 15 years.
The project was revived in 2019 by the Yogi Adityanath government, which proposed a new alignment for the Ganga Expressway. The Chief Minister had announced construction of Ganga Expressway —connecting Meerut with Prayagraj — during Kumbh-2019.
Immediately after the announcement, the government started work on the sixth and longest expressway in Uttar Pradesh, a dream project of the Chief Minister-designate Yogi Adityanath. CM Yogi credited the vision of the Prime Minister to provide fast-paced connectivity across the country as an inspiration for the expressway project.
The Ganga Expressway starts from NH-334 near the Bijauli village in Meerut district and terminates at Prayagraj Bypass on NH-19 near Judapur Dandu village in Prayagraj.
Traversing through 12 districts — Meerut, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Amroha, Sambhal, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Unnao, Rae Bareilly, Pratapgarh and Prayagraj — the expressway would connect the eastern and western parts of the state.
This six-lane expressway will have a 120 m ROW (right of way) and is designed to be expandable to eight lanes in the future. A service road of 3.75 m will also be constructed at one side of the expressway in the staggered form so that residents of nearby villages of the project area may get a smooth transportation facility.
The expressway will be fully access controlled and designed for a closed-toll system. Access controlled roads have limited and designated entry and exit points instead of the present practice of every office or establishment joining the main highway. Segregated service roads are used for coming on to the main highway.
The state government has plans to extend the expressway at both ends — by 110 km from Meerut to Tigri on the Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand border and by 314 km from Prayagraj to Ballia, in the second phase of the project.
The Ganga Expressway is being executed by Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) on DBFOT (Toll) basis under public private partnership (PPP) mode. UPEIDA acts as a nodal agency for implementation of expressway projects in the state entrusted by the government of UP.
Design-build-finance-operate-transfer (DBFOT) contract is where the private sector designs, finances and constructs a new facility under a long-term lease, and operates the facility during the term of the lease. The facility is transferred back to the public entity at the end of the lease term.
“Ganga Expressway’s land acquisition started in December 2020. As of December 2021, the UPEIDA has acquired 94 per cent of the land needed for construction of the expressway. Around 7,386 hectares of land is required for the expressway of which almost 94 per cent of the land needed for the purpose has already been acquired,” said UPEIDA.
In order to expedite work, the project has been divided into four groups each consisting of three packages. UPEIDA aims to complete the project by 2025.
UPEIDA invited tenders for the expressway’s development in March 2021. On 30 November 2021, Adani Enterprises and IRB Infrastructure Developers were selected as the preferred bidders for the expressway’s development, following a competitive bidding process. IRB bagged group 1 consisting of packages 1-3, while Adani bagged groups 2-4 consisting of packages 4-12.
Contractors – AEL
Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL), the flagship company of the Adani Group, India’s fastest-growing integrated infrastructure group, has won contracts from UPEIDA to build three groups of the Ganga Expressway project in a deal worth Rs 17,085.16 crore.
Of its 594-km length, the AEL will build 464 km from Badaun to Prayagraj, which comprises 80 per cent of the expressway. Adani Enterprises will be implementing the project on a DBFOT (Toll) basis over a concession period of 30 years.
UPEIDA’s letter of award (LoA) to AEL covers the development of six-lane expressway in three groups: 151.700 km from Badaun to Hardoi, 155.7 km from Hardoi to Unnao and 156.947 km from Unnao to Prayagraj.
With a project cost of more than Rs 17,000 crore, this is India’s largest ever expressway project awarded to a private company under the PPP framework, the AEL said in a press release.
Contractors — IRB Infrastructure
Meerut Badaun Expressway Private Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of IRB Infrastructure Developers Limited, won the bid to develop 22 per cent or 129.7 km of the Ganga Expressway from Meerut to Badaun.
"The company will develop the 129.7km stretch from Meerut to Badaun under Group 1 of the four groups of the project, with cost outlay of Rs 6,555 crore, under the Design, Bid, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) model with the traffic linked expandable concession period up to 36 years that includes 3 years for construction," noted a company release.
The estimated total cost of civil and construction work on the Ganga Expressway project is Rs 36,230 crore, and Rs 19,754 crore will be spent on civil work. The project has a GST outlay of Rs 2,371 crore. A provision of Rs 9,255 crore has been made for the purchase of land.
Due to the huge financial outlay involved, the government opted for the DBFOT model for the expressway project. This is in contrast to the recently completed Purvanchal Expressway and the under-construction Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur Link expressways which were built under the engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) mode, in which the entire cost was borne by the state government.
In order to get the project rolling, UPEIDA has secured a loan of Rs 5,100 crore from Punjab National Bank in August 2021 for the purchase of land. This has been done by securitising the toll revenues of the already operational Agra-Lucknow Expressway.
For its operational expressways, including the Agra-Lucknow Expressway, UPEIDA gives toll collection rights to private companies. These companies transfer a portion of the revenue generated from toll to the agency.
"In the Ganga Expressway project, we are using securitisation money from our toll incomes for a loan at very soft terms," Awanish Awasthi, chief executive officer (CEO) of UPEIDA, told Swarajya, adding, "The interest on the securitisation loan is very low. It is less than 7 per cent".
"We have taken the securitisation route because our toll is increasing by 30 to 40 per cent every year. We wanted to leverage the increase in toll with us rather than leaving it to other organisations," Awasthi said.
"In case of securitisation, the risk is not on the financer or the bank because the revenue which comes through toll collection on expressways is put in an escrow account and that is used to pay for our interest as well as principal. If there is a shortfall, it has to be met by us," he said.
Even though about 94 per cent land acquisition has already been done by UPEIDA, the financial closure by the contractors is yet to be done.
Financial closure occurs when all the project and financing agreements have been signed, all conditions on those agreements have been met, and the private party to the PPP can start drawing down the financing to start work on the project.
In a PPP project, financial closure indicates the commencement of the concession period. The date on which financial closure is achieved is the appointed date which is deemed to be the date of commencement of the concession period.
IRB Infrastructure Developer is yet to achieve the financial closure for the project and is contemplating to bring in private equity participation for constructing its share of the Ganga Expressway. IRB expects the project to cost Rs 6,555 crore over the next three years and will finance it by Rs 2,405 crore of equity, Rs 2,405 crore of debt and Rs 1,746 crore of viability gap funding.
Similarly, Adani Enterprises has incorporated two wholly owned subsidiary (WOS) namely, Unnao Prayagraj Road Private Limited (UPRPL), and Budaun Hardoi Road Private Limited (BHRPL), in December 2021 for the development and maintenance of Greenfield ‘Ganga Expressway’.
What To Expect
Upon completion of work, the Ganga Expressway will become the longest expressway of UP. The unique aspect of the expressway is that it will link other expressways in the state through Lucknow-Agra Expressway, Purvanchal Expressway and Ballia Link Expressway.
The project will provide direct high speed connectivity from the National Capital Region through the proposed expressway to Meerut and then onwards to Prayagraj. On becoming operational, the expressway is expected to reduce travel time between Delhi and Prayagraj from the current 10-11 hours to just 6-7 hours.
A 3.5 km long air strip for assisting emergency take off and landing of Air Force planes will also be constructed on the expressway in Shahjahanpur. An industrial corridor is also proposed to be built along the expressway.
Once completed, the expressway will give a fillip to multiple sectors including industrial development, trade, agriculture, tourism, etc. It will provide a big boost to the socio-economic development of the region.
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