Eastern Eye (UK)

Will Mumbai-Delhi express road link speed up progress?



INDIA last Sunday (12) inaugurate­d the first stage of its longest expressway, linking New Delhi and Mumbai, as it makes a concerted infrastruc­ture push.

The ambitious $13 billion (£10.65bn) project will eventually cut the road travel time between the country’s two biggest cities in half, to 12 hours.

India is the world’s fastest-growing major economy, but its infrastruc­ture remains decades behind that of China.

A sign over one of the new four-lane carriagewa­ys proclaimed “Welcome to Delhi-Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway” - a route that spans a total of 1,386 kilometres (861 miles).

Prime minister Narendra Modi opened the 246-kilometre first stage last Sunday, linking the capital with the tourist city of Jaipur in Rajasthan.

It was a “sign of developing India”, he said, adding that “such investment­s in railways, highways, subway lines and airports are a key to pushing the country’s growth rate, attracting more investment­s and creating fresh jobs”.

Asia’s third-largest economy has made a renewed push to decouple itself from an increasing­ly assertive China’s supply chains and build up its own economic capacity since a deadly military clash on their Ladakh frontier in 2020.

A wary New Delhi has expedited many key projects, and government this month announced an unpreceden­ted 33 per cent increase in infrastruc­ture spending.

The Indian prime minister is expected to open at least a dozen major railways, highways, expressway­s and port projects in the next few months.

India has one of the world’s largest rail networks – employing 1.3 million people – but it is badly outdated and needs huge investment­s in both track and rolling stock, with authoritie­s seeking to tap private capital to do so.

For its part, Beijing has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastruc­ture over many years and China now boasts an extensive motorway system, gleaming airports and by far the world’s largest high-speed rail network.

India’s first high-speed rail line, a $13 billion (£10.65bn) Japanese-funded project linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad, remains under constructi­on and has been hit by land acquisitio­n and other bureaucrat­ic bottleneck­s.

Harsh V Pant, a professor with King’s College London, said with China “losing some of its lustre”, Indian policymake­rs “feel that it is in a geopolitic­al and geoeconomi­c sweet spot which needs to be leveraged with higher infrastruc­ture investment­s to make it an even more lucrative and attractive economy”.

He added: “China’s economic growth and infrastruc­ture developmen­t started a few decades before (India’s) so there is still a lot that it needs to do in terms of matching up to China.”

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 ?? ?? ROAD TO DEVELOPMEN­T: The Delhi-Dausa-Lalsot stage of new expressway; and (inset above) Narendra Modi dedicates the road to the nation
ROAD TO DEVELOPMEN­T: The Delhi-Dausa-Lalsot stage of new expressway; and (inset above) Narendra Modi dedicates the road to the nation

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