Bharatmala Highways Project To Get Delayed, Cost To Rise By 54 Percent: ICRA

The first phase of Bharatmala Pariyojana (BMP), a centrally- funded road and highways project, is likely to get completed by 2025-26 (FY26) with a delay of four years, rating agency ICRA said. The Bharatmala phase-I, which was scheduled to complete by FY22, has been delayed due to prevailing uncertainty due to COVID-19 and the subsequent nationwide lockdown.

“The Bharatmala Pariyojana (BMP) Phase-I is likely to be delayed by four years and get completed by FY26 instead of earlier envisaged FY22,” PTI quoted ICRA as saying.

Till February 2020, a total of 246 road projects with an aggregate length of about 10,100 km were awarded under BMP Phase-I at a total cost of Rs 2.38 lakh crore. On this, ICRA said the average cost of award stood at Rs 23.80 crore per km, which is 54 per cent higher than initial estimated cost of Rs 15.52 crore per km.

On land acquisition cost for NHAI, the agency said it increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27 per cent from FY07 to FY19 from Rs 0.21 crore per hectare to around Rs 4 crore per hectare. This along with prudent bidding by developers at a premium, when compared to NHAI’s base price, has resulted in significantly higher awarded cost for BMP Phase-I when compared to initial estimates, it added.

According to ICRA, the prevailing uncertainty due to COVID-19 and the consequent impact on valuations could delay asset monetisation plan of NHAI through toll-operate-transfer (TOT) auctions and launch of infrastructure investment trust (InvIT).

Depending on how quickly the normalcy is restored, these plans could take off by end of FY2021. Therefore, 2020 is likely to be another year of muted awards, it added.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had approved the BMP Phase-I along with other programmes on October 24, 2017. A total of around 34,800 km roads are being considered in BMP Phase-I, which also includes 10,000 km of balance road works under NHDP. Estimated outlay for BMP Phase-I was Rs 5.35 lakh crore spread over five years between 2017-2022, as per the initial plan.

As per the revised funding plan dated September 2019, the dependence on market borrowings for BMP increased substantially by 72 per cent to Rs 3.59 lakh crore, while the budgetary allocations and contribution from central road and infrastructure fund were reduced by 46 per cent to Rs 1.83 lakh crore.

Consequently, borrowings of NHAI are expected to increase significantly and peak by FY2023 or FY2024; at the same time, NHAI’s asset monetisation also remains critical to meet the funding requirements of BMP Phase-I, ICRA said.