Uttar Pradesh Is Leading The Nation In Scripting An Expressway Revolution

  • Under the four e-ways projects that it is currently working on, Uttar Pradesh is constructing an expressway network of over 1,350 km.

    When all these expressways are complete, almost every second district of the state will have an expressway passing through it.

Sonu Kumar Yadav, who sells Bati Chokha in his Tata Ace a few meters away from the intersection where the newly-built Purvanchal Expressway originates from the Lucknow-Jaunpur National Highway in Lucknow’s Chand Sarai, has not visited his home in Balia (eastern UP) in over two years.

“The journey from Lucknow to my village in Balia took nearly 12 to 14 hours. With the construction of the new [Purvanchal] expressway, people say I will be able to reach my village in a much shorter time,” Yadav says.

“You can’t imagine how easy this [Purvanchal Expressway] will make my life,” he told Swarajya, adding that he could even think of driving back in his Tata Ace when going home the next time.

The 340-kilometre-long Purvanchal Expressway will be opened for traffic after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates it at the Kurebhar Airstrip near Karwal Kheri village in the Sultanpur district today (16 November).

Prepreations underway for the imauguration of the Purvanchal Expressway. (Prakhar Gupta/Swarajya)

Prepreations underway for the imauguration of the Purvanchal Expressway. (Prakhar Gupta/Swarajya)

When Yogi Adityanath came to power in 2017, Uttar Pradesh had two functional expressways — the 165-km-long Yamuna Expressway, which links Agra with the National Capital Region (NCR), and the Lucknow-Agra e-way, stretching 302 km. In ten years between 2007 and 2017, the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party government the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) government had completed one expressway each.

But nearly five years since it took power, the Yogi Adityanath government has completed the Purvanchal Expressway, and work on three other e-ways has also been started, with two — the 296-km-long Bundelkhand Expressway and the 91-km-long Gorakhpur Link E-way — in an advanced stage of construction. Land acquisition for the state’s sixth and longest, the 594-km-long Ganga e-way, is nearing completion, and the Prime Minister is likely to lay the foundation for its construction in December.

Under the four e-ways projects that it is currently working on, Uttar Pradesh is constructing an expressway network of over 1,350 km. When all these expressways are complete, almost every second district of the state will have an expressway passing through it.

Purvanchal Expressway

With the main carriageway of the Purvanchal e-way open for traffic, Uttar Pradesh now has expressway connectivity between its eastern border with Bihar and the western boundary with Delhi. The expressway originates in Lucknow and passes through eight districts — Barabanki, Amethi, Sultanpur, Ayodhya, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur, linking the state capital with the eastern border with Bihar. Lucknow is also linked to the National Capital Region on its western border through the Yamuna and Agra-Lucknow expressways.

“With the construction of the Purvanchal Expressway, we’ll have a road link from the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh to the National Capital [on the western border of Uttar Pradesh],” Awanish Awasthi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), told Swarajya in December last year.

“Uttar Pradesh will become the first state to have an expressway stretching across its entire length,” the UPEIDA CEO said, adding that “it will act as reed ki haddi or backbone of Uttar Pradesh”.

Using the three expressways, the 1,000 kilometre distance between Delhi and the eastern border of Uttar Pradesh can now be covered under 12 hours, an engineer working on the project said.

UP’s operational and under-construction expressways. (Illustration: Swarajya Magazine)

UP’s operational and under-construction expressways. (Illustration: Swarajya Magazine)

“On the northern side (of the expressway) is Gorakhpur, on the southern side is Prayagraj, and we are going into districts like Barabanki, Amethi, Sultanpur, Ayodhya, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur, where connectivity is needed,” Awasthi said.

“Reaching Azamgarh from Lucknow took at least four to five hours earlier,” he sais, adding, “now, within two and a half hours one can go to Azamgarh from Lucknow. That will be a major advantage of the expressway.”

According to the UPEIDA, the Purvanchal e-way has been completed in a record time of 36 months. The construction of the expressway began in October 2018 with the completion deadline set for October 2021.

“We have managed to complete the expressway in record time despite two Covid waves. Work on the expressway continued with saftey precautions in place,” Durgesh Upadhyay, media advisor to the UPEIDA, said.

While the main carriageway of the expressway is complete and will be officially opened for traffic after the inauguration later today, the allied infrastructure, including the service lanes along the expressway and the wayside amenities like fuel stations and food courts, will be completed in the next few months, Upadhyay told Swarajya.

Construction of a service lane along the Purvanchal Expressway underway in Lucknow's Chand Sarai. (Prakhar Gupta/Swarajya)

Construction of a service lane along the Purvanchal Expressway underway in Lucknow’s Chand Sarai. (Prakhar Gupta/Swarajya)

While last-minute finishing touch is being given to the Purvanchal Expressway, a 91-kilometre-long e-way is being built to link it with Gorakhpur, the seat of the Gorakhnath Peeth which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath continues to head as mahant. Adityanath has also represented Gorakhpur in Parliament five times in a row between 1998 and 2014. Consequently, both his spiritual influence and political power are concentrated in this part of the state.

Originating in Gorakhpur, the Gorakhpur Link Expressway will pass through two districts — Kabir Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar, and join the Purvanchal Expressway in Azamgarh. Around 30 per cent of work on the expressway has been completed so far.

The Purvanchal e-way is also being extended to the Ballia district, the easternmost part of Uttar Pradesh, with a 30-km-long link. The project was approved by Chief Minister Adityanath in December 2020. It will be constructed by the National Highways Authority of India.

Mooted and passed under the Samajwadi Party government in the state, the Purvanchal e-way project did not fall off the radar under the BJP government after the 2017 assembly elections. If anything, Chief Minister Adityanath made it a priority as eastern Uttar Pradesh, which benefits from the project, is crucial for the BJP’s prospects in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

In the 2017 elections, the BJP had won 72 out of the total 90 seats in the 18 districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, upping its tally from 14 seats in 2012. The Samajwadi Party’s tally had come down to 9 in 2017 from 52 in 2012. The timely operationalisation of the Purvanchal e-way is one among the things that the Adityanath government believes could help the BJP repeat the 2017 performance in this part of the state in the elections next year.

Expressways, Not Highways

Expressways are necessary to meet the development needs of a state of the size of Uttar Pradesh, Awasthi told Swarajya in December 2020.

“A four-lane road which doesn’t have access control will slow down movement,” Awasthi said, adding, “if you want to make the state a 1 trillion dollar economy, expressways are absolutely necessary.”

“UP is a very big state and our view is that unless we improve connectivity we can’t move forward. These expressways are going to be there for the next 50 to 100 years. Once you open an area through expressways, it leads to a lot of qualitative change in the environment,” he said.

“If you want to bring industrialisation in a large state like UP, you need expressways so that connectivity to the areas concerned is good. For example, no industry will go to Bundelkhand unless there is good connectivity,” he added.

Bundelkhand Expressway under construction.

Bundelkhand Expressway under construction.

Expressways will also help promote tourism, he added.

“If someone can travel to Chitrakoot [in Bundelkhand] from Delhi in five and a half hours, why wouldn’t he go there, spend time as a tourist and come back? If going to Chitrakoot from Delhi takes nine hours, then the person going there has to plan for three days — one day for going, one day for seeing the place and one for the return journey. That, generally, people will not accept. That’s why we have gone for expressways,” Awasthi said.

“This experiment is also there in the state of Maharashtra, where they built the Pune-Mumbai Expressway. It was one of the first expressways in the country. Now they are building another one. We are much faster than other states, and we are making more expressways than almost all states combined,” he added.

Bundelkhand Expressway

The 296-km-long Bundelkhand e-way, currently under construction, was part of the “Chief Minister’s vision for the Bundelkhand region,” Awasthi told Swarajya, adding, “He was the one who initiated the process saying the state should have an expressway right from the border of Madhya Pradesh, passing through Chitrakoot, Banda, Mahoba, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Auraiya and Etawah and linking the region to Delhi”.

The Bundelkhand e-way joins the Lucknow-Agra Expressway in Etawah, linking the semi-arid and drought-prone region to the National Capital Region through the Lucknow-Agra and Yamuna expressways. It is critical for the success of the Uttar Pradesh Defence Corridor as a large part of the project, including two nodes in Jhansi and Chitrakoot, lie in the Bundelkhand region. UPEIDA, the agency building the expressway, is also the lead agency for the UP Defence Corridor project.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

Construction of the expressway began in early 2020. Around 75 per cent of the work on the expressway has been completed, and the UPEIDA is planning to open the main carraigeway of the e-way by the end of this year or early next year. The expressway is likely to be inaugurated ahead of the assembly polls in the state in March next year.

Ganga Expressway

The Ganga e-way, the state’s longest, was first prposed in the late 2000s under the Mayawati government. However, the project’s environment clearance was cancelled in 2009 by the Allahabad High Court. The proposed alignment of the expressway, it argued, was too close to the Ganga river’s channel and coudl damage the flood plains of the river.

The project has been revived by the Adithayanth government.

“Ganga Expressway was tried by an earlier government but the plan didn’t materialise,” Awasthi told Swarajya last year, adding that the Allahabad High Court had stayed the expressway project back then.

“Earlier, the Ganga Expressway was conceptualised on the banks of the Ganga. The Ganga is a national river and there is a Ganga Authority. All clearances for the Ganga Expressway require clearances from the National Ganga Authority. That was not taken [when the project was planned earlier]. So the High Court, sometime in 2008 or 2009, stayed the project saying the government needs to have the requisite environment clearance, which had not been taken,” he said.

“Now, what we have done is move the road away from the bank because any eco sensitive zone will require a lot of approvals which we have avoided. We have kept the road at a safe distance from the river bank, and we have tried to bring the road closer to district headquarters. This is a better model we think. If the road is closer to the district headquarters, it will make connectivity better,” Awasthi added.

Around 94 per cent of the land needed for the Ganga expressway has been aquired by the state government, UPEIDA officials said.

“In record time, despite the second wave of Covid-19, we have completed 94 per cent of land aquisition. The tendering process is going on and, in the second week of December probably, the Prime Minister may lay the foundation stone for the expressway project,” Upadhyay said.