CHENNAI: Two months after Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of Union environment ministry issued Terms of Reference (ToR) for Rs 10,000 crore-Greenfield Chennai-Salem Express Highway, a draft feasibility report prepared by a consultant concluded that the project is ‘socially feasible’. According to the Detailed Project Report (DPR), it is expected to reduce the transportation cost of vehicles by 15 to 20 per cent.
National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had appointed M/S Feedback Infra Private Limited for providing the required consultancy services for preparation of Detailed Project Report. The 286-page draft feasibility report, a copy of which is available with Express, says the traffic forecast recommends for immediate development of six/eight lane divided carriageway from Chennai-Salem, which would be a completely access controlled high speed corridor that connects industrial and special economic zones present along Chennai and Salem. This means, vehicles on the road will be controlled with flyovers, bridges and ramps for every three to four kilometres. The service roads will be connected to subways to reach nearby areas.
“Of the eight toll plazas proposed on the green corridor, only two toll gates — entry and exit points — will be set up in main carriageway. The remaining six toll gates will come at exit points in the ramps, so as to enable the vehicles to move at 100 to 120 kmph,” said official sources.
The traffic studies and forecasts carried out as part of the draft feasibility report show that traffic along the three existing routes from Chennai Salem, via Krishnagiri, via Vaniyambadi or via Ulundurpet was substantially driven by commercial and industrial traffic. In addition to this, some religious and archaeological attractions en route expected to increase passenger traffic considerably. A preliminary estimate shows, the traffic from Salem-Ulundurpet-Chennai route is around 8,000 to 10,000 passenger carriage units (PCU), Salem-Harur-Vellore route is 4,000 to 5,000 PCU and Salem-Krishnagiri-Chennai route is around 4,000.
“Since, these routes are not access-controlled, speed of the travel is affected by considerable cross movement of traffic through the side roads and access of vehicles from the abutting settlements leading to slow movement of traffic. The travel time from Chennai to Salem can be reduced from 6 hour 26 minutes to 3 hour 9 minutes with 8-lane greenfield express highway, whose alignment is also proposed to be integrated/connected with other highways planned/executed in Tamil Nadu state in the future,” the draft feasibility report says.
Indeed, the generalised transportation cost calculation assessed by a consultant on behalf of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in the DPR, estimated the travel cost of a car via the Chennai–Krishnagiri–Salem route over 345 km at Rs 2913.92, while the cost via the Chennai – Ulundurpet–Salem route over 313 km stood at Rs 2623.07. However, the cost of car travel via the proposed Chennai–Salem corridor would be around Rs 2237.36.
The DPR estimated the cost benefit of vehicles by taking into consideration factors such as vehicle operating cost (VOC), value of travel time (VOT), travel time, toll gates and trip length as prescribed by Indian Road Congress (IRC).
“Components such as fuel, tyres, maintenance, insurance, taxes, lane configuration, rise and fall of roughness and pavement conditions have also been accounted for,” explained officials.
Similarly, the operating cost of a bus via the proposed green corridor was estimated at Rs 5636.13, while the vehicle’s cost via the other two routes stood at `6840.50 and `6190.90 respectively.
Sources said, the proposed road would decongest the vehicular congestion on Chennai–Tiruchy NH, and Chennai–Bengaluru bypass road. The NHAI projected that about 41,959 vehicles will pass through first toll gate on the proposed Chennai–Salem Corridor by 2023. Business lobbies say the project would change the face of TN. In fact, the socio-economic profiles of the project districts — Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem — in the draft feasibility report reveal the State government’s clear plans to industralise these agrarian districts.
In Kancheepuram, agriculture is the main occupation of the people with 47 per cent of the population engaged in it. Paddy is the major crop cultivated in this district. Palar river along with tanks and wells are the main sources of irrigation in this district. At the same time, Kancheepuram is also one of the most industrialised districts in the country with many automobile manufacturers such as Hyundai, Nissan, Ford, BMW, Daimler, thanks to its proximity to Chennai. In Tiruvannamalai, which is one of the country’s 250 most backward districts (out of a total of 640) and one of the six districts in Tamil Nadu currently receiving funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme (BRGF), government plans to set-up 250 acre hi-tech SEZ for automative components, a 300-acre electronics hardware park and has a commitment from the Taiwanese Shoe Company to set up its unit.
In Krishnagiri, SIPCOT has already developed one of the largest industrial complexes in the country in Hosur in over an area of 1,370 acres and to develop Large/Medium/Small industries with SIDCO offering comprehensive services for more than 500 industries. The industries in Hosur are the source of raising the standard of living of people in Krishnagiri district. It is producing goods varying from pins to aeroplanes. Dharmapuri is predominantly covered with forests. Spider valley located near Hogenakkal is home to many wild animals. The district also falls in the migratory path of elephants.
Salem being one of the fastest growing Tier II cities, the government and ELCOT are planning to establish an IT park covering about 160 acres. SAIL is planning a Steel SEZ inside Salem Steel plant covering about 250 acres and there is an exclusive Electrical and Electronics Industrial Estate in Suramangalam in Salem city.
M Ponnuswami, Chairman, Confederation of Indian Industry, Tamil Nadu State Council, said the project would enhance economic growth of central districts. “The project will considerably reduce the cost of transport, especially for the manufacturing industries spread across the central region of the State, in moving goods to various destinations, including major ports,” he said
What is the proposed project?
The 277.3 km proposed greenfield corridor starts near Chennai Ring Road in Vandalur and ends at NH-544 bypassing Salem. The proposed alignment passes through Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts. The project also envisages construction of three bypass roads each at Kancheepuram (30 km), Chetpet (4.7 km) and Thiruvannamalai (16 km).
Objective: Aimed to promote economic growth. Distance between Chennai and Salem will be cut by 68km and time will be reduced from 6hr 26min to 3hr 9min
Merits of existing roads
Since roads are already present, there is no structure affecting and land acquisition, unlike the proposed greenfield expressway
All existing routes are either no access/partial access controlled, the connectivity is much higher to the villages/town along its path
There is no forest land acquisition, which is a long and difficult process required for the greenfield highway
Proposed highway with closed toll policy system is difficult to access for a common man
According to draft feasibility report, 2,791 hectares have to be acquired from five districts, of which 1,229 hectares would be acquired from Tiruvannamalai district.
The lands to be acquired are mostly agriculture fields.
It has to pass through 159 villages.
It will affect 120 hectares of forest land and cause irreversible damage in eight reserve forests.
It has to pass through seven rivers.