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Technological initiatives are paramount for road safety initiatives, says Director, DRA Infracon

Technological initiatives are paramount for road safety initiatives, says Ankit Agrawal, Director, DRA Infracon

How feasible is the advanced use of technology in the Roads & Highways sector?
Global trends in infrastructure indicate that there is focus on innovations and uses of advance technologies based on data and analytics to improve the operational efficiencies and developing economies and improving sustainability. Roads and Highway sector is not an exception. The role of roads and highways sector in the overall transport sector continues to be globally recognized.  In fact there is ample scope for use of New/advance technologies in various phases of Highway infrastructure including Design & Planning, uses of alternative materials, automation and mechanization in construction phase as well as in Operation & Maintenance phase.
Advanced technologies  is being  adopted in Pavement Design in order to minimize the use of natural resources as well as increase the sustainability and durability of New Roads or strengthening of existing Road. Advance and latest software are being used for the Design of major structures saving cost and time in Design phase as well as providing economies in Construction. Use of Cold Mix asphalt with bitumen emulsion has improved the operation & maintenance of Highways especially during monsoon period.
IT applications are being progressively enhanced especially in Electronic Toll Collection System, Intelligent Transport System, Toll management System  and Advanced Traffic management System which has resulted into improved  facilities for Road Users which is main  area of focus  globally in order to minimize accidents  and making the road travel entertaining one. A mobile application system has also been launched for tag purchases and top up of FASTags called MyFASTag.
All Govt agencies including MoRTH, NHAI , NHIDCL as well as State Govt  have adopted  e-procuring and e-tendering system for procurement of goods  and services in a transparent manner  which has helped in  getting competitive Bids.

What are the possible roadblocks in implementing these technological advancements, seeing the present stage of the sector?
There are many challenges in implementing the new technologies which includes insufficient budgetary provisions with Govt departments, lack of feedback mechanism, shortcoming in DPR preparation and clarity on use of new technologies in Contract. Apart from the above cutthroat competition in EPC Contracts does not allow contractors to invest additional money in using new technologies. One of the major Road Block in using the new technologies is proven track record on its past performances. In fact the result and outcome of any new technology in Road Sector    requires sufficient   time to prove its efficiency and efficacy which can be evaluated only after allowing the traffic on Highway for a considerable time. Another critical  issue is hesitation and lack of encouragement by Authority/Consultants in adoptability of new technologies  in absence of  proper specifications and past performances as there is no scientific method/mathematical model which can measure the performance in short term  and can  prove the durability, longevity and sustainability of product by using new technology.

Which is that one technology that you would like to see being implemented in the sector?
Technological initiatives are paramount for road safety initiatives, ie, prevention of accidents, expediting response, etc. In the field of construction advance technologies which can allow maximum use of waste material will be preferable so as to economize the construction as well as to reduce the Environment hazard. Another area may be use of Precast Concrete panels for Road construction which will provide faster construction of road especially in Cities/Township with longer life and will be cost effective. In Operation stage, technology should be implemented so as  to collect the Toll by road users in proportion to the actual length they have travelled on the stretch instead of  the paying a fix toll irrespective of their uses. In addition advancement in   monitoring of road operations and maintenance, electronic toll collections, reducing the down time and asset management system shall be preferable.  

Given the rising focus of implementing technology, how do you see the future outlay of the Road &Highways sector in the country?
India is one of the fastest growing economies and is entering into an era where infrastructure will be at the core of country’s economic development. In recent years, the government has embarked on series of measures to accelerate infrastructure development. India has the second largest road network in the world. Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) is planning to develop around 60,000 km of roads in the next five years at about 40km/day. The Roads and Highways sector plays a critical role in the growth of Indian economy as around 64% percent of goods are transported via road and nearly 90 per cent of passenger traffic by road. The current focus on construction of roads and highways is expected to continue over the next 10-20 years. Post that the focus is expected to shift to efficient operations and maintenance of roads and enhanced services to road users. Perpetual pavements can be designed with a 50 years of Design life without any major repair and habitation which can sustain heavy traffic and  shall be very   cost effective.

 Use of Tunnel Boring Machine, New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) and use of  latest equipments  have made  the tunneling construction  faster and easy encouraging the Government to come up with many Tunneling Projects which was considered to be tough some times back. In order to develop good quality roads with  better  durability & and minimizing the use of depleting natural resources like Aggregate, sand, etc use of new technologies have been implemented successfully, however needs further modification/upgradations.  Use of bio fuels and eco-friendly technologies/construction is another area where new and smarter technologies will play a significant role.


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