Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the first leg of the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway (DME) – the section from Sohna in Haryana to Dausa in Rajasthan – on February 12. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that this stretch of the grand 1,350 kilometre long Delhi-Mumbai Expressway is expected to bring down the travel time between Delhi and Jaipur, a distance of about 280 kms, to just around two hours.
The eight-lane (expandable to 12-lane) under-construction access-controlled expressway connecting India's national capital New Delhi with its financial hub Mumbai is not just another expressway. After completion, it is going to be one of the world’s longest access controlled expressways. The foundation stone for this ambitious project was laid on March 8, 2019 by Union minister Nitin Gadkari in the presence of then ministers Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
The total project value including the land acquisition cost is around Rs 1 lakh crore (US$13.1 billion). Initially, the expressway will be eight lanes wide with the greenfield-alignment route in backward areas, which will reduce the current travel time of 24 hours to just 12 hours. The alignment is passing through backward regions such as Mewat in Haryana and Dausa in Rajasthan besides Madhya Pradesh. This shall give a huge impetus to the development of these regions, and open up economic opportunities for local people. The fruits of the expressway have already started manifesting: Land prices have started going up along the new alignment.
The DME is India’s first futuristically planned expressway with an eye for detail keeping several future requirements in mind. The expressway stands out for original and aesthetic design and planning with the objective to make journeys safe, fast, and commuter friendly. Following global engineering standards, the DME has no sharp turns and drivers get more than 500 metres of continuous straight visibility.
It is a common experience in India that highways get congested by the time it takes to complete them. The DME has been planned keeping future traffic expansion in mind. An additional four lanes have been reserved in the middle of the road for future expansion, along with space for utilities, plantation and public transport on both sides. This expressway, along with the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (Western DFC), will be a vital backbone of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
Side Spurs: The expressway will have multiple side spurs (roads branching off) in the future, which will help commuters to connect with other major cities not directly connected on the main alignment. The work on construction of a 31-kilometre-long additional side spur connecting the upcoming Noida International Airport in Jewar with the Faridabad Sector-65 bypass in Haryana on this expressway has already begun. Similarly, construction work of Bandikui-Jaipur spur has also started in March 2022.
Connectivity Magic: Future interconnectivity has also been envisaged in this modern expressway. The DME will be directly connected with various other expressways like Delhi–Noida Direct Flyway(DND Flyway) in Delhi and Western Peripheral Expressway (which will connect it to Delhi-Katra Expressway) in Haryana. It will also link to the Trans-Haryana Expressway via the 86.5 km long six-lane access-controlled greenfield Paniyala–Barodameo Expressway.
The Kota-Indore Expressway (136 km) will connect it to the Hyderabad–Indore Expressway (via Nanded-Akola-Omkareshwar-Indore), which will in turn intersect the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway at Akola in Maharashtra. In Gujarat, it will link to the Ahmedabad–Vadodara Expressway and at Ahmedabad it will connect to the Ahmedabad-Dholera Expressway.
Linking up with all these smaller expressways shall complete the web of connectivity that will dramatically improve our logistics efficiency, resulting in reducing logistics costs and making our businesses competitive.
This modern and futuristic expressway has been planned with a host of world class features. There are many firsts here for India and even the world too.
Wayside Amenities: Keeping commuters’ needs in mind, the expressway will have wayside amenities at 93 locations with facilities like ATMs, hotels, retail shops, food courts, charging stations for electric vehicles, and fuel stations. Aesthetically designed village haats are also being built to encourage local handicrafts, handloom, fruits and vegetables. This shall also give impetus to developing support systems for the government’s One-District One-Product initiative. It will also be the first expressway in India to have helipads and fully equipped trauma centres every 100 kilometres for accident victims.
Electric Highway: A stretch of this expressway is being developed as an e-Highway(electric highway) where electric trucks and buses can be charged while running. Trucks will be able to travel at a speed of 120 km/hour and could bring down the logistics cost by 70 per cent as heavy vehicles will run on electricity instead of diesel. Construction on this project has started and is expected to be completed by March 2024.
Eco Friendly: The entire expressway has been designed keeping ecology, environment and economy in mind. DME is being developed as an environment-friendly expressway with a tree cover of 20 lakh trees, watered with drip irrigation along the entire stretch and rainwater harvesting systems every 500 metres. The route will be lit using a mix of power supply from state grids and solar energy.
Wildlife Corridors: Avoiding man-animal conflicts have been the biggest challenge while planning and executing this expressway. A combined length of 2.5 km of this eight-lane wide expressway will run through five natural-looking wildlife crossings on the stretches identified as the wildlife corridors between tiger reserves. One of these crossings will be a tunnel in Mukundara Hills National Park, which will be the country’s first 8-lane wide tunnel.
DME will be the first expressway in India to have wildlife crossings. The crossing over the expressway will have 8-metre-tall noise barrier walls on either side, and the uncovered stretch of expressway passing through the wildlife corridor will have 6-foot-tall walls on both sides of the expressway to prevent animals and pedestrians from entering to minimise the impact of traffic zipping past at speeds up to 120 km/hour.
The expressway runs through Aravalli wildlife corridors, especially affecting corridors between four tiger reserves of Rajasthan, namely Sariska Tiger Reserve, Mukundara Hills National Park, Ranthambore National Park and Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary, all of which are important tiger reserves.
No Blind Spots: Delhi-Mumbai Expressway shall be India’s most hi-tech highway. Right from toll collection to Intelligent Traffic and Incident Management, the best technologies have been put to use for better highway management. The authorities shall be able to monitor the entire stretch of highway through cameras installed all along the expressway. Modern features like speed cameras for speed violations and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras for lane violations shall help better road rules enforcement.
And A World Record: This expressway has already made it to the Guinness World Records even before it is operational. In Gujarat, contractor Patel Infrastructure created a world record in speed building roads by laying pavement quality concrete (PQC) over a 2.58 kilometre length and four-lane width (4x2.58 =10.32 lane kilometres) within 24 hours. The work of laying PQC started on February 1, 2021, at 8 am and ended the next day at 8 am. An 18.75 metre wide German-made Wirtgen concrete paving machine was used in this stretch.
The Delhi Mumbai Expressway has already ushered in a multiplier effect for the Indian economy. This 1,350-km-long single expressway has potential to change India’s infrastructure landscape. With more than Rs 1 lakh crore of investment riding on it, the expressway shall bring not only India’s two most important cities closer but shall bring opportunities, growth and dreams closer to reality for our people. For this precise reason, this futuristic expressway is not just a road, it is India’s quantum leap into the future.
This article is authored by Mr. Vaibhav Dange, An Independent Expert on Infrastructure & Public Policy. Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.