The pace of highway construction in the country has touched a record 37 km per day in financial year 2020-21 and India has constructed 13,394 km of highways in fiscal year 2020-21, says SP Rajan, Head-Plant & Machinery, L&T Construction.

How do you assess the evolution of roads and bridges segment over the years in terms of quality and execution time?

The definition of construction is redefined with some of the largest, tallest, biggest, longest, and complex projects being executed at unprecedented pace. Gone are the days when projects used to take decades to be completed. A new India is in the making with the push to the infrastructure development. The pace of highways construction in the country has touched a record 37 km per day in financial year 2020-21 and India has constructed 13,394 km of highways in fiscal year 2020-21.

Execution push

For decades, infrastructure development was a luxury in India just like the argument of the requirement of a bullet train in India when millions live Below Poverty Line (BPL). In the 90s, the need to spend billions of dollars on highways and bridges was questioned when millions live impoverished. However, we have witnessed a sea change in the approach in the recent years.

Today India has the second-largest road network in the world. A total of 200,000 km of national highways is expected to be operational by year 2022. The government, through a series of initiatives, is working on policies to attract significant investor interest and has allocated US$ 13.14 billion, under the National Infrastructure Pipeline for FY 2019-25.

Now, with the government permitting 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the road sector, several foreign companies have formed partnerships with Indian players to capitalise on the sector’s growth. This has fuelled the exponential growth of numerous road and bridge contractors and even small-time contractors have also grown in a big way proudly showcasing their envious growth trajectories.

We have witnessed New Records being set for fastest execution, clearly indicating the trend of ever-shrinking execution time. India now holds multiple world records in the pace of road execution ranging from fastest road construction (37 km/day), laying a 2.5 km 4-lane concrete road within 24 hours and single-lane 25 km bitumen road within 24 hours. 

There is a paradigm shift in terms of execution time which is cherished and embraced by the industry. It is the sustainability, in the long run, that would be the key to the success.


While the speed is induced, there is always a fear that the quality is compromised. In multiple occasions, Union Minister, Shri Nitin Gadkari has mentioned that industry players should adopt innovative methods and new technologies to improve cost efficiency and construction quality. Contractors and officials have been warned against compromising with the quality of work and NHAI top brass has been holding regular meetings to address quality issues. There are thoughts like contractor ratings and negative markings. With the advent of new technologies in road and bridge building, quality can be certainly improved.

There is a need for a kind of cultural change. Any engineer must feel that there is only one correct way, that is doing the job with the best quality and finish.

How do you look at the adoption of new technologies and advanced equipment towards achieving the set execution targets?

Adoption of new technologies and advanced equipment has played a pivotal role in mechanisation and resurgence of the segment. I can confidently say that 3D Machine Control-assisted grading and paving technologies has made the road building a delight. The execution time has reduced by at least 25 percent and dependency on human skill is largely reduced, thereby ensuring improved quality and faster execution. Use of Rover and Base stations would simply reduce the human error as well as time consumed in surveying. Advancements in survey technology like use of Geo-spatial survey tools, Robotic Total Stations and traversing concepts helps in reducing error and faster surveying. Many in-process inspection methods and gadgets have been introduced that can ensure quality during execution and eliminate reworks.

Which are the key roads and bridges projects you are working on currently? How is the progress?

In roads and highways, major projects include a package of the Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg and various packages of Mumbai-Vadodara Expressway. 

In bridges section, we have projects like cable stayed bridge across Durgam, extradosed bridge over Mandovi river cable stay bridge, Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, Mumbai Coastal Road Project, Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, Thane Creek Bridge and some new projects like Dhubri Phulbhari to name a few. Not to mention the prestigious High-Speed Rail project which is totally an elevated structure.

The second wave of Covid-19 has left no project unimpacted, but so far, we have been able to steer ourselves through the difficult times. We are working relentlessly to gain pre-Covid pace.

How are you managing the overall operations in the current challenging conditions?

Covid-19 had a huge impact on roads and bridges sector. Our sector is highly labour-intense and the lesson we learned during the first wave that our sustainability depends on how we will be able to retain the labour at site. 

Efforts have been put in by the entire L&T team to take care of the health of workmen and retain them at the projects. Initiatives like tying up with hospitals, setting up quarantine centres, medical facilities and arrangements for free food was made at project sites. Push for vaccination is another area where we are focussing on. 

Various response teams have been set up like Covid Response Team (CRT) and Decision Response Team (DRT) for brisk and decisive actions. Multiple health advisories to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is being broadcasted, daily. These communications have been relayed to over 1,20,000 employees, 4,00,000 contract workers and their 12,00,000 family members. 

Facilities like work from home, inspirational messages and medical support whenever required have helped to boost the morale of the team and have given confidence that we all are fighting this battle together and will emerge victorious and stronger as ever. 

In addition to all these efforts, L&T, as always has worked closely with various government agencies including DRDO in building various facilities to fight the pandemic. We have constructed hospitals in a very short time and installed oxygen generation plants across multiple locations.

Technology has been at the forefront in ensuring business continuity during this time. More than 10,000 equipment across projects are digitally enabled and our capability to monitor them remotely gave us an edge in ensuring productivity and utilisation of these assets. Training programs have been conducted to increase the skill levels and daily reviews and meetings are organised through meeting platforms like MS Teams. 

How are you procuring materials and machinery currently? What kind of support are you getting from dealers and equipment OEMs in this regard?

Cement, steel, aggregate and bitumen are the major raw materials in our business and the price fluctuation at this stage is no doubt an area of concern. We are trying to firm up supplies through with the major producers at acceptable levels.

We also manufacture construction machines as well as some heavy material handling equipment. This facility has come in handy during such testing times. This apart, we also source machines from overseas and increased focus has been triggered towards stage level manufacturing.

What will be the focus in the current situation? 

Health, sanitisation, and hygiene are on the agenda of all the organisations now. We must not let the guard down in days to come. The wafer-thin margins and shrinking project cycles need skilled manpower and that is possible only when we take care of their health.

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