Should Kerala restrict the width of National Highways to 30 meters?

At a time when National Highways (NH) with a width of 60 meters are being built across the nation, Kerala wants the width of the NHs in the State to be restricted to 30 meters.

It was in 2010 that Politicians in Kerala, cutting across party lines, decided to restrict the width of National Highways in the State to 30 meters. Later, through the intervention of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), it was decided to have 45 meters width with 4 lanes, wherever possible and 30 meters, in other places.

But after three years, the Kerala Government is now pushing the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to agree to reduce the width of NH being developed in the State from 45 metres to 30 metres. It was in this context that we started the online campaign ‘Do not restrict the width of NH in Kerala to 30 meters’.

During the Onam holidays (September 15-16), I spent some time on the 100+ km Hosur – Krishnagiri – Hosur segment of NH-7 / AH-43 in Tamil Nadu with a NHAI Consultant to get a closer view of the six laning work being done by Hosur Krishnagiri Road Project Ltd. (HKRPL), a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for Reliance Infrastructure who is the concessionaire for this project of NHAI. It was a great learning experience for me.

Now coming to the big question – can you build a six-lane road in 30 meters? Yes. But is it enough? NO. We need a minimum of 45 meters and 60 meters where ever possible. Let me elaborate.

A single lane road has 3.5 meters width. So, three lanes on one side (single carriageway) take up 10.5 meters. Thus, with dual carriageway, we need 21 meters for six lanes. The Median can be from 1.5 to 4 meters depending on the availability of land. Then, on the extreme left side, there is 1.5 meters of tarred road called the ‘Hard Shoulder’ followed by another 1.5 meters of reinforced land called ‘Earthen Shoulder’. This needs another 6 meters on both sides. This means that if we have 30 meters we can have six lanes dual carriageway with a 3-meter median (21+6+3).

lane marking

Lane Marking illustration by Anil Philip

But why is this not enough? The drains and cable ducts need at least 3 meters (1.5+1.5) and a service road will take up 7 meters (double lane for two-way traffic) with 3 meters Earthen Shoulder (1.5 meters on both sides). This means another 26 meters – 13 meters (3+7+3) each on both sides of the main highway. Thus the total width goes up to 56 meters (30+26). I hope this explains the need for the 60 meters requirement.

The Hosur – Krishnagiri stretch has a minimum width of 45 meters (in city area) and a maximum of 65 meters. The extra land will ensure that if two more lanes have to be added in the future as the traffic increases, there won’t be any additional land acquisition.

The road is built for 100 kmph vehicular movement and the ride quality was excellent. Can we dream of such roads in Kerala?


  1. SANJAY THAMPY   •  

    Anil, it was a good reading and you seem to have done quite an extensive research on this subject to have lucidly explained the technical need to have 60 metre wide highways. Let me first congratulate you for your effort.

    But Anil, I feel, the State Govt. and NHAI are at logger heads here and the Govt. is insisting on reducing the width of the Highways (or to be more precise restricting the width of the Highways) due to the issue of sharing the cost of land acquisition.

    As far as I know, whenever land is acquired for any developmental work, NHAI pays the market value, which is also decided by the state’s revenue officer. But I think, here Kerala Govt. wants NHAI to pay not only this land acquisition cost but also resettlement and rehabilitation cost for the displaced. This would mean calculating extra cost for loss of livelihood, duration of loss of livelihood or in some cases giving alternate place for work or building a house.

    I think that such demand by the State Govt. is quite unreasonable and is beyond the ambit of NHAI.

  2. Anil Philip   •  

    National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) decides to drop the widening of NH 47 and NH 17 in Kerala due to extremely slow pace of land acquisition.

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