India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday opened the first completed section of what will become the country's longest motorway and connect the capital New Delhi to the financial centre of Mumbai.
The $13 billion Delhi–Mumbai Expressway, part of India's infrastructure development push, will halve travel time between its two biggest cities to 12 hours and enhance connectivity to other cities en route.
Mr Modi officially opened a 246km section of the 1,386km route in Rajasthan's Dausa district that will speed up the road journey from Delhi to Jaipur, a popular tourist destination in the western state, from five to three and a half hours.
Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari called it a “historic” moment. The motorway, scheduled for completion next year, will “accelerate the country's progress”, he said.
The opening of its first section prompted praise for Mr Modi and Mr Gadkari on social media.
“In last 9 years of Modi government, every ministry has seen changes in their ministers except one i.e. Road & Transport Ministry of Nitin Gadkari … Vision of Modi and Implementation of Gadkari is PURE GOLD,” Twitter user Sameet Thakkar wrote.
Here are 10 facts about the new road:
1. The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway will feature an eight-lane route — a type of motorway specifically designed for high-speed traffic. It can be expanded to 12 lanes in future.
2. It will reduce the distance between Delhi and Mumbai by 182km — from 1,424km to 1,242km.
3. More than 15,000 hectares of land have been acquired for the construction across five states — Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
4. The road will feature more than 40 major interchanges to allow connectivity to other cities.
5. The expressway will have a state-of-the-art automated traffic-management system.
6. There will be 94 roadside amenities to improve the commuter experience. The government has claimed the project will generate 5 million working days of employment.
7. The government estimates that the reduction in distance, by creating a more direct route, and travel time will result in annual fuel savings of more than 320 million litres and reduce CO2 emissions by 850 million kilograms.
8. About 8 million tonnes of cement will be used — about 2 per cent of India’s annual production capacity.
9. The motorway will have a dedicated three-metre-wide corridor for laying utility lines, including fibre-optic cables and pipes, as well as solar-power generation and provision for rainwater harvesting at intervals of 500 metres.
10. The road will accommodate animal overpasses and underpasses, the first motorway to do so in Asia, the government says. It has been aligned to minimise the impact on Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary, home to at least 80 tigers, in Rajasthan. More than two million trees and shrubs will be planted along the route.