After having faced hurdles, primarily due to environmental concerns, the ambitious 602-km Ganga Expressway project has got a new lease of life, with the Uttar Pradesh government setting 2025 as the deadline for its completion. Billed to be the second-largest expressway in the country after the 701-km-long Samruddhi Expressway linking Mumbai and Nagpur, it would connect Meerut, on the western fringes of the state, to Prayagraj on the east, cutting across 13 districts and providing connectivity to major industrial cities, including Meerut, Ghaziabad, Hapur, Amroha, Sambhal, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Amethi, Pratapgarh, and Prayagraj.
With Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asking the UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) to consider linking the proposed expressway to Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency, a second phase of the project has been mooted, which would extend the expressway to Ballia, near the Bihar border. In case the roughly 300-km extension plan materialises, the Ganga Expressway would become the longest e-way in the country (approx. 900 km long), connecting eastern Uttar Pradesh to the National Capital through a string of expressways.
The first phase of the six-lane expressway (expandable to eight lanes) would cover approximately 555 villages of central and western Uttar Pradesh, which is a hub of agricultural and industrial activity. UPEIDA, the nodal agency for the project, has estimated Rs 23,436.88 crore as construction costs. With land acquisition costing another Rs 10,000 crore, the overall project cost has been pegged at Rs 39,298 crore.
UP Additional Chief Secretary and CEO UPEIDA Awanish Kumar Awasthi says the dream project would reduce travel time between Delhi and Prayagraj from the present 10-11 hours to 6-7 hours. “The Ganga Expressway would ensure fast-paced economic development, which the state has long desired. The moment the financials are worked out, work on the expressway will start in earnest”, he says, adding that plans are afoot to get the foundation stone for the project laid around Diwali. “We hope to start construction work by the end of this year,” he adds.
The project would be divided into 12 packages for simultaneous development by concessionaires, who would be selected through a competitive bidding process. “The detailed project report is ready and will be placed before the state Cabinet for approval. The land acquisition process, too, shall start soon,” he says, highlighting that the mammoth expressway would have 292 underpasses, 8 RoBs, 10 flyovers, 19 interchanges and 137 bridges.
Says an official of UPEIDA, “The Ganga Expressway would revolutionise the state’s economy and bring the national as well as international market closer home,” adding that not only would it provide faster transit to agri and commercial goods from the region and boost exports, but also give a fillip to the travel and tourism industry.
First proposed by a Mayawati government in 2007, the then 1,047-km-long project got stalled when the Allahabad High Court quashed the environmental clearance granted to it in 2009, holding that the alignment of the proposed expressway was too close to the Ganga and would damage its flood plains. Learning from that experience, the Yogi government has reworked the alignment and decided to build the expressway 10 km away from the riverbank.