Cement manufacturers will be celebrating the news that the Indian government has decided to abandon bitumen (asphalt) in favour of more expensive concrete for paving all new roads, because the latter is more durable.
In addition, road schemes in India will now be priced on lifetime costs rather than just the cost of construction.
Bitumen can still be used, but only if detailed project studies suggest that paving with concrete is too difficult or would be more than 20% more expensive than bitumen.
"The idea is that using cement will bring down the cost of maintenance significantly," an unnamed Indian transport ministry official told news website, Livemint.
Earlier, transport minister Nitin Gadkari proposed using cement for road construction on the grounds that it is more durable and cheaper to maintain than bitumen even though it is more expensive at the outset.Â
To be certain of the business case, cement will be used unless a government-appointed consultant for evaluating the project argues against it.Â
"The consultant will have to demonstrate why cement or concrete cannot be used in a particular project, say in case the climatic conditions or topography do not support the use of cement," said another unnamed official.
The ministry has also changed the model for assessing the project cost. The projects will now be evaluated on the basis of the life cycle cost of the project, against the current model of using just the cost of construction.Â
Livemint reported that the ministry has floated a tender to fix an annual rate for cement that will help explore a competitive price for the raw material. Developers would be able to purchase cement for road construction at this price from the cement manufacturer.Â
Concrete roads could be tougher on tyres, warned Parvesh Minocha, group managing director at infrastructure consultancy Feedback Infra Pvt. Ltd.Â
"Concrete roads are better in many ways and, if constructed well, the life is much better," he told Livemint. But he added: "Designing a concrete road though is a little more complex. Also, driving on a concrete road can be rougher and tyres’ wear-and-tear can be more, but with suitable covering, that can also be taken care of, at least partly."
"The real issue is of laying concrete roads – equipment, expertise and the care it needs," he continued. "Not many construction companies are well-experienced in this. And removing construction defects is a lot tougher."