Roads in India
Roads are an important mode of transport in India. India has a network of over 5,603,293 kilometres (3,481,725 mi) of roads as of 31 March 2016. This is the second-largest road network in the world, after the USA with 6,702,178 kilometres (4,164,540 mi). At 1.70 kilometres (1.06 mi) of roads per square kilometre of land, the quantitative density of India's road network is higher than that of Japan (0.91 km, 0.57 mi) and the United States (0.99 km, 0.62 mi), and substantially higher than that of China (0.46 km, 0.29 mi), Brazil (0.18 km, 0.11 mi) and Russia (0.08 km, 0.050 mi). Adjusted for its large population, India has approximately 4.63 kilometres (2.88 mi) of roads per 1000 people. Qualitatively, India's roads are a mix of modern highways and narrow, unpaved roads, and are being improved. As of 31 March 2016, 62.5% of Indian roads were paved.
Since the 1990s, major efforts have been underway to modernize the country's road infrastructure. The length of national highways in India has increased from 70,934 km (44,076 mi) in 2010–11 to 101,011 km (62,765 mi) in 2015–16. As of May 2017, India had completed and placed into use over 28,900 kilometres (18,000 mi) of recently built four- or six-lane highways connecting many of its major manufacturing, commercial and cultural centres. According to Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, as of March 2016, India had about 101,011 kilometres (62,765 mi) of national highways and expressways, plus another 176,166 kilometres (109,464 mi) of state highways. Major projects are being implemented under the National Highways Development Project, a government initiative. Private builders and highway operators are also implementing major projects — for example, the Yamuna Expressway between Delhi and Agra was completed ahead of schedule and within budget, while the KMP Expressway, started in 2006, is far behind schedule, over budget and incomplete.
According to 2009 estimates by Goldman Sachs, India will need to invest US$1.7 trillion on infrastructure projects before 2020 to meet its economic needs, a part of which would be in upgrading India's road network. The investment in national highways increased from ₹14,095.87 crore (US$2.0 billion) in 2005–06 to ₹98,988.06 crore (US$14 billion) in 2015–16. During the same period the total investment in national highways was ₹476,589.37 crore (US$69 billion). The Government of India is attempting to promote foreign investment in road projects. Foreign participation in construction of the Indian road network has attracted 45 international contractors and 40 design/engineering consultants, with Malaysia, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States being the countries with the most involvement.
Road transport is vital to India's economy. It enables the country's transportation sector to contribute 4.7 percent towards India's gross domestic product. This is in comparison to railways, which contributed 1 percent from 2009 to 2010. Road transport has grown in importance over the years despite significant barriers and inefficiencies in inter-state freight and passenger movement, compared to railways and air. The government of India considers its road network as critical to the country's development, social integration, and security needs. India's road network carries over 65 percent of its freight and about 85 percent of passenger traffic.
The Indian road network is administered by various government authorities, given India's federal form of government. The following table shows the total length of India's road network by type of road and administering authority as of 31 March 2016.
|Category||Managing Authority||Length (km)||Length share|
|National Highways||Ministry of Road Transport and Highways||101,011[a]||1.80%|
|State highways||Public works department of state/union territory||176,166||3.14%|
|Other PWD roads||Public works department of state/union territory||561,940||10.03%|
|Rural roads||Panchayats, JRY and PMGSY||3,935,337||70.23%|
|Urban roads||Local governments and municipalities||509,730||9.10%|
|Project roads||Various government departments of states/union territories, and SAIL, NMDC and BRO||319,109||5.70%|
- This was increased to 131,326 km by December 2018, with the redesignation of about 39,040 km of state roads as National Highways.
The first evidence of road development in the Indian subcontinent can be traced back to approximately around 2800 BC in the ancient cities of Harrapa and Mohenjodaro of the Indus Valley Civilization. Ruling emperors and monarchs of ancient India continued to construct roads to connect the cities. The Grand Trunk Road was built by the Mauryan Empire, and further rebuilt by subsequent entities such as the Sur Empire and the Mughal Empire.
In the 1830s, the British East India Company started a programme of metalled road construction, for both commercial and administrative purposes. The Grand Trunk Road — from Calcutta, through Delhi to Peshawar — was rebuilt at a cost of £1000 per mile; roads from Bombay to Pune, Bombay to Agra and Bombay to Madras were constructed; and a Public Works Department, and the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee were founded, to train and employ local surveyors, engineers, and overseers, to perform the work, and to maintain the roads. This programme resulted in an estimated 2,500 kilometres (1,600 mi) of metalled roads being constructed by the 1850s.
In December 1934, the Indian Road Congress (IRC) was formed, on the recommendations of the Indian Road Development Committee (Jayakar Committee) of the Government of India. In 1943, they proposed a twenty-year plan to increase the road network from 350,000 kilometres (220,000 mi) to 532,700 kilometres (331,000 mi) by 1963, to achieve a road density of 16 km per 100 km2 of land. The construction was to be paid in part through the duty imposed, since 1939, on petrol sales. This became known as the Nagpur Plan. The construction target was achieved in the late 1950s. In 1956 a Highways Act was passed, and a second twenty-year plan proposed for the period 1961-1981, with the ambition of doubling road density to 32 km, per 100 km2. This second plan became known as the Bombay Road Plan.
In 1988, an autonomous entity called the National Highways Authority of India was established by an Act of Parliament, and came into existence on 15 June 1989. The Act empowered this entity to develop, maintain and manage India's road network through National Highways. However, even though the Authority was created in 1988, little happened until India introduced widespread economic liberalization in the early 1990s. Since 1995, the authority has privatized road network development in India.
One of the most ambitious projects to improve roads in India was under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) started in the year 1998 by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The flagship project of the NHDP is the Golden Quadrilateral, a total of 5,846 kilometres (3,633 mi) of four-to-six-lane highways connecting the four major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The total cost of the project is ₹300 billion (US$4.3 billion), funded largely by the government's special petroleum product tax revenues and government borrowing. In January 2012, India announced that the four-lane GQ highway network was complete.
Another important road project is the 7,142-kilometre (4,438 mi) four-to-six-lane North–South and East–West Corridor, comprising national highways connecting four extreme points of the country. The project aims to connect Srinagar in the north to Kanyakumari in the south (including a spur from Salem to Kanyakumari, via Coimbatore and Kochi), and Silchar in the east to Porbandar in the west. As of 31 October 2016, 90.99% of the project had been completed, 5.47% of the project work is under implementation and 3.52% of the total length is remaining.
As of May 2017, under NHDP about 28,915 kilometres (17,967 mi) of four-to-six-lane highways have been constructed (including the GQ and N–S/E–W Corridor), while a total of 48,793 kilometres (30,319 mi) of road has been planned to have four-to-six lanes under the NHDP.
|National Highways||19,811 (4.95%)||23,798 (4.54%)||23,838 (2.61%)||31,671 (2.13%)||33,650 (1.45%)||57,737 (1.71%)||70,934 (1.52%)||101,011 (1.80%)|
|State highways||^||^||56,765 (6.20%)||94,359 (6.35%)||127,311 (5.47%)||132,100 (3.92%)||163,898 (3.50%)||176,166 (3.14%)|
|District roads||173,723 (43.44%)||257,125 (49.02%)||276,833 (30.26%)||421,895 (28.40%)||509,435 (21.89%)||736,001 (21.82%)||998,895 (21.36%)||561,940 (10.03%)|
|Rural roads||206,408 (51.61%)||197,194 (37.60%)||354,530 (38.75%)||628,865 (42.34%)||1,260,430 (54.16%)||1,972,016 (58.46%)||2,749,804 (58.80%)||3,935,337 (70.23%)|
|Urban roads||0||46,361 (8.84%)||72,120 (7.88%)||123,120 (8.29%)||186,799 (8.03%)||252,001 (7.47%)||411,679 (8.80%)||509,730 (9.10%)|
|Project roads||0||0||130,893 (14.31%)||185,511 (12.49%)||209,737 (9.01%)||223,665 (6.63%)||281,628 (6.02%)||319,109 (5.70%)|
|Figures in parenthesis indicate percentage of total road length.|
Roads in India are primarily bitumen-based macadamised roads. However, the number of concrete roads is increasing. In some locations, such as in Kanpur, British-built concrete roads are still in use. Concrete roads were less popular prior to the 1990s because of low availability of cement; however, with large supplies of cement in the country, and the advantages of concrete roads, they are gaining popularity. Concrete roads are durable, weather-proof and require lower maintenance compared to bituminous roads. Moreover, new concrete pavement technology has developed such as "cool pavement", "quiet pavement" and "permeable pavement", which has made concrete more attractive and eco-friendly.
India's rate of road building has accelerated in recent years, and averaged about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) per day in 2014–15 to 30 kilometres (19 mi) per day in 2018–19. The country's target is to build 40 kilometres (25 mi) of highways per day.
Bharatmala is a centrally-sponsored and funded road and highways project of the Government of India, started in 2017, with a target of constructing 83,677 km (51,994 mi) of new highways at an estimated cost of ₹5.35 trillion (US$77 billion). Bharatmala Phase I plans to construct 34,800 kilometres (21,600 mi) of highways (including the remaining projects that were under NHDP) by 2021–22, at an estimated cost of ₹535,000 crore (US$77 billion).
Expressways are high-speed roads that are four-lane or six-lane, and predominantly access controlled. (India has more than 35,000 kilometres (22,000 mi) of highways meeting international quality standards with four or more lanes, but without access control (entry/exit control); however, these are not called as expressways, but simply referred to as highways.) Most of the existing expressways in India are toll roads. The government has drawn up a target to build a 18,637 kilometres (11,580 mi) network of brand new expressways by 2022.
India's first expressway, the Delhi Noida Direct Flyway (also known as "DND Flyway"), is an expressway connecting the cities of Delhi and Noida in the states of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Expressways make up approximately 1,583 km (984 mi) of India's road network, as of 2013. The Mumbai Pune Expressway, fully operational in 2002, is India's first six-lane concrete, high-speed, access controlled tolled expressway. It spans a distance of 94.5 km (58.7 mi) connecting Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state and the financial capital of India, with Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra and an industrial and educational hub. The 165 km (103 mi) Yamuna Expressway, a six-lane controlled-access expressway opened on 9 August 2012. On 21 November 2016, India's longest expressway — the 302 km (188 mi) six-lane Agra Lucknow Expressway was opened. The largest expressway in India, Mumbai Nagpur expressway, is in progress as of 2019. The starts of several expressway projects, such as the Ganga Expressway, have been delayed for 3 or more years, because of litigation and bureaucratic procedures.
The main highways run through the length and breadth of the country, connecting major ports, state capitals, large industrial and tourist centres, and similar points. National Highways in India are designated with NH, followed by the highway number. Indian national highways are further classified based on the width of the carriageway of the highway. As of March 2016, India had completed and placed into use 101,011 kilometres (62,765 mi) of national highways.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is the authority responsible for the development, maintenance and management of the National Highways entrusted to it. The NHAI has been undertaking the developmental activities under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) in 5 phases. From 2018, the pending projects under NHDP will be subsumed under Bharatmala. The NHAI is also responsible for implementing other projects on National Highways, primarily road connectivity to major ports in India. Bharatmala Pariyojana, Setu Bharatam and Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana are the ongoing road development projects in India.
|Lanes||Length (km)||Length share|
State highways in India are numbered highways that are laid and maintained by the state governments. The state highways are usually roads that link important cities, towns, district headquarters, tourist centres and minor ports within the state, and connect them with National Highways or highways of neighboring states. These highways provide connections to industries or places from key areas in the state, making them more accessible.
State governments have the authority and responsibility to build road networks and state highways. Most of the state highways are developed by state public works departments. Independently of the NHDP program, state governments have been implementing a number of state highway projects since 2000. By 2010, state highway projects worth $1.7 billion had been completed, and projects worth an additional $11.4 billion were under implementation.
As of 31 March 2016, the total length of state highways was 176,166 kilometres (109,464 mi). As of 31 March 2016, Maharashtra has the largest share of state highways among all states (22.14%), followed by Karnataka (11.11%), Gujarat (9.76%), Rajasthan (8.62%) and Tamil Nadu (6.67%).|
These are important roads within a district, connecting areas of production with markets and connecting them with the state highways and National Highways; they are maintained by the Zila Parishad. These roads also connect Taluka headquarters and rural areas to district headquarters within the state.
District roads are sub-classified into "Major District Roads" (MDRs) and "Other District Roads". As per the classification of roads broadly, the MDRs are to have a minimum width of 15 meters with traffic density of less than 10,000 PCUs but more than 5000 PCUs. As on 31 March 2016, the total length of district roads was approximately 561,940 kilometres (349,170 mi), of which 94.93% of the total length was surfaced.
Rural roads in India form a substantial portion of the Indian road network, forming 70.23 percent of the total of roads in India, as of March 2016. As of the same date, the percentage of unsurfaced rural roads to the total rural road length (excluding 900,000 kilometres (560,000 mi) of JRY[further explanation needed]) was 66.15%.
These roads are in poor shape, affecting the rural population's quality of life, and Indian farmers' ability to transfer produce to market post-harvest. Over 30 percent of Indian farmers' harvests spoil post-harvest because of the poor infrastructure. Many rural roads are of poor quality, potholed, and unable to withstand loads of heavy farm equipment.
For the development of these rural roads, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PGMSY; "Prime Minister's Rural Roads Scheme") was launched in December 2000 by the Indian government to provide connectivity to unconnected rural habitations. The scheme envisions that these roads will be constructed and maintained by the village panchayats. In some parts of India, where the government has attempted to manage the programme directly as a local social spending program, it has produced limited results and no lasting change over 10 years, in either the quality or the quantity of rural road network.
In other parts of India, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and a sister program named Bharat Nirman (or "Build India") have privatized the rural road construction projects and deployed contractors. The effort has aimed to build all-season, single-lane, paved asphalted roads that connect India's rural and remote areas. A significant portion of funding for these projects has come from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
|Length (km) |
under construction 2011
|Total rural roads||2.7 million||3.1 million||0.1 million|
|Paved, unmaintained rural roads||0.5 million|
|Unpaved rural roads||2.2 million||1.9 million|
|Paved, maintained rural roads||728,871||53,634|
|New rural roads||322,900||82,743|
The main roads in India are under huge pressure and in great need of modernization in order to handle the increased requirements of the Indian economy. In addition to maintenance, the expansion of the network and widening of existing roads is becoming increasingly important. This would then enable the roads to handle increased traffic and also allow for a corresponding increase in the average movement speed on India's roads.
In 2009, lane capacity was low, and only about 16% of India's roads were of four lanes or more. A 2007 study found that congestion on India's highways reduced average truck and bus speeds to 30–40 km/h (19–25 mph); road maintenance was under-funded, and some 40 percent of villages in India lacked access to all-weather roads. While the PMGSY rural road program mentioned above has, by 2011, connected 90 percent of villages identified in 2005 as being without access, many remote villages in India were still without access to a single-lane, paved road as of May 2011.
The intra-city vehicle speed is one of the lowest in the world. As per a study by Ola Cabs, in 2017, the average traffic speed in Bengaluru was 17.2 km/h (10.7 mph), while Delhi had the highest traffic speeds in India at 25 km/h (16 mph). Amongst other major cities, the average traffic speed in Mumbai was 20.7 km/h (12.9 mph); in Kolkata, 19.2 km/h (11.9 mph); in Hyderabad, 18.5 km/h (11.5 mph); and in Chennai, 18.9 km/h (11.7 mph).
The low road densities per thousand people have created significant congestion, and slow speeds on existing roads within cities. Because of the congestion, the fuel efficiency of vehicles in India is very low. This increases the overall fuel consumption per kilometre-equivalent travelled, as well as resulting in heavy pollution since the engines run very inefficiently at such low speeds. Pollutants from the poor road network and from resultant poor fuel efficiencies include hydrocarbons, NOx, SOx, methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide – all of which cause health problems, adverse climate effects and related environmental damage.
Due to rising petroleum prices, and with this being a non-renewable resource, some have urged the Indian government to focus instead on improving public transport like the Indian Railways and rapid transit systems. Many cities have proposed, or are implementing, metros and mass transit systems.
In a 2011 report, The Economist noted that the rural road scheme, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee, were India's biggest single welfare project, costing over $8 billion a year, and covering 3% of all public spending in India. The report claims that Jairam Ramesh, the minister in charge of the central government department administering the program, criticizes the patchy implementation of the scheme, describing wasteful poor construction and funds being diverted to corrupt officials; reports suggest that up to two-thirds of funds allocated to the scheme are lost. A Ministry review, carried out in September 2011, found a lack of skilled technicians on construction sites. Rules against machinery and contractors are also claimed to be in force, and with labour usually by shovel, resulting in roads that are destroyed each monsoon season and must be rebuilt annually.
The World Health Organization's compilation of road network safety data for major economies found India to have the highest number of road fatalities in the world, with 105,000 deaths caused by road accidents in 2006. However, adjusted for India's larger population, the accident and fatality rates are similar to those major economies. Over 2004–2007, India had a road fatality rate of 132 deaths per million citizens, compared to 131 deaths per million citizens in the United States. There were 429 non-fatal accidents reported per million citizens on Indian roads, compared to 412 such accidents per million citizens in China, and 1101 in the United States. The report notes that not all accidents in India and China are reported and recorded.
In the three years between 2015 and 2017, potholes in India caused over 9300 deaths, according to government figures. In 2017 alone, 3579 people were killed and 25,000 injured due to pothole-related mishaps.
Efforts to address issues
India's later efforts to build modern highways and improve its road network have made a significant difference to trucking logistics. According to DHL, a global logistics company, the average time to truck shipments from New Delhi to Bengaluru, a journey of over 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi), had dropped in 2008 to about five days. By 2010, the average time to complete a road trip from New Delhi to Mumbai, over 1,400 kilometres (870 mi) apart, had dropped to about 35 hours. In contrast, a similar journey takes about half the time in China, and one third in European Union countries. In a 2010 report, KPMG – one of the world's largest audit and advisory services companies – noted marked improvements in the Indian road network and in the country's logistics efficiency in recent years. The report also identified the competitive challenges faced by India. Some findings of this report include:
- The average road speed in India has increased to 30–40 kilometres per hour (19–25 mph). The worldwide average road speed, which includes China, is around 60–80 kilometres per hour (37–50 mph).
- The four-lane road network in India has increased to 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi).
- Average surface freight costs have dropped to US$0.07 per kilometre. Japan, in comparison, has average surface freight costs of US$0.037 per kilometre.
The KPMG report also notes that logistics and transportation bottlenecks in India's road network hinder its GDP growth by one to two percent ((US$16–32 billion). Considering India's 2010 per capita income, this is equivalent to a loss of about 10 million new jobs every year. Poor rural roads and traffic congestion inside the cities remains a challenge in India. The planned addition of over 12,000 kilometres (7,500 mi) of expressways in the next 10 years may help address some of these issues.
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