India has a road network of over 4,236,000 kilometres (2,632,000 mi) in 2011, the third largest road network in the world. At 0.66 km of roads per square kilometre of land, the quantitative density of India's road network is similar to that of the United States (0.65) and far higher than that of China (0.16) or Brazil (0.20). However, qualitatively India's roads are a mix of modern highways and narrow, unpaved roads, and are undergoing drastic improvement. As of 2008, 49 percent – about 2.1 million kilometres – of Indian roads were paved.
Adjusted for its large population, India has less than 4 kilometres of roads per 1000 people, including all its paved and unpaved roads. In terms of quality, all season, 4 or more lane highways, India has less than 0.07 kilometres of highways per 1000 people, as of 2010. These are some of the lowest road and highway densities in the world. For context, United States has 21 kilometres of roads per 1000 people, while France about 15 kilometres per 1000 people – predominantly paved and high quality in both cases. In terms of all season, 4 or more lane highways, developed countries such as United States and France have a highway density per 1000 people that is over 15 times as India.
India in its past did not allocate enough resources to build or maintain its road network. This has changed since 1995, with major efforts currently underway to modernize the country's road infrastructure. India plans to spend approximately US$70 Billion by 2013 to modernize its highway network.
As of December 2012, India had completed and placed in use over 19,200 kilometres of recently built 4 or 6-lane highways connecting many of its major manufacturing centres, commercial and cultural centres.
The rate of new highway construction across India has accelerated in recent years. As of October 2011, the country was adding 11 kilometres of new highways, on average, every day. The expected pace of project initiations and completion suggests that India would add about 600 kilometres of modern highway per month, on average, through 2014.
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 government of India is attempting to promote foreign investment in road projects by offering financial incentives.
Ruling emperors and monarchs of ancient India had constructed numerous brick roads in the cities. One of the most famous highways of medieval India is the Grand Trunk Road. The Grand Trunk Road began in Sonargaon near Dhaka in Bangladesh and ended at Peshawar in modern-day Pakistan. In India, it linked several important cities from Kolkata in the east to Amritsar in the west, while passing through the cities of Patna, Varanasi, Kanpur, Agra, Delhi, Panipat, Pipli, Ambala, Rajpura, Ludhiana, and Jalandhar.
Locally called the GT Road, the Grand Trunk Road, was the road used by Brigadier General John Nicholson of the British Empire to quickly move his troops, hundreds of miles, to Delhi in 1857. This road allowed him to lead the battle that restored British occupation of Delhi after the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
By the end of British occupation in 1947, India inherited a poor road network infrastructure. Between 1947 and 1988, India witnessed no new major projects, poor maintenance. Predominantly all roads were single lane, most unpaved. India had no expressways, and less than 200 kilometres of 4-lane highways. In 1988, the National Highways Authority of India was established in India by an Act of Parliament. This autonomous entity came into existence on 15 June 1989. The Act empowered this entity to develop, maintain and manage India' road network through National Highways. However, even though the Authority was created in 1988, not much happened till India introduced widespread economic liberalisation of the early 1990s. Since 1995, the authority has privatised road network development in India, and delivered by December 2011, over 70,000 kilometres of National Highways, of which 16,500 kilometres are 4-lane or 6-lane modern highways.
Road Transport is vital to India's economy. It enables the country's transportation sector contribute 4.7 percent of India’s gross domestic product, in comparison to railways that contributed 1 percent, in 2009–2010. Road transport has not gained 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 road network as critical to the country's development, social integration and security needs of the country.
India's road network carries over 65 percent of its freight and about 85 percent of passenger traffic.
Indian road network is administered by various government authorities, given India's federal form of government. The table below describes the regulating bodies.
|Road classification||Authority responsible||Total kilometres (as of 2011)|
|National Highways||Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (Central government)||70934|
|State Highways||State governments (state's public works department)||163898|
|Major and other district roads||Local governments, panchayats and municipalities||25,77,396|
|Rural roads||Local governments, panchayats and municipalities||14,33,577|
In general, roads in India are primarily bitumen-based macadamised roads. However, a few of the National Highways have concrete roads too. In some locations, such as in Kanpur, British-built concrete roads are still in use. Concrete roads were less popular prior to 1990s because of low availability of cement then. However, with large supplies of cement in the country and the virtues of concrete roads, they are once again gaining popularity. Concrete roads are weather-proof and require lower maintenance compared to bituminous roads.
The National Highways are the backbone of the road infrastructure and the major roads in India. They carry most of India's freight and passenger traffic. State highways and major district roads constitute the secondary and interconnecting roads in India. The sortable table below lists national highway density in India per state or union territory. Included for context and comparison are major road density of several developed economies.
|State / Union Territory||National Highway
per 1000 people
|National Highway Numbers|
|Andaman Nicobar Island||300||0.843||223|
|Andhra Pradesh||4,537||0.06||52, 52A, 153, 229, 52B Ext. & 37 Ext.|
|Arunachal Pradesh||1,992||1.816||4, 5, 7, 9, 16, 18, 18A, 43, 63, 202, 205, 214,
214A, 219, 221, 222 & 234
|Assam||2,836||0.106||31, 31B, 31C, 36, 37, 37A, 38, 39, 44, 51, 52,
52A, 52B, 53, 54, 61, 62,151,152,153 &154
|Bihar||3,642||0.044||2, 2C, 19, 28, 28A, 28B, 30, 30A, 31, 57, 57A,
77, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 98, 99, 101, 102, 103,
104, 105, 106, 107 & 110
|Chhattisgarh||2,184||0.105||6, 12A, 16, 43, 78, 200,202, 216, 217, 111, & 221|
|Dadar & Nagar Haveli||0||0|
|Delhi||72||0.005||1, 2, 8, 10 & 24|
|Goa||269||0.2||4A, 17, 17A & 17B|
|Gujarat||3,245||0.064||NE-I, 6, 8, 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D, 8E, 14, 15, 59, 113 & 228|
|Haryana||1,512||0.072||1, 2, 8, 10, 21A, 22, 64, 65, 71, 71A,
72, 73, 73A, 71B & NE-II
|Himachal Pradesh||1,409||0.232||1A, 20, 20A, 21, 21A, 22, 70, 72, 72B, 88 & 73A|
|Jammu & Kashmir||1,245||0.123||1A, 1B, 1C & 1D|
|Jharkhand||1,805||0.067||2, 6, 23, 31, 32, 33, 75, 78, 80, 98, 99 & 100|
|Karnataka||4,396||0.083||4, 4A, 7, 9, 13, 17, 48, 63, 67, 206, 207,209,
212, 218 & 234
|Kerala||1,457||0.046||17, 47, 47A, 47C, 49, 208, 212, 213, & 220|
|Madhya Pradesh||4,670||0.077||3, 7, 12, 12A, 25, 26, 26A, 27, 59, 59A, 69,
75, 76, 78, 86 & 92
|Maharashtra||4,176||0.043||3, 4, 4B, 4C, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 16, 17, 50, 69, 204,
211 & 222
|Manipur||959||0.418||39, 53, 150 & 155|
|Meghalaya||810||0.349||40, 44, 51 & 62|
|Mizoram||927||1.044||44A, 54, 54A, 54B, 150 & 154|
|Nagaland||494||0.248||36, 39, 61, 150 & 155|
|Orissa||3,704||0.101||5, 5A, 6, 23, 42, 43, 60, 75, 200, 201, 203,
203A, 215, 217 & 224
|Pudducherry||53||0.054||45A & 66|
|Punjab||1,557||0.064||1, 1A, 10, 15, 20, 21, 22, 64, 70, 71, 72 & 95|
|Rajasthan||5,585||0.099||3, 8, 11, 11A, 11B, 11C, 12, 14, 15, 65, 71B,
76, 79, 79A, 89, 90, 113, 112, 114, 116, 148D, 458, 758 & 58
|Tamil Nadu||4,832||0.077||4, 5, 7, 7A, 45, 45A, 45B, 45C, 46, 47, 47B,
49, 66, 67, 68, 205, 207, 208, 209, 210,
219, 220, 226, 226E, 227, 230 & 234
|Tripura||400||0.125||44 & 44A|
|Uttarakhand||2,042||0.241||58, 72, 72A, 72B,73, 74, 87, 94, 108, 109,
123, 119, 121, 87 Ext. & 125
|Uttar Pradesh||6,774||0.041||2, 2A, 3, 7, 11, 12A, 19, 24, 24A, 24B, 25,
25A, 26, 27, 28, 28B, 28C, 29, 56, 56A, 56B, 58,
72A, 73, 74, 75, 76, 86, 87, 91, 91A, 92, 93, 96,
97, 119, 231, 232, 232A 233, 235 & NE-II
|West Bengal||2,578||0.032||2, 2B, 2B Ext., 6, 31, 31A, 31C, 31D. 32, 34,
35, 41, 55, 60, 60A, 80, 81 & 117
Expressways make up approximately 200 km (120 mi) of India's road network, as of 2013. These high-speed roads are four-lane or six-lane, predominantly access controlled. The expressways in use are:
On 9 August 2012, the 165 kilometre Yamuna Expressway India's longest six-laned controlled-access opened which will reduce the time travel between Agra and Greater Noida from 4 hours to just 100 minutes.
While the start of several expressway projects – such as the Ganga Expressway – have been delayed for 3 or more years, because of litigation and bureaucratic procedures, India expects another 3,530 kilometres of expressways to come up by 2014 from the projects under construction. The government has drawn up an ambitious target to lay 18,637 kilometre network of brand new expressways by 2022.
The main highways running through the length and breadth of the country connecting major ports, state capitals, large industrial and tourist centres, etc. National Highways in India are designated as NH followed by the highway number. Indian national highways are further classified based on the width of carriageway of the highway.
As of March 2012, India had completed and placed in use the following newly built highways:
The above 17,700 kilometres of highways connect most of the major manufacturing centres, commercial and cultural cities of India.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is the authority responsible for the development, maintenance and management of National Highways entrusted to it. The NHAI is undertaking the developmental activities under National Highways Development Project (NHDP) in 5 phases. The NHAI is also responsible for implementing other projects on National Highways, primarily road connectivity to major ports in India.
As of June 2012, under Phase I, II, III and V of India's national effort has already finished and put in use about 18,000 kilometres of 4/6 lane highways. The country is in process of building an additional 33,441 kilometres of 4 to 6 lanes, international quality highways throughout India. Of this target, about 13,700 kilometres of modern highways were under implementation in June 2012, and about 18,000 kilometres of highways have been identified for contract award. India road building rate has accelerated in recent years and averaged about 11 kilometers per day in second half of 2011. The country targets to build 600 kilometers of modern roads every month through 2014.
|Single Lane / Intermediate lane||18,350||26%|
|Four Lane/Six lane/Eight Lane||16,553||23%|
Indian democracy is a federal form of government. Power to enact and implement laws, such as those relating to infrastructure, are distributed between the central government and the state governments. State Governments, thus have the authority and responsibility to build road networks and state highways. Independent of the national highways and NHDP program described above, several 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 an additional $11.4 billion worth of projects were under implementation.
The State Highways provide linkages with the National Highways, district headquarters, important towns, tourist centres and minor ports and carry the traffic along major centers within the state. These arterial routes provides connectivity to important towns and cities within the state with National Highways or State Highways of the neighboring states. Their total length is about 137,712 km.
The Ministry of State for Surface Transport in India administers the national highway system, and state highways and other state roads are maintained by state public works departments. The central and state governments share responsibilities for road building and maintaining Indian roads.
The sortable table below summarises the recently completed and under implementation state highways in India's road network. These state highways range from 2-lane, all season highways to 6-lane, divided, access controlled expressways.
|State / Union Territory||Newly added State Highways
|State Highways under implementation
(as of 2010), kilometres
|Andman Nicobar Island|
|Dadar & Nagar Haveli|
|Jammu & Kashmir|
(State Highways, recent additions, TOTAL)
These are important roads within a district connecting areas of production with markets and connecting these with each other or with the State Highways & National Highways. It also connects Taluka headquarters and rural areas to District headquarters within the state.
|State/UT||Single lane (km)||Intermediate lane (km)||Double lane (km)||Multilane (km)||Total (km)|
The rural roads in India forms a substantial portion of the Indian road network. These roads are in poor shape, affecting the rural population's quality of life and Indian farmer's ability to transfer produce to market post-harvest. Over 30 percent of Indian farmer's harvest spoils post-harvest because of the poor infrastructure. Many rural roads are of poor quality, potholed, and unable to withstand the loads of heavy farm equipment. These roads are also far from all season, good quality 2-lane or 4-lane highways, making economic resource flow slow, and logistical costs between different parts of India one of the highest in the world.
For the development of these rural roads, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (or "Prime Minister 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 it directly as a local social spending program, this program has produced limited results and no lasting change over 10 years, in either the quality or 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 Asian Development Bank. This has produced results, which are presented in the table below.
as of May 2011
under construction in 2011
|Total rural roads||2.7 million||3.1 million||0.1 million|
|Paved, not maintained 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|
In a 2011 report, The Economist noted the rural road scheme and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee to be India's biggest single welfare project, costing over $8 billion a year. Alone, it eats up over 3% of all public spending in India. The report claims Jairam Ramesh, the minister in charge of the central government department administering the program, criticises uneven, patchy implementation of the scheme. He describes wasteful construction of items such as roads that quickly crumble away. The results, in many areas, fall short of the huge sums spent. The funds aimed to employ local villagers through their panchayats is not changing the quality of rural roads, rather ending up in wasteful spending and corrupt government officials’ pockets. The gloomiest estimates suggest two-thirds of allocated scheme funds is being squandered. A review published by the Ministry in September 2011 found that skilled technicians were unavailable at almost every site. There were rules banning the use of machinery or contractors, labour is usually by shovel, resulting in patchy construction of roads, drains, ponds, dams and other assets that are of very poor quality. The government scheme has failed to improve India's awful rural infrastructure. These rural roads get washed away each monsoon, only to be rebuilt, badly, the following year.
The main roads in India are under huge pressure and in great need of modernisation 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 four lanes or above. A 2007 study found that the 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 without access, many remote villages in India were still without access to a single lane, paved road as of May 2011.
The World Health Organization 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 road-accident caused deaths in 2006. However, adjusted for India's larger population, the accident and fatalities rates are similar to 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. Non-fatal accident rates reported on Indian roads was 429 accidents per million citizens, compared to 412 accidents per million citizens in China, and 1101 accidents per million citizens in the United States. The report notes that not all accidents in India and China are reported and recorded.
The low road densities per 1000 people has created significant congestion and slow speeds on existing roads inside cities. Because of the congestion, the fuel efficiency of the vehicles in India is very low. This increases the overall fuel consumption per equivalent kilometer travelled, besides resulting in heavy pollution since the engines run very inefficiently at such low speeds. Pollutants from poor road network and 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 prices of petroleum, 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.
India's recent efforts to build modern highways and improve its road network has made a significant difference in trucking logistics. According to DHL, a global logistics company, the average time to truck shipments from New Delhi to Bengaluru (Bangalore), a 2000+ kilometre journey, had dropped in 2008, to about five days. By 2010, the average time to complete a road trip from New Delhi to Mumbai, a 1400+ kilometer journey, 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 company – noted marked improvements in Indian road network and logistics efficiencies in recent years. The report also identified the competitive challenges faced by India. Some findings of this report include:
The KPMG report also notes that India's road network logistics and transportation bottlenecks hinder its GDP growth by one to two percent (US$16 billion – US$32 billion). In India's 2010 per capita income basis, 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 kilometers of expressways in the next 10 years may help address some of such issues.
The constraints and issues with Indian road network differ from one state to another. Some states, such as Gujarat, have remarkably better road network than others.
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