Indian Road Network

Indian Road Network

India has a huge network of over 3.314 million kilometers of roadways (2.1 million miles), making it one of the largest road networks in the world. This huge network, which includes both paved and unpaved roads, are categorized as expressways or freeways, National Highways, State Highways, major district roads, and rural & other roads. The roads generally are dual carriageways in expressways and highways.

Road infrastructure is the main catalyst for the development of important key sectors of economy like Agriculture, Industry, Mining, Energy, Forestry and Dairy Development. These sectors depend heavily on the development and maintenance of the road network and efficient transportation system.


The history of evolution of Indian roads dates back to the prehistoric Indus Valley Civilization. Street pavings has been found from the first human settlements around 4000 BC in the ancient cities of Harrapa and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley Civilization in the Indian subcontinent. Much later, around the 1st Century, the ancient Silk Road came into being, which passed through the Indian subcontinent.

Ruling emperors and monarchs of ancient India 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 begins in Sonargaon near Dhaka in Bangladesh and ends at Peshawar in Pakistan. In India, it links several important cities from Kolkata in the east to Amritsar in the west, while traveling via the cities of Patna, Varanasi, Kanpur, Agra, Delhi, Panipat, Pipli, Ambala, Rajpura, Ludhiana, and Jalandhar. During the colonial period in the 19th century, the British upgraded the existing highway network and built roads in many treacherous areas including the Western Ghats.


Almost 80% of passenger traffic and about 65% of freight movement is handled by this vast network.

In general, roads in India are primarily bitumen-based macadamized 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. Because bitumen is obtained mostly from imported crude oil, and due to other factors, concrete-based roads will prove to be more cost-effective in future. Apart from these, one also comes across unpaved dirt roads in the countryside, which is fast getting converted to paved roads.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was constituted by the Indian Parliament in 1988. It is the authority responsible for the development, maintenance and management of National Highways entrusted to it. The Authority was made operational in February 1995 and is currently undertaking the developmental activities under National Highways Development Project (NHDP) in phases. All the phases combined together envisage improvement of more than 25,000 km of arterial routes of National Highway Network to international standards. In addition to implementation of NHDP, the NHAI is also responsible for implementing other projects on National Highways, primarily road connectivity to major ports in India.

tate Highways

The State Highways provide linkages with the National Highways, district headquarters, important towns, tourist centres and minor ports and carry the traffic along major centres within the state. These arterial routes provides connectivity to important towns and cities within the state with National Highways or State Highways of the neighbouring states. Their total length is about 137,711 km.

District roads

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.

Rural & other roads

The rural roads in India forms a substantial portion of the vast Indian road network. Most of the rural roards were initially sand-roads. Because the agricultural produce and the finished products of small-scale industries in rural areas are to be moved from the producing centres to the marketing centres, the road connectivity is essential for rural population.

For the development of these rural roads, [ Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana] (PMGSY) (or "Prime Minister Rural Roads Scheme"), was launched in December 2000 by the Government of India to provide connectivity to unconnected rural habitations as part of a poverty eradication measure. For its implementation, the Government of India is setting uniform technical and management standards and facilitating policy development and planning at State level in order to ensure sustainable management of the rural roads network. The scheme is to be implemented in phases wherein the number of roads under each phase would be governed by the population of habitations (hamlets). For example, the initial phase would attempt to cover all inhabitations with a population of 1000.

It is expected that about 375,000 km of new road construction and 372,000 km of upgradation/renewal would be undertaken as part of the scheme. The construction cost is fully borne by the Government of India as a Centrally sponsored Scheme, while the State Governments are responsible for providing maintenance funds. As of [ May 24, 2007] , more than 122,000 km of roads have been completed under PMGSY and work is in progress in projects covering another 100,000 km.


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. Besides just fixing and paving the roads, widening & straightening of roads and expanding the network is becoming increasingly necessary. This is because the roads can then handle increased traffic, both in terms of goods and public movement together with an increase in the speed of movement.

In general, due to decades of bureaucratic procedural difficulties, the road network has suffered long delays. The political leaders in India have now started examining the situation and taking action. However, there are still other environmental, logistical, and local issues contributing to delay in development of the road infrastructure. For instance, although the government itself owns a wide corridor around the center of roads called the Right of Way (ROW), over many years, poor and landless people have built houses and other property along the roadside. Farmers whose fields adjoined the road had their crops encroach up to the side of the road. Further, other resources are located along roadsides, whether they be trees, pathways to water resources, streams that were used for their water, etc.

These squatters whose property lies within the ROW would not only be greatly affected by road widening, but also those who use the resources next to the road might be adversely affected. It is also difficult to remove these encroachers and further, removal of trees is increasingly becoming a sensitive issue.

ee also

*National Highways Development Project
*List of National Highways in India
*List of National Highways in India (by Highway Number)
*Border Roads Organisation
*National Highways Authority of India


* [ Ministry for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways]
* [ National Highway Authority of India]
* [ Concrete highways in India]
* [ PMGSY Home Page]
* [ Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)]
* [ Central Road Research Institute (CRRI)]
* [ State-wise length of National Highways in India]
* [ List of state-wise State-wise length of Total & Surfaced Roads in India (as on March 31, 2002)]
* [ Public Works Department, Government of Kerala]
* [ Transport Department, Government of Punjab]
* [ Highways Department, Government of Tamil Nadu]
* [ Details of total road length in states (outdated)]

External links

* [ National Highway Authority of India]
* [ Highway Photographs]
* [ Article about Indian Highways]
* [ Rural roads under PMGSY]
* [ Central Road Research Institute (CRRI)]
* [ Department of Road Transport & Highways, Ministry for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, Government of India]

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