ROAD Infrastructure in India
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Roads are considered to be one of the most cost effective and preferred modes of transportation. It is easily available and accessible to all the sections of the society. It facilitates the movement of both men and materials from one place to another within a country. It helps to bring about national integration as well as provide for country’s overall socioeconomic development. It is a key infrastructural unit which provides linkages to other modes of transportation like railways, shipping, airways, etc. Hence, an efficient and well-established road network is inevitable for promoting trade and commerce as well as meeting the needs of a sound transportation system in the country.
India has one of the largest road networks in the world, aggregating to 3.314 million kilometers and consists of Expressways, National Highways, State Highways, Major District Roads, Other District Roads and Village Roads. The National Highways (NHs), with a total length of 66,754 km, serve as the arterial network of the country. They connect the State capitals, ports and big cities. They comprise only about 2 per cent of the total length of roads, but carry about 40 per cent of the total traffic. Out of their total length, 27 per cent is single lane/intermediate lane; 59 per cent is double-lane standard; and the balance of 14 per cent is four-lane/ six-lane/ eight lane standard. While, the State Highways (1,28,000 km) are the main roads of the State. They connect the capital and major cities of the States. The major district and other district roads have a total length of 4,70,000 km and facilitate the linkage between the main roads and rural roads. The rural roads, account for about 26,50,000 km, provide villages accessibility to other roads in order to meet their social needs, such as transporting agriculture produce to nearby markets.
In India, the Department of Road Transport and Highways, under the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, is the main authority concerned with the development of roadways. It has the overall responsibility for planning, construction and development of National highways in the country. While, all roads (other than NHs) fall within the jurisdiction of the respective State Governments. The department is entrusted with the task of formulation of broad policies relating to regulation of road transport in the country, besides making arrangements for movement of vehicular traffic with the neighbouring countries. It has two wings to carry out its various functions, namely:-
- Roads wing – deals with the matters relating to development and management of National Highways, in accordance with the provisions of National Highways Act, 1956. Its other main functions are:-
- Extending technical and financial support to State Governments for the development of State roads as well as the roads of inter-State connectivity and economic importance
- Evolving standard specifications for roads and bridges in the country
iii. Serving as a repository of technical knowledge on roads and bridges etc.
- Transport wing – deals with the matters relating to road transport system in the country. It is mainly responsible for administration of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988and Road Transport Corporations Act, 1950; taxation of motor vehicles and their compulsory insurance; and promotion of transport co-operatives in the field of motor transport. Its other functions are:-
- Evolving road safety standards in the form of a National Road Safety Policy as well as preparing and implementing the Annual Road Safety Plan
- Collecting, compiling and analysing road accident statistics
iii. Taking steps for developing a road safety culture in the country by involving the members of public and organising various awareness campaigns etc.
However, the Ministry is carrying out the operations of National Highways through three agencies, that is, State Public Works Department (PWD), Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The execution of works and day-to-day management of most National highways in States are looked after by the respective PWDs. While, BRO is primarily responsible for construction and maintenance of roads in the border areas, classified as General Staff (GS) roads. It has not only linked the border areas of the North and North-East with the rest of the country, but has also developed the road infrastructure in Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh. There are about 46,884 km of National Highways whose development and maintenance are presently being carried out by the respective PWDs and the BRO.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), constituted under the National Highways Authority of India Act, is the major agency for implementing the important projects on National highways in the country. Traditionally, these road/ national highway projects were fully financed and controlled by the Government. But the increasing pressure of traffic and the resulting demand for road infrastructure had made it imperative to attract private investments into the sector. Hence, National Highways Act (NH Act) 1956 was amended in June 1995 and private persons were allowed to invest in the NH projects; levy, collect and retain fee from users; etc. The beginning of significant private participation in roadways was made with the launching of India’s largest road project called as the ‘National Highways Development Project (NHDP)’. The NHDP is a massive project taken up for the improvement and development of National Highways in the country and is being implemented in a phased manner by the NHAI.
The NHDP consists of the following components:-
- NHDP Phase I & II – Comprise of Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) and North-South and East-West Corridors. The Golden Quadrilateral (GQ-5,846 km) connects the four major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. While, the North-South and East-West Corridors (NS-EW-7,300 km) connect:-
- Srinagar in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, including spur from Salem to Cochin; and
ii.Silchar in the East to Porbandar in the West. The total estimated cost of the NHDP Phase I and II, having a total length of 14,357 km, is about Rs. 64,639.
The NHDP also includes ‘Port Connectivity Project’ comprising a length of 380 km for improvement of roads connecting 10 major ports in the country and other projects involving a length of 962 km.
- NHDP Phase III – Envisage four / six laning of 12,109 km of National Highways on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis. It consists of stretching the National Highways carrying high volume of traffic; connecting State capitals with the NHDP Phases I and II network; as well as providing connectivity to places of economic, commercial and tourist importance. The Government has approved implementation of 4815 km under NHDP Phase-IIIA and proposal for implementation of the balance length of about 7,294 km under Phase-IIIB has been approved recently.
- NHDP Phase IV- Envisage two laning of 20,000 km at an indicative cost of Rs.27,800 crore. It aims to provide balanced and equitable distribution of the improved/widened highways network throughout the country.
- NHDP Phase V – Envisage six laning of 6,500 km of national highways on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis. It comprises of 5,700 km of GQ and other selected stretches, at a cost of Rs. 41,210 crore.
- NHDP Phase VI – envisage construction of 1,000 km of expressways with full access control on new alignments at a cost of Rs. 16,680 crore. This would be beneficial for several growing urban centres of India, particularly those located within a few hundred kilometers of each other.
- NHDP Phase VII – envisage other Highway Projects at an indicative cost of Rs.16,680 crore. It includes construction and development of ring roads of major towns, bypasses, service roads, flyovers, elevated roads, tunnels, grade separated interchanges, etc. on National Highways, with a view to fully utilise the highway capacity as well as enhance safety and efficiency.
Also, the ‘Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North Eastern region (SARDP-NE)’ has been announced as a part of NHDP Phase -VII programme. TheDepartment of Road Transport and Highways has been paying special attention to the development of National highways in the North-Eastern (NE) region of the country. SARDP-NE aims to improve road connectivity to all the State capitals, district headquarters and remote places in the NE region. It envisages improvement or construction of 8,737 km of roads (National Highways; State roads; and roads of strategic importance). This will ensure connectivity of 85 district headquarters in the eight North-Eastern States to the National Highways /State roads. The programme is to be implemented in two phases:-
- Phase A - Under this, 2304 km of roads have been approved for implementation at an estimated cost of Rs. 12,793 crore, out of which Rs. 8,173 crore would come from GBS and Rs. 4,620 crore would be leveraged against annuity payments to be made from the cess by NHAI. The likely target date for completion of Phase A is 2012-13.
- Phase B - This involves providing 2-lane connectivity to the 51 district headquarter towns of NER. The Government has accorded approval for the preparation of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) for roads.
Besides, the Government is actively undertaking several other initiatives to improve and strengthen the network of national highways, State highways, roads in major districts and rural areas. It is also making all efforts to encourage greater private sector participation in the roads sector so as to develop well-planned road network in the country.