Connecting the Country: Road Infrastructure

3 Years agoA closer look at major road infrastructure development initiatives

The Indian road network, comprising of National Highways, Expressways, State Highways, Major District Roads, Other District Roads and Village Roads, is globally the 2nd largest spanning 5.5 million kilometres.

India’s road infrastructure has seen consistent improvement in the last few years. Connectivity has improved and road transportation has become a focus of rapid development. Roads are providing better access to services, ease of transportation and freedom of movement to people. Recognizing the significance of a reliable and swift road network in the country and the role it plays in influencing its economic development, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) has taken up the responsibility of building quality roads and highways across the country.

The year 2016-17, witnessed a considerable push being given to expand the Highway Network in the country. A record 16,271 km of National Highways were awarded and 8,231 km were constructed.1 More than 6,061 kilometres of highways were constructed in Financial Year (FY) 2015-16.2 The highest ever average daily construction rate of 133km was achieved for rural roads.3 Budget 2017-18 also spelt optimism for the roads and highways sector with a total of outlay of USD 14 billion. Out of this, USD 10 billion has been earmarked for National Highways while the remaining is allocated towards the rural roads programme Pradhan Mantri Gram SadakYojana (PMGSY).

Following are the major road infrastructure development initiatives in India:


1. National Highways Development Projects(NHDP)


The seven phased NHDP is being implemented by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) with a total estimated expenditure of USD 92 billion.4 As the largest highway development project in the country since 2000, more than 49,260 km of the roads are being upgraded to match international standards.5

Key Projects under NHDP include the following under its various phases:6

  • Development of National Highways to 4/6 lane standards on the following routes:
    1. Golden Quadrilateral connecting 4 major metropolitan cities viz. Delhi-Mumbai- Chennai-Kolkata. North South & East West Corridors (NS-EW) connecting Srinagar to Kanyakumari and Silchar to Porbandar with a spur from Salem to Cochin.
    2. Road connectivity of major ports of the country to National Highways
  • 4-laning of 4,000 km of National Highways Upgradation of about 20,000 km of National Highways to 2-lane paved shoulder
  • Six laning of 6,500 km of existing 4 lane National Highways
  • Development of 1,000 km of fully access controlled expressways under Public Private Partnership (PPP) model following Design – Build – Finance – Operate (DBFO) approach. Nine such expressways have been identified along High-Density Corridors. These corridors will seek to ensure quicker connectivity.7
  • Construction of standalone Ring Roads, Bypasses, Grade Separators, Flyovers, elevated roads, tunnels, road over bridges, underpasses, service roads, etc. on BOT (Toll)

The graphic below depicts the current status of all the phases of NHDP–



2. Development of roads in challenging terrain


MORTH’s role is crucial in states with hilly terrains as many of these places have cultural, religious and economic relevance. Further, the roads in hilly areas are strategically significant due to its proximity to international borders and defence establishments.

The Ministry conducted a detailed review of the road network in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh with an aim to improve road connectivity to coastal/border areas, backward areas, religious places, tourist places, construction / rehabilitation / widening of about 1500 major bridges, 208 Railway over Bridges (ROBs) and Railway under Bridges (RUBs) and improvement of newly declared NHs and providing them connectivity to District Head Quarters.9 10

The Bharatmala Pariyojana envisages a “Connectivity Improvement Programme” for Char-Dham (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunothri & Gangothri in Uttarakhand)


3. Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North-East (SARDP-NE)


Improving road and transport infrastructure in the North-East India is a priority for the Government of India. MORTH plans to upgrade 10,141 km of roads in the region through three phased SARDP-NE, which aims to improve road connectivity in all district headquarters in the North Eastern region.11 ‘Phase A’ of the project includes upgradation of 4,099 km of road at an estimated cost of USD 3.3 billion. It is expected to be completed by March 2021.12 3,723 km of road stretch has been approved at an estimated budget of USD 9.8 million under the Phase B.13 The third phase is the “Arunachal Pradesh Package of Roads and Highways” under which road construction of 2319 km road has been approved.

Taking ahead the Prime Minister’s vision to develop North-East India as a gateway to South-East Asia, the government is implementing the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project to connect Kolkata and Sittwe Port in Myanmar at an estimated cost of USD 82 million.14 15 The project involves constructing more than 200 km long road which passes through the Indo-Myanmar border.16


4. Development of roads in the remote areas in Central/Eastern India


The government has approved the Road Requirement Plan (RRP) for the development of NHs and State Highways in 34 remote districts in states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. The estimated cost for this project is USD 1 billion and development of 5,477 km of National Highways and State Roads is planned.


Other initiatives by MORTH

  1. National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL)

    NHIDCL was founded in July 2014 by MORTH to speed up the road construction in strategic areas along the international border and North Eastern Region.18 It carries the responsibility of developing and improving road connectivity for 10,000 km long roads in the North Eastern region. NHIDCL is spearheading the construction of 142 National Highways for development of 8,100 km of roads with the budget of USD 15.3 billion. On the lines of fortune 500 companies, NHIDCL has adopted the use of e-tendering, e-office and e-governance tools.19 20

  2. Bharatmala

    The programme envisages new initiatives like development of Border and International connectivity roads, Coastal & port connectivity roads and improvements in National Corridors Efficiency Economic corridors.21 The “mega-plan” which is the second highest highway project after NHDP will provide further boost to the ongoing road/highway development projects and will witness a construction of 20,000 km of highways in its first phase.22

  3. Logistic Efficiency Enhancement Programme (LEEP)

    This programme rests around 4 pillars:

    • Freight aggregation and distribution
    • Multimodal freight movement
    • Storage and warehousing
    • Value-added services such as custom clearances.

    Through addressing these, the programme aims to enhance freight transportation in India through improving cost, time by as much as 10% and tracking and transferability of consignments through infrastructure, procedural and Information Technology (IT) interventions.23

    Under the first phase of LEEP, USD 5 billion have been allocated for development of multimodal logistics parks and 15 locations have been identified for this purpose. These parks will ensure that shifting from one mode of transport to another does not result in excessive time loss and wastage in handling.24


    Development of Roads and Highways is one of the priority areas for the government and an ambitious target has been set to increase the length of national highways to 200,000 km. The government aims to build at least 90,000 km of highway network in its 5-year tenure. For this, it plans to build 25,000 km of highway in current fiscal and another 30,000 km in the next. NHAI plans to raise USD 770 million for construction of highways, tunnels and economic corridors in the country, and the ministry plans to monetize projects worth USD 2.2 billion. Top priority has been assigned to correction of black spots on National Highways and significant thrust is being laid on road safety with USD 169 million being made available for this purpose. Several road connectivity projects with neighbouring countries have been identified and innovative initiatives such as “electric taxi project”, and “closed toll policy” (where the toll will be charged) on basis of distance covered on the toll road are also underway.

    The vision to build an exceptional road infrastructure for the nation is already bearing fruit with a record 22 km of highway constructed per day in 2016-17. The Government of India has set the target of constructing 40 km of highway per day by Financial Year (FY) 2017-18.25

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