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Chapter # 13. Surface Transport


Increasing the coverage and quality of roads and highways is critical to enhancing connectivity and internal and external trade. By 2022-23, we should achieve the following objectives:

  • Increase connectivity by expanding the road network:
  • Achieve the Bharatmala Phase-I target by completing 24,800 km by 2021-22, including 2,000 km of coastal and port connectivity roads.1
  • Complete Phase I of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) with quality monitoring at every stage.
  • Double the length of national highways (NHs) to 2 lakh km by 2022-23 from the existing 1.22 lakh km.
  • Widen single/intermediate lane (SL/IL) NHs and reduce the length of SL/IL NHs to less than 10 per cent of total length by 2022-23 from the present 26.46 per cent.2
  • Improve the regulatory framework for roads to achieve better compliance, seamless connectivity, road safety and quality.
  • As a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration, reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020.3

Current Situation

The road sector in India accounts for the largest share in the movement of both passengers and freight. Driven by a rapidly growing economy, access to vehicle finance and improved road connectivity, the demand for mobility on roads has risen continuously, leading to a sharp rise in the number of road transport vehicles.

The total number of registered vehicles in India increased from 58.9 million in 2001-02 to 182.4 million in 2012-13,4 a CAGR of almost 11 per cent during this period.

However, access to and quality of public transportation need continuous improvement. In urban areas, the increasing use of personal vehicular transport leads to road congestion, longer journey times and higher levels of air and noise pollution.

Expansion of the public transport fleets has been hampered by the short supply of vehicles – the total demand for buses was approximately 3.40 lakh in FY 2017, while the availability/supply was only about 1 lakh.


  1. Capacity of existing highways: The existing length of the NH network is 1.22 lakh km, which is 2.2 per cent of the country’s total road network of 56.03 lakh km.5 The existing NH length with 4-lane and above NH standards is 27,658 km (22.59 per cent), and that with single/intermediate lane (SL/IL) width is 32,395 km (26.46 per cent); the remaining 62,379 km (50.95 per cent) is of 2-lane NH standard.6 Further, national and state highways are already overstrained, carrying more than 65 per cent of the road traffic. National highways carry 40 per cent of India’s total road traffic.7
  2. Maintenance of existing infrastructure: The annual outlay earmarked for maintenance and repair of national highway stretches8 is only about 40 per cent of the funds required. This is one of the main reasons for the inability to take up timely maintenance interventions.
  3. Accidents and safety concerns: Road safety is a major issue in the country with nearly 400 road related deaths being recorded daily. In 2013, India had an accident death rate of 18.9 for every 100,000 people, higher than other South Asian countries such as Bangladesh (11.6), Mauritius (12.2) and Sri Lanka (13.7).9 At least a part of the fatalities is because of the poor quality of roads.
  4. Cost escalation for roads: Delays in acquiring land can affect project costs as the average cost of land has escalated from Rs. 0.80 crore per hectare during 2012-13 to Rs. 3.20 crore per hectare during 2017-18.

Way Forward

  1. Increase connectivity by expanding the road network
  • Four projects to be undertaken:
  • Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I: complete 24,800-km by 2021-22.10
  • Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North-Eastern region (SARDP-NE), Phase ‘A’: improve about 4,099 km in the North-East.
  • ‘North-East Road Network Connectivity Project Phase I’: improve infrastructure in Meghalaya and Mizoram and enhance connectivity with inter-state roads and international borders.11
  • Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna.
  • Improve the implementation capacity of states’/ UTs’ public work departments (PWDs) through institutional strengthening and training.
  • A dedicated Metropolitan Urban Transport Authority in each city with a population of more than 1 million by 2022-23 is needed.
  • Similarly, set up dedicated cells for integrated planning, coordination and delivery of transport services in smaller cities.
  1. Improve road maintenance and safety
  • Maintain NH assets by adopting a mainte-nance management system (MMS). Earmark funds from the Central Road Fund (CRF) for maintenance activities. India should begin with earmarking 10 per cent of its annual budget for road and highways for maintenance to move to-wards the developed country norm of earmark-ing 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the budget for roads and highways for maintenance.
  • Build in heavy penalties on contractors for poor quality of operations and maintenance (O&M) into contracts across all contract modes.
  • Eliminate 789 black spots identified by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) by March 2020 by constructing permanent structures such as flyovers/vehicular underpasses (VUPs) and pedestrian underpasses (PUPs). Of these spots, 136 are on state roads and need to be dealt with by state governments.
  • The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016, pending before the Rajya Sabha, must be passed without delay. Constitute a National Safety Board to enforce road safety rules.
  1. Streamline land acquisition
  • Ensure that MORTH’s Bhoomi Rashi web portal, which is integrated with the Ministry of Finance’s Public Financial Management System (PFMS), is fully functional by March 2019.
  • Sensitize stakeholders to iron out details of land acquisitions like determining market value, deciding a compensation amount, dis-bursement of compensation, etc., as detailed in the 2017 guidelines issued by MORTH, which covered various aspects of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement (RFCTLARR) Act, 2013, and The National High-ways Act, 1956.
  1. Skill development
  • Introduce vocational training courses on road construction in Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs).
  • Collaborate with original equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders to set up driving training centres (DTCs) to train commercial vehicle drivers.
  • Ensure stringent testing of driving skills before granting driving licences by adopting technologically advanced methods such as the automated driving testing system.
  • MORTH has targeted training more than one lakh workers employed in various projects by June 2018 and a further 2.5 lakh workers by 2019 under its programme.
  1. Increase emphasis on research and development  
  • Earmark 0.1 per cent of MORTH’s annual budget for R&D.
  • Establish a transport data centre at the national level for applied research on roads.
  • Enhance R&D on IT-enabled traffic management systems.
  • Develop new materials/techniques for construction.
  • Periodically revise codes/standards/guidelines related to technology use in line with the latest technological developments in the highways sector and disseminate codal provisions.
  1. Increase the capacity and reach of public transport
  • Transform state road transport undertakings (SRTUs) and promote public transport, rural transport and last mile connectivity.
  • Additional funding for public transportation and the creation of interoperable systems will help expand the reach and capacity of public transport.
  • The central government will work with states to develop bus ports and provide support on tech-nologies/software such as VAHAN (for vehicle registration) and Saarthi (for driving licences).
  1. Expand the reach of the electronic toll collection (ETC) system
  • Complete the setup of ‘FASTag’, which employs radio-frequency identification, for ETC in all lanes for the 418 toll plazas with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) by March 31, ETC should be interoperable across toll plazas on all national and state highways.
  • Streamline the ‘FASTag’ charging system.
  • Engage with stakeholders and concessionaires (for PPP toll plazas) to ensure that all toll plazas have the requisite infrastructure for ETC.
  1. Complete targets for rural connectivity
  • Phase-I of PMGSY should be completed by March 2019. The total length under the LWE (Left Wing Extremism) programme of 5400 km must be completed by March 2020.
  • Beyond 2020, we should focus on building last mile connectivity.
  1. Increase technology adoption and seamless movement between different modes of transport
  • Urban mobility must move towards multimodal solutions by ensuring seamless movement between different modes.
  • Identify and develop multimodal logistics parks (MMLP) to ensure seamless movement of freight.
  • Encourage the road freight industry to adopt innovative technologies through incentives.


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