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India has one of the largest road networks in the world. Development of road network is considered as one of the most important infrastructure developments for economic growth. Construction of roads is cheaper than constructing railway lines. Moreover, roads can be constructed in areas of higher gradients of slope over undulating or mountainous topography. It is possible to construct roads for point to point service and acts as a feeder for other means of transport like railways and air transfer. However, only limited amount of goods can be transported by roadways.

In India, the Public Works Department has classified roads as follows:

  1. National Highways (NH): The National Highways Authority of India, under the central government, is responsible for constructing and maintaining these roads. These roads connect several state capitals with ports. The longest National Highway in NH 7, covering six states, and connecting Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. National Highway No. 1 connects Delhi with Amritsar, NH2 called Grand Trunk Road connects Kolkata with Delhi.
  2. State Highways (SH) are constructed and maintained by the state government. They connect the major centres of trade, district headquarters and important cities with the national highways passing through the state.
  3. District roads are sub-divided as main district roads (MDR) and other district roads (ODR). They are maintained by the Zilla Parishads. They connect the taluk headquarters with the state highways and national highways.
  4. Village roads (VR) are the responsibility of the village panchayats. They connect the villages, located in the interiors with the other roads.

Border roads are constructed to connect the land border of India for defence purposes and movement of soldiers and armaments. The highest road in the world, between Manali and Leh, is constructed and maintained by the Border Roads Organization, a Government of India undertaking. These strategic roads have increased the accessibility of some of the most difficult terrains of the north and north-east border of India. This in turn has improved the economic development there.

The ‘Golden Quadrilateral Super Highways’ project was launched by the central government to construct six-lane super highways between Srinagar in Kashmir and Kanyakumari in the north–south corridor and between Silchar in Assam and Porbandar in Gujarat in the east–west corridor.

The distribution of roads in India is not uniform. The road density is very low in states with hilly terrain as in Jammu and Kashmir whereas the road density is much higher in plains and coastal areas. Kerala has a high road density.

Some of the bottlenecks faced by the road network in India are as follows:

  • Inadequate road network, considering the volume of traffic and passengers.
  • A considerable length of roads is unmetalled, which makes them impassable during the rainy season.
  • Roads in the cities are highly congested, and most of the bridges are very old and narrow. This slows down the pace of the traffic.

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