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India’s Road Transport System

India’s Road Transport System

As per the data for the year 2020, India has the second-largest roadways network in the world, stretching across 6,215,797 kilometres. The USA has the largest. Road transport has been the backbone of India’s economy because of its landlocked nature and also because the air transport in the country arrived only in the post-independence period. Before that, roadways were the only means of transportation.

Across the globe, India is largely considered a developing nation, and road transportation offers a cost-efficient and reliable connectivity system to drive businesses.

Based on government data, the total length of the National Highways (NHs) is 114,158 km and that of State Highways (SHs) is 175,036 km. The project roads which are yet to be constructed constitute 354,921 km. The government plans to expand its current stretch of roads and add 200,000 km of project roads in the present year.

Road transport is the major connectivity medium for many other reasons. The popularity of road transport is also because of the fact that learning to drive and attaining a driver’s licence is much easier than getting any other type of licence. Let’s dig further and find out why roadways are India’s favourite mode of transport.

History of roadways and road transportation

The history of roadways in India dates back to 2800 BC. It was around that time that the roadways were built and used for travel. During this time, the roads were of very poor quality because of little knowledge of civil construction. The roads were built just by clearing the trees and plants away from the path.

The British colonisation revolutionised road construction in India. They started constructing gravel roads and built some of the best roads in the country. They also reconstructed the Grand Trunk road. They founded the Public Works department and IIT Roorkee to help boost civil engineering and road construction.

The road transport system in India emerged mainly after independence. Post-independence, the ruling government took up the 20-year plan to construct two sets of roadway networks, the Nagpur Plan and the Bombay Road Plan. It was initiated by the Indian Road Congress. Later, in the year 1989, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) was established to look after the construction of roads.

In the year 1998, under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpayee’s leadership, the National Highways Development Project was initiated. The most important project under this program was the Golden Quadrilateral, which connects the four major economic centres of the country – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The construction was completed in 2012. Another important roadways project, which helped in the improvement of road transport, is the North-South and East-West Corridor. It connected Srinagar in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, and Silchar in the east to Porbandar in the west.

Why is Road Transport more preferable than Rail?

The rail transport system is one of the most popular and cheap means of road transportation. The railway network comprises 1,26,366 km of rail lines spread over 67,368 km including 7325 railway stations. The rail transport system of India is the fourth-largest in the world. It is one of the busiest railway networks, which carries 8 billion passengers every year across the country. It also transports 1.2 billion tons of goods annually.

Over the years, Railways has seen many technological changes such as electrification of the railway lines and plans to introduce high-speed trains. These improvements have made rail transport cheaper and more convenient. However, there are regions like the hilly Northeastern region corridor, which are inaccessible through railways. These regions are connected by the means of roads and road transport vehicles.

As per the data from the NHAI, 65% of goods and 80% of passenger traffic in the country is carried by the roads. The road transport vehicles involve buses, taxis and trucks for carrying passengers as well as goods. Buses make up 90% of the public transport in Indian cities.

Logistics services are also supported by a large fleet of trucks which include heavy, medium and light commercial vehicles along with other road transport vehicles. 60% of the logistic services are supported by road transport vehicles across the country. Goods like construction materials, groceries, food grains, vehicles, etc. are transported mainly via roadways. They provide cheaper and more reliable transport networks. Taxi and buses help with intercity travel at convenient rates. So, naturally, roadways are the most preferred mode of transit in India.

Economic relevance of road transport

The road transport system helps in various areas of economic development, by giving employment and providing the necessary tools for improvement of the economy. Employment is generated for drivers who are engaged in the transportation business, for road-construction workers and for the people who are employed to load and unload transport vehicles.

Road transport also helps small businesses to send their goods and products across the country, through a reliable network of roads. They are companies with proven experience in providing reliable logistics and transportation services. The recent years have seen the emergence of companies which facilitate the movement of goods and provide renting services for road transport vehicles. Vahak is one such service provider which helps business owners and logistics services.

In terms of agriculture, roads help in the transportation of seed grains, fertilisers and manure as well as farming equipment. It is not possible to transport these items through other means of transport as it is costlier and sometimes inefficient. Road transport systems help to generate income and employment by making the business between farmers and consumers easier and cheaper.

The industries need raw materials and goods for production. The raw goods are transported from the cities of origin to the factories which can be located across different states and cities. Taxes levied on the sale and purchase of road transport vehicles also adds to the economy. Thus, we can see that road transport and road transport vehicles help in the growth of the economy.

Advantages of Road Transport

  • It enables facilities like door-to-door service, which makes it convenient for the customers to get goods or products delivered to their place of choice.
  • It requires less capital to operate as compared to air transport. The cost of maintaining and operating an air transport network is much higher.
  • The network of roads in India is very big and covers almost every corner of the country. This makes it easier to carry goods and services to any city or town in the country.
  • It provides accessibility to the rural areas. A lot of rural areas are only part of the road network; in some villages, train services and air transport are far from accessible.
  • In the case of road transport systems, the journey can be planned in any manner as per the convenience of the driver and the carrier.

Disadvantages of Road Transport

  • The travel time can be affected by the condition of the road or harsh weather. Sometimes, the same leads to traffic and accidents.
  • Breakdowns of the vehicles during the journey can cause delays in the delivery of goods and cost more money than the original estimate.
  • For long-distance travel, it is not the best option as it takes more time and money and becomes costlier.
  • The delivery is a bit slower compared to the rail transport system.
  • Although possible, it is difficult to reach hilly and forested areas that have limited access and bad roads.
  • Road vehicles cause a large amount of pollution.


Although there are many drawbacks to the current road transport system, it is still the largest means of transportation in the country. It can also get better and cheaper with the help of service providers. Service providers who rent vehicles for logistic services can connect with business owners to make their transportation easier to operate. Businesses can also keep a check on the duration and other important factors that affect the cost of operation.

Vahak is one such service that allows the customers to connect with logistics and transportation services via the Vahak app. One can use the Vahak app to book delivery dates, locations and the quantity of goods that need to be transferred. Also, the difficulty and problems related to the ownership of transport vehicles can be sorted with the help of service providers such as Vahak.

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