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Roadways – Purpose, Importance, Types, Challenges

Last Updated : 24 Feb, 2023
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Roads are an important mode of transportation in India and India has a network of over 6,215,797 km of roads as of December 2021; which is the second-largest road network in the world. India’s road network carries over 71 percent of freight and about 85 percent of passenger traffic. Since the 1990s, efforts have been taken by the government to modernize the road’s infrastructure.

Roadways in India



The first evidence of road development in the context of India comes from around 2800 BCE in the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro of the Harappan Civilization. The existing Grand Trunk Road was rebuilt by the Mauryan Empire and further rebuilt by Sur Empire, Mughal Empire, and British Empire.

Around the 1830s, the British East India Company started the program for the construction of metalled roads, for both commercial and administrative purposes. In December 1934, the Indian Road Congress was formed, on the recommendation of the Indian Road Development Committee. In 1988, an autonomous entity called the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was established. It empowered to develop, maintain and manage the roads of India through the National Highways.

In 1998, National Highways Development Project was started by the then Prime Minister, Atul Bihari Vajpayee. Another important road project of NHDP is a four to six-lane North-South and East-West Corridor. Bharatmala is a centrally sponsored and funded road and highway project by the Government of India started in 2017 with a target to construct 83,677 km of new highways.

Metalled Roads


Purpose and Importance of Roads in a Country

For movement of any kind and motion, a road is an important form of infrastructure that makes a person move from one point to another. Whether for the transportation of people or for goods, a road helps in completing tasks.

Roads are very crucial in the contribution of economic development and for growth as well as for social benefits. They are important for a country to grow and develop as well as providing access to employment, social, health and education services which makes roads crucial for fighting poverty and adversities.

A good transport system can widen the market for goods and make the movement of raw materials, fuels, and other materials to the places of production much easier. Also, it opens up more remote regions as well as resources for production. Also, as the transport facilities and demand for it increases, the demand for the automobiles like motor vehicles, ships, and other means also increases.

Unmetalled roads


Classification of Roads According to Structure

The roads based on their structures are classified into metalled and unmetalled roads. Some of their features are described below:

  • Metallic Roads (pucca) refer to those whose surfaces are made of hard material such as metal or concrete and are much more durable than unmetalled roads and last for longer with good maintenance.
  • Unmetalled roads (kutcha) are those whose surfaces are not hard and are usually made of earth, gravel, or sand.
  • Metalled roads are constructed with cement, bitumen, and concrete; whereas unmetalled roads are natural pathways that are made primarily of mud.
  • Metalled roads are used in the rainy season as well, whereas unmetalled roads are not used in case of rainfall.
  • Metalled roads mostly consist of road metal whereas unmetalled roads don’t have road metal.
  • Construction of metallic roads is more expensive than unmetalled roads.

Classification of Roads based on Capacity

In India, roads are classified based on their capacity in the following ways:


Expressways are high-speed roads that have four or more lanes and are access controlled where entrance and exit are controlled by the use of ramps. They are mostly toll roads and makeup up 2,091 km of India’s road network as of 2020.

National Expressways Authority of India(NEAI) which operates under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will be in charge of the construction and also maintenance of expressways.

National Highways

These are the highways that connect the major cities throughout the country with the use of premium quality and also at-grade roads. They are referred to as NH, followed by highway numbers. India has around 150,000 km of National Highways according to April 2021.

The National Highways Authority of India and the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited are responsible for the development, maintenance, and management of the National highways. The Golden Quadrilateral and North-South and East-West Corridor were the major ongoing highway development projects in India.

State Highways

State highways refer to those highways which connect major cities throughout a state and also at-grade roads. They also connect with the National Highways and the state highways of the neighboring states. 

State Highways are designated with SH, which is followed by the highway number and preceded by the state code. As of 31 March 2020, the total length of state highways was 186,528 km. State governments are responsible for maintaining and building state highways and most of the state highways are developed by state public works departments.

District Roads

The District Roads in India are around 632,154 km. The Zila Parishads are responsible authority for building and maintaining the district roads.

Rural Roads

They form a substantial part of the country’s roads, around 72.97% of total roads as of March 2020. For their development, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana was launched in 2000 by the Indian Government. The scheme noted that the roads would be constructed and maintained by the village panchayats.

Border Roads

These are those roads that are constructed along with the northern and the northeastern borders of the country. These roads are constructed and maintained by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which was set up by the government of India in 1960. It is regarded as the symbol of the country, of the national integrity of the country, and is very important for maintaining the safety of the country.

Challenges Faced by Indian Roadways

  • The public interstates including different Roadways of India are sufficient not to oblige the enormous volume of street traffic which at last prompts regular gridlocks.
  • Around half of the streets of India are unmetalled they go under terrible conditions during the rainstorm season.
  • Numerous streets and scaffolds in Indian urban communities are very thin which doesn’t permit more vehicles to take a break.
  • These inadequacies include inadequate capacity, poor quality of riding, weak bridges and culverts, congested city streets and weak safety measures are some of the important drawbacks in Indian roadways. 
  • Cooperation and coordination are missing between different states on road transportation. A more coordinated policy should be followed on this issue.

FAQs on Roadways in India

Question 1: What are the other modes of transport that are available for travel in India?


Other modes of transport available in India include railways, waterways, airways, and pipelines.

Question 2: What are the Advantages of Road Transportation?


Some advantages of road transport are as follows:

  1. It is the most profitable mode of transport.
  2. It is the fastest and also most agile.
  3. There can be flexibility in schedules and volumes
  4. It is maximumly traceable.
  5. It is a door-to-door service mechanism.

Question 3: Explain any five major problems faced by road transport in India.


  1. The volume of traffic and passengers is huge.
  2. The road network is mostly inadequate.
  3. Most of the roads are unmetalled.
  4. National highways are inadequate in number
  5. Roadways are mostly very congested and bridges and culverts are narrow and old.

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