Transportation in India – Importance of Transport in India

Indian geography represents a multipurpose transport network. Highways, railways, airways, and waterways feature as its predominant transportation networks in India to ferry goods and people in, around, and across the country.

In fact, transport is a pivotal means to connect people and services located far off places. Or else put it, transport in India is a boon which caters to socio-cultural and economic exchanges between its various states, union territories, and international borders.

This article discusses the different modes of transportation in India. It details the roadways, railways, waterways, and airways as the primary means of transportation within and across the nation.

Transportation in India

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Modes of Transportation in India

1. Roadways

  • Roadways began during the time of the Mughal Emperor Sher
  • Shah Suri who built roads between Indus Valley in the northwest to the Sonar Valley in the east.
  • At present, roadways in the country are managed by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI in 1995)
  • National Highways comprise 1.6%of the total road strength in India
  • There are 228 national highways in the country
  • The state of Uttar Pradesh constitutes the highest length of national highways in India
  • Indian roadway system also connects it with its neighboring countries
  • The Border Road Organization (1963) regulates the International Highway Borders of India.
  • The World Bank finances the International Border authorities.
  • India has one of the largest road networks in the words (42.3 lakh km).
  • Roadways in India carry 85% of passengers and 70% of the traffic.
  • It was renamed as the Grand Trunk (GT) during the British era, connecting Calcutta and Peshawar.
  • The National Highways contribute around 40% of the road traffic.
  • The State Highways constitute 4% of the total road length.
  • District roads contribute 60.83% of total length of roads in India.
    80% of the roads in India are rural roads.
  • Kerala features the highest road density (517.77 km) while Jammu and Kashmir has the lowest road density (12.14 km).

Highways of India

Some of the famous highway connectivities in India are listed hereby:

NH 1Delhi-Ambala-Jalandhar-Amritsar-Indo-Pak Border
NH 1AJalandhar-Madhopur-Jammu-Banihal-Srinagar-Baramula-Uri
NH 1BBatote-Doda-Kishtwar-Sinthan pass – Khanabal
NH 1CDomel to Katra
NH 1DSrinagar-Kargil-Leh
NH 2Delhi-Mathura-Agra-Kanpur-Allahabad-Varanasi-Mohania-Barhi Palsit-Baidyabati-Bara-Calcutta
NH 2ASikandra to Bhognipur
NH 2BBurdwan – Bolpur road (via Talit, Guskara, and Bhedia)
NH 3Agra-Gwalior-Shivpuri-Indore-Dhule-Nasik-Thane-Mumbai
NH 4Junction with National Highways No. 3 near Thane-Pune Belgaum-Hubli-Bangalore-Ranipet-Chennai
NH 4ABelgaum-Anmod-Ponda-Panaji
NH 4BJawaharlal Nehru Port Trust near Km 109-Palaspe
NH 5Junction with National Highways No. 6 near Baharagora-Cuttack Bhubaneshwar-Visakhapatnam -Vijayawada-Chennai
NH 5AJunction with National Highway No. 5 near Haridaspur-Paradip Port
NH 6Hajira-Dhule-Nagpur-Raipur-Sambalpur-Baharagora-Calcutta
NH 7Varanasi-Mangawan-Rewa-Jabalpur-Lakhnadon-Nagpur-Hyderabad-Kurnool-Bangalore-Krishnagiri-Salem-Dindigul-Madurai-Cape-Kanyakumari
NH 7APalayamkottai-Tuticorin Port
NH 8Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Udaipur-Ahmedabad-Vadodara-Mumbai
NH 8AAhmedabad-Limbdi-Morvi-Kandla-Mandvi-Vikhari-Kothra-Naliya Narayan Sarovar
NH 8BBamanbore-Rajkot-Porbandar
NH 8CChiloda to Sarkhej
NH 8DChiloda-Gandhinagar-Sarkhej
NH 8ESomnath to Bhavnagar
NH 9Pune-Sholapur-Hyderabad-Vijayawada-Machilipatnam
NH 10Delhi-Fazilka-Indo Pak Border
NH 11Agra-Jaipur-Bikaner
NH 11AManoharpur-Dausa-Lalsot-Kothum
NH 12Jabalpur-Bhopal-Khilchipur-Aklera-Jhalawar-Kota-Bundi-Deoli Tonk-Jaipur
NH 18Junction with NH 7 near Kurnool and Nandyal to Cuddapah and Junction with NH 4 near Chittoor
NH 19Ghazipur-Balia-Patna
NH 20Pathankot -Mandi
NH 21Junction with National Highway No. 22 near Chandigarh-Ropar-Bilaspur-Mandi-Kullu-Manali
NH 22Ambala to Indo China Border near Shipkila
NH 23Chas-Ranchi-Rourkela-Talcher- Junction with National Highway No. 42
NH 24Delhi- Bareilly-Lucknow
NH 27Allahabad to Mangawan
NH 29Gorakhpur to Varanasi
NH 30Junction with NH 2 near Mohania and Patna to Bakhtiyarpur
NH 35Barasat to Petrapole on India and Bangladesh border
NH 39Numaligarh to Palel and Indo Burma Border
NH 47Salem to Kanyakumari
NH 47AJunction with NH 47 at Kundanoor to Willington Island in Kochi
NH 47CJunction with NH 47 at Kalamassery to Vallarpadam ICTT in Kochi
NH 55Siliguri to Darjeeling
NH 56Lucknow to Varanasi
NH 58Delhi to Mana Pass
NH 79Ajmer-Nasirabad-MP border
NH 151Karimganj – Bangladesh Border
NH 152Patacharkuchi-Bhutan border
NH 153Ledo – Lekhapani – Indo / Myanmar – Border
NH 233The highway starting from India/Nepal border (connecting to Lumbini) via Naugarh, Siddharthnagar, Bansi, Basti, Tanda, Azamgarh and terminating at Varans

In addition to the above National Highways, India also commissions the construction of famous roadway projects. A highlight of these projects is mentioned below:

1. Golden Quadrilateral connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai (a six-lane highway project)
2. The east-west corridor connecting Silchar and Porbandar
3. The north-south corridor connecting Srinagar and Kanyakumari

  • Apart from central highways, the state government and small districts (60.83% of the total road strength) also commissioned the construction of useful highways within the states. Maharashtra features the highest length of state and district installed highways in the country.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY; 2000) issues villages authorities the power to construct local highways linking villages and the cities.
  • Further to the above, the country also launched a project Bharatmala to construct a highway from Gujarat to Mizoram. This highway stretches at a distance of 5300 km.
  • Setubharatam is expected to build 400-500 over bridge roads in the country.
  • Rashtriya Rajmarg Zila Sanjoyokta Pariyojana connects around 100 districts across India.
  • NH44 (3745 km) is the longest national highway in India.
  • NH47A (6 km) is the shortest national highway in India

Major Corridor Projects of India

Amritsar-KolkataPunjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand & WBWholly by GOI, funded by WB
Mumbai BengaluruMH, KarnatakaBritain
Chennai-BengaluruKarnataka, TN, Andhra (Rayalaseema region)JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency)
Delhi Mumbai (launched & Biggest)UP, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.

Problems of Road Sector in India

  • Involves high risks as roads are frequently prone to accidents
  • Involves large scale land acquirements due to construction of toll booths
  • Environmental and rehabilitation concerns of the displaced population
  • Massive traffic risks
  • Profit demands of private investors
  • Time-consuming constructions
  • Economic returns come after a long duration
  • Usually, deter private investments

2. Railways in India

  • Railways in India are found in three gauges:
    1. Broad gauge: 70.72% (1.675 m)
    2. Meter gauge: 92% (1 m)
    3. Narrow gauge: 5.36% (0.61 and 0.62 m)
  • Duronto Express is the fastest train in India (known as restless in Bengali)
  • Railways in India is divided into 16 zones covering a stretch of 63,221 km

The Railway headquarters of the different railway’s divisions are mentioned below:

Central RailwaysMumbai Central
Northern RailwaysBaroda House, New Delhi
Eastern RailwaysKolkata
Western RailwaysMumbai Churchgate
Southern RailwaysChennai Central


North Central RailwayAllahabad
East Central RailwayHajipur
West Central RailwayJabalpur
South Central RailwaySecunderabad

In addition to dedicated railways, India also features a network of rapid metro trains in selected states and cities.

  • The first rapid metro in India begun in Kolkata
  • Other states and union territories with metro services are Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Jaipur, Chennai, and Gurgaon.

Project Bharatmala

  • A road stretching along India’s vast west-to-east approximately 5300km, from Gujarat to Mizoram
  • It connects it to a road network in coastal states, from Maharashtra to Bengal
  • This is a road network is the garland territory of India
  • The Bharat Mala plan has a strong strategic component
  • It’s India’s attempted answer to improve reach and linkage in border areas, at par with China

3. Airways in India

  • Initiated in 1911 over a short distance of 10 km between Allahabad and Naini
  • The Airport Authority of India manages the Indian Airways
  • Airways got nationalized (Indian Airlines/Air India) in the year 1953
  • Pawan Hans features a helicopter service in India to connect the states and districts of the northeast.
  • There are 125 airports in India
  • The Indian aviation industry has made air travel cheaper
  • The authority provides registration to all functional aircrafts
  • It also grants approval certificates to the aircraft holding agencies
  • Licensing of pilots, flight maintenance and technical issues are dealt with by seasoned engineers
  • Licensing of aircraft controllers
  • Certification of aerodromes
  • Investigation of air services in case of accidents and emergency
  • Motivating indigenous designs and aircraft manufacturing

4. Waterways in India

  • Managed by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)
  • Only central government undertakes jurisdiction or waterways projects in India
  • Waterways comprise a total of 1% of transportation in India
  • It stretches along with a distance of 14500 hm across the country

The major waterway connectivities in India are as follows:

Inland Waterways Number Linkages 
1Ganga- Bhagirathi- Hooghly river system
2Sadiya-Dubri stretch in Brahmaputra river system 
3West coast canal- Champakara canal- Udyogamandal canal
4Kakinada- Godavari- Krishna river system
5Talcher- Paradip in Odisha
6Lakhipur- Banga- Barak river system (proposed) 

River Interlinkages in India

The National Water Development Agency recognizes 14 links under the Himalayan Component and 16 under the one for Peninsular Rivers. From these, the top 5 projects are:

  • Ken-Betwa
  • Parbati-Kalisindh -Chambal
  • Damanganga-Pinjal
  • Par-Tapi-Narmada
  • (Polavaram)-Krishna (Vijayawada)

Project Sagarmala

  • The objective is to improve Maritime services in India
  • Port direct and indirect growth and development
  • Furnish decent infrastructure for transportation
  • Frames appropriate policies to accomplish its objectives
  • Provides good institutional frameworks for collaborations
  • Advances integrated development
  • Effective evaluation of portlands

Two major ports under this project are Sagar, West Bengal, and Dugarajapatnam, Seemandhra.

Project initiatives are mentioned hereby:

  1. Port-led industrialization
  2. Port-based urbanization
  3. Port-based and coastal tourism and recreational activities
  4. Short-sea shipping coastal shipping and Inland Waterways
  5. Transportation
  6. Shipbuilding, ship repair, and ship recycling
  7. Logistics parks, warehousing, maritime zones/services
  8. Integration with hinterland hubs
  9. Offshore storage, drilling platforms
  10. Specialization of ports in certain economic activities such as energy, containers, chemicals, coal, agro products, etc.
  11. Offshore Renewable Energy Projects with base ports for installations

Indian Ports

The list of major Indian ports in India is as follows:

MumbaiNatural harbor & biggest port of India (Gateway of India)Handles approx. 1/5th of India’s foreign trade.
Nava Seva     Jawaharlal Port (Highly Mechanized Port),  Mumbai
ChennaiOldest artificial harbor on east coast  & 2nd largest port in terms of volume of traffic
Ennore1st corporate port (To release pressure on Chennai port)
Tuticorin (TN)On Eastern coast of India
KandlaTidal Port (To release pressure on Mumbai port, developed after the partition of India), Gujrat
KochiA natural harbor
VisakhapatnamDeepest artificial harbor on the east coast
KolkataRiverine Port (Handles goods coming from SE Asian countries Australia & New Zealand)
HaldiaDeveloped on river Hooghly to relieve pressure on Kolkata port
ParadipLocated on Orissa coast
MormugaoIn Goa ( 5th in total traffic handled)
New MangaloreOn New Mangalore

Pipelines in India

  • The pipeline transport network is a new sort of transportation in India.
  • In the past, these were used to transport water to cities and industries.
  • Now, these are used for transporting crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas from oil and natural gas fields to refineries, fertilizer factories, and big thermal power plants. The initial cost of laying pipelines is high but subsequent running costs are minimal.
  • Additionally, It rules out trans-shipment losses or delays.

There are three significant networks of pipeline transportation in India

  • From oil fields in upper Assam to Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), via Guwahati, Barauni and Allahabad.
  • From Salaya in Gujarat to Jalandhar in Punjab, via Viramgam, Mathura, Delhi, and Sonipat.
  • Gas pipeline from Hazira in Gujarat connects Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh, via Vijaipur in Madhya Pradesh.


This was all about the transportation system in India. The article has explained the different modes of transportation and commutation in the country. Each of the above-listed transports has their specific pros and cons.

As a responsible citizen, each individual should take care of and maintain the hygiene of our transport networks. In short, transportation is the part and parcel of the contemporary scenario. It is indeed a modernized and advanced technology utilized for everyday and occasional purposes.

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