Country Listing

India Table of Contents


Rapid Transit

India also has two rapid-rail systems and a third in the planning stage. The most advanced is the world-class metro system in Calcutta that opened in 1984 and carried 50,000 passengers daily in 1992-93. It uses Indian-made subway cars that run on the initial ten kilometers of what will be a 16.5 kilometer-long, seventeen-station (eleven stations were in service in 1995) route scheduled for completion in 1995. Plans for more than sixty additional kilometers are on the books. Calcutta is also served by a seventy-seven-kilometer-long tramway network, which is to be phased out because of large annual losses despite a government subsidy. In 1992 Calcutta Tramways started running more reliable buses on some routes.

Rapid transit systems are also in operation or being planned for Madras and New Delhi. The Madras system opened 8.5 kilometers--of a planned 21.7 kilometers--of single-track service in 1991, using broad-gauge Indian Railways electric multiple-unit vehicles. When completed in 2011, the New Delhi system, in the planning stages since the late 1980s, will include some 220 kilometers of underground and elevated track and a light-rail system of 300 kilometers. In 1994 the Ministry of State for Surface Transport tendered bids for the first phase, a 167-kilometer elevated high-speed tram system to operate on nine corridors throughout the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Bombay is served by a suburban rail network that began operation in 1992.

The Road System

India has nearly 2 million kilometers of roads: 960,000 kilometers of surfaced roads and more than 1 million kilometers of roads constructed of gravel, crushed stone, or earth. Fifty-three highways, just under 20,000 kilometers in total length, are rated as national highways, but they carry about 40 percent of the road traffic. To improve road transportation, significant efforts were begun in the 1980s to build roads to link major highways, to widen existing roads from single to double lanes, and to construct major bridges.

These road-building achievements represent an impressive expansion from the 1950 total of 400,000 kilometers of roads of all kinds, but more than 25 percent of villages still have no road link, and about 60 percent have no all-weather road link. These statistics, however, mask important regional variations. Almost all villages in Kerala, Haryana, and Punjab are served by all-weather roads. By contrast, only 15 percent of villages in Orissa and 21 percent in Rajasthan are connected with all-weather roads. The quality of roads, including major highways, is poor by international standards. Nonetheless, roads carry about 60 percent of all passenger traffic.

The central and state governments share responsibilities for road building and maintaining roads and for some transportation companies. The Ministry of State for Surface Transport administers the national highway system, and state highways and other state roads are maintained by state public works departments. Minor roads are maintained by municipalities, districts, and villages. Still other roads, about 22,000 kilometers in total in 1991, are under the jurisdiction of the Border Roads Development Board, a central government organization established in 1960 to facilitate economic development and defense preparedness, especially in the north and northeast.

Data as of September 1995