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Data: By March 2019, Surfaced Roads constituted 65% of the total Road Length in India

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The annual Basic Road Statistics of India report published by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MORTH) provides detailed data about the road network in the country.  As per the recently released 2018-19 report, while the overall road length increased by 38% between 2010 & 2019, the share of surfaced roads out of the total road length reached 65% by March 2019. 

Roads are an important part of a country’s infrastructure. This is more so in a country with diverse terrain like India, as roads are key to connecting different parts of the country. Dense road networks with good quality roads contribute significantly to economic and social development.  

Globally, India ranks next only to the USA in terms of the length of the road network. The annual Basic Road Statistics of India report published by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MORTH) provides detailed data about the road network in the country.  The Basic Road Statistics of India 2018-19 was published recently.  In the first of this two-part series, we look at a few of the key statistics relating to the roads in India as provided in the report. 

Overall Road Network length in the country increased by 38% during 2010-2019

As per the report, the road network in India is categorised into – National Highways, State Highways, District roads, Rural Roads, Urban roads & other Project roads.  As of 31 March 2019, the overall length of the road network in the country was 63.31 lakh Km. A significant portion of the roads in India is categorised as Rural roads. They constitute 71% of the total road length in India. 

Over the 10-year period i.e., 2010-2019, the length of rural roads increased by nearly 68%. A significant increase in the rural road network was reported in 2015-16 when it increased from 33.37 lakh km to 39.35 lakh Km. This increase is attributed to categorization of other Public Works Departments (PWD) roads into District roads and Rural roads built by State PWD/RWD. Earlier, these roads were categorised only under District roads.  This categorization also resulted in the reduction of the extent of roads categorised as district roads. 

Apart from Rural Roads, National Highways have also witnessed a higher increase over the years. By 31 March 2010, the National Highway Road network was 70.9 thousand km. By 31 March 2019, this increased to 1.32 lakh Km. The MORTH is responsible for the construction, development, and maintenance of the National Highways. Although National Highways constitute only about 2.1% of the total road network in the country, they carry about 1/3rd of the total traffic on roads.  

State Highways, on the other hand, are constructed by the State governments through State Public Works Departments (PWD). There is a fall in the total length of State Highways from 1.86 lakh Km in 2018 to 1.79 lakh km. This is primarily due to the conversion of a few State Highways into National Highways. 

Surfaced roads constitute 65% of the total road length in India 

Surfaced road means a road that is laid using durable materials with the intent of being used for foot & vehicular movement. Over the years, an increase in road construction activity has contributed to an increasing share of surfaced roads. 

In 1951, surfaced roads constituted about 39.3% of the total road network in the country. By 2009, more than half i.e., 52% of the roads in India were laid surface roads. This increased in the ensuing years and by 2019, surfaced roads constitute 65% of the roads in India. Among the different categories of roads, 100% of the National Highways are surfaced. Even State & District highways have most of their road network surfaced. However, only about 67% of the rural roads surfaced. 

Among the states, Rajasthan has the highest surfaced road ratio with 91.7% of the roads being surfaced. Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana & Madhya Pradesh make up the rest of top-5 states with the highest surfaced road ratio. Assam has the least percent share of the surfaced road to total road length with only 23.1%. Other Northeastern States of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur also have a lower share of surfaced roads. Among the large states, Bihar has the least with 58.5% of the roads being surfaced roads, with Karnataka slightly better at 59.7%. 

A marked increase in the Rural Road Density in recent years 

Road density is defined as the average road length per 1000 sq. km of area. As per the information provided in the report, the road density in India by 31 March 2019 was 1,926 Km.  By 31 March 2012, it was 1,422.63 Km and has witnessed a year-on-year increase. 

There is a marked improvement, especially in the density of rural roads. The rural road density has increased from 886.61 Km per 1000 sq. km by end of 2011-12, to 1,458.10 Kms per 1000 sq. km by end of 2018-19. 

India has a higher Urban Road density, which has increased further over the years. Urban road density increased from 4,026.12 Km per 1000 sq. km by end of 2011-12, to 5,296.3 Km per 1000 sq. km by end of 2018-19. 

Apart from the available length of roads, road density is also measured as road availability compared to the population. This is defined as the availability of roads per 1000 people. Across India, it increased from 3.86 Km per 1000 population in 2011-12 to 5.23 per 1000 population in 2018-19. 

In respect of rural roads, the road density has increased from 3.3 km per 1000 population in 2011-12 to 5.42 Km per 1000 population in 2018-19.  The higher density of the urban population means that the road density is comparatively lower in terms of population. During the same period, it increased from 1.09 Km per 1000 population in 2011-12 to 1.44 per 1000 population in 2018-19. 

It must be noted that the report has considered the population and area as per the 2011 census, while the road length is as of 31 March 2019 for the year 2018-19. With an increased population since the 2011 census, the actual availability of roads in terms of the population may be different. We will know the actual figures once the data for the 2021 census is made available.  

Among the states, Kerala has the highest Rural Road Density per 1000 sq. km with 6,031 Km. Meanwhile, West Bengal has the highest Urban Road Density with 18,547 Km of roads per 1000 sq. km

In the second part of the story, we would look at the statistics relating to the different categories of roads across states. 

Featured Image: Road Length in India

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