India has one of the largest road networks in the world, aggregating to about 33 lakh kilometers at present. Though the National Highways, which is the responsibility of Central Government, has length of roads, carries over 40 percent of the total traffic across the length and bredth of the country.
|National Highways/Expressways ||65,590 km
|State Highways ||1,28,000 km
|Major and other Disctric Roads ||4,70,000 km
|Rural Roads ||26,50,000 km
The National Highways have further been classifed depending upon the carriageway width of the Highway. Generally, a lane has a width of 3.75 m in case of single lane and 3.5 per lane in case of multilane National Highways. The break-up of National Highways in terms of width is as under:-
|Single Lane ||32 %
|Double/Intermediate Lane ||56 %
|Four Lane/Six Lane/Eight Lane ||12 %
The Central Government is responsible for development and maintenance of the National Highways system. The Ministry carry out development and maintenance work of National Highways through three agencies. viz. National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), State Public Works Departments (PWDs) and Border Road Organisation (BRO).
In order to give boost to the economic development of the country, the Government has embarked upon a massive National Highways Development Project (NHDP) in the country. The NHDP is the largest highway project ever taken in the country. The NHDP is being implemented by National Highways Authority of India. (NHAI)
Traditionally, the road projects were financed only out the budgetary grants and were controlled/supervised by the Government. The road system has attracted very limited private sector participation in the past. While the traffic has been constantly increasing at a rapid pace, the traditional system of financing road projects through budgetary allocation has proved to be inadequate. It was in this context that the necessity for exploring the innovative means of financing the highly capital intensive road projects was felt.
The beginning of a significant private sector participation in road projects was made with the launching of India's largest road project - National Highways Development Project (NHDP). To encourage private sector participation, several initiatives have been taken by the government, which includes:-
- Declaration of the road sector as an industry.
- Provision of capital subsidy up to 40 % of the project coast to make projects commercially viable.
- 100 % tax exemption in any consecutive 10 years out of the first 20 years of a project.
- Provision of encumbrance free sites for work, i.e. the Government shall meet all the expanses relating to land and other pre-construction activities.
- Foreign Direct Investment up to 100 % in road sector.
- Easier external commercial borrowing norms
- Higher concession period, (up to 30 years)
- Right to collect and retain toll
Research and Development in Road Development
The main thrust of research and development (R & D) in the roads sector is to build a sustainable road infrastructure comparable to the best roads in the world. The various components of this strategy are improvement in design, modernization of construction techniques, introduction of improved material conforming to latest trends, evolving better and appropriate specifications, encouraging development and use of new technologies etc. The dissemination of these matters is done through the publication of new guidlines, code of practices, instructions/circulars, compilation of state-of-the-art reports and seminars/presentations etc. The research schemes sponsored by the Department are generally 'applied' in nature, whch, once completed, would enable them to be adopted by user agencies/departments in their work in the field. The areas covered are roads, road transport, bridge, traffic and transportation techniques etc. The Department takes the help of various research institution, academic institutions and universities to implement the schemes. Some of the major schemes are as follows:-
- Development of GIS based National Highways information system
- Guidlines for soil nailing techniques in highways engineering
- Pilot study on effect of overloading on road infrastructure
- Investigation on field performance of bituminous mixes with modified binders
- R & D Studies on performance evaluation of rigid pavements on high density traffic corridors using instrumentation supported by laboratory tests.
- Creation of complete range of independent testing facility at Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), New Delhi.