Transport in India

Transport facilitates trade and commerce by carrying goods from the areas of production to that of consumption. Goods from the areas that have surplus are shifted to those areas which are deficient in those items. Movement of people from one place to another place in search of job, education and emergency through transport facility.

Modes of Transport

The modes of transport on which the countries depend for connecting people, growth and development are:

1. Land Transport

Land Transport can be broadly divided into two types:

  1. Roadways
  2. Railways


Roads are most commonly used means of transport. Roads play an important role in connecting people and also in ensuring socio-economic growth of a country.

  • Roads provide door to door service by means of a rickshaw, car, bicycle, bus, scooter or a truck.
  • The construction, repair and maintenance cost is less than other means of transport.
  • It is the cheapest and the most convenient mode of transportation for a few people and relatively smaller amount of goods over shorter distances.
  • It is through roads that we reach railway stations, airports and seaports.
  • Perishable goods like milk, fruits and vegetables are quickly carried from nearby villages to the cities or metropolis or to other destinations.
  • Roads connect rural areas to the urban areas and can be constructed in all types of terrains like hills, deserts, mountain and plateaus.

Classification of Roads

Some roads may be kuchcha, and others pakka, then narrow while others broad. Roads are classified on the basis of:

  1. Materials used for construction
  2. Constructing and maintaining authority

(i) Material used for construction

Roads can be classified on the basis of materials used for construction as metalled and un-metalled roads. Metalled roads are usually made by bricks, concrete, cement and charcoal. Un-metalled roads are made of sand, mud and straw.

(ii) Constructing and maintaining authority

Roads are constructed by using public money paid as taxes by people. Various government authorities are responsible for balanced development of roads and better management. The development of village roads are undertaken by the scheme known as Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna launched by the Central government. These provide links from village to village and village to main road in the rural areas. About 80% of the total road length in India is categorise as rural roads.

Zila Parisad has been made responsible for constructing roads that connect district headquarters with other cities and towns of the district. These District Roads account for 14% of the total road length in India. State Public Works Department (SPWD) constructs and maintains roads that link state highways, state capitals with district headquarters. They constitute 4% of the total road length in the country.

National Highway Authority of India constructs and maintains the National Highways [NH], important roads linking different parts of the country and connecting state capitals to the main cities of India. They constitute only 2% of the total road length but carry 40% of the road traffic. The government has launched a major road development project linking north, south, east and west India. This will reduce time and fuel. It will also help to maintain fast flow of traffic between mega cities of India. It is implemented by National Highway Authority of India. The major super highways are:

  • Golden Quadrilateral connects Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata which forms a geometrical figure of Quadrangle.
  • North-South Corridor links Srinagar to Kanyakumari.
  • East-West Corridor connecting Silchar in the east to Porbandar in the west.

Border Roads are constructed along the bordering areas of the country for easy accessibility of goods and other requirements of defence personnels during the time of war and emergency and for the benefit of people living in those areas. They are constructed and maintained by Border Road Organisation (BRO).

Grand Trunk Road

The oldest and the longest road in India was built across Gangetic plain from the north-west to the east on orders of Pashtun emperor, Sher Shah Suri in 16th century which was renamed as Grand Trunk Road. It is presently divided into NH-1 (Amritsar to Delhi) and NH-2 (Delhi to Kolkata). Today, India has about 330 lakh km of road network whereas in 1947 it was only 4 lakh km.


Railways facilitate the movement of both freight and passengers and contribute to the growth of our economy.

  • Railways is the cheapest transport by which thousands of people can travel together from one corner of the country to another for the purpose of education, business, site seeing, pilgrimage or visiting friends or relatives. 
  • People of all income groups can travel by train as it has different types of coaches like General, Sleeper and AC chair car.
  • One can have comfortable night journey as it has berths and washrooms in sleeper coaches.
  • It carries country’s largest amount of bulky goods like coal, cement, food grains, fertilizer, petroleum, automobiles, etc. from mines to industries and from industries to the areas of consumption.
  • The construction of railways is very difficult and costly in mountainous region whereas it can be easily done in areas of flat land. Therefore, India has dense railway network in the Gangetic plain where as desert, hills, marshy regions, flood prone areas, dense forest, areas with rapids and rivers have not been developed much.
  • The states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab and Haryana, are well connected by railways because these states are located in the plains. These areas are food bowl of India and most of the crops grown here are taken to other parts of the country through railways.
  • Areas where mining and industries are more developed tend to have better facilities of railways for easy transportation of goods. Areas with less industrial development cannot compensate the cost of construction of railways, therefore have less railway network.
  • Regions which are densely populated and have more movements are definitely well connected with railways.
  • Urban areas or large cities attract more people for jobs, business, education, trade, banking have high density railway network for quick movement of people.

About Indian Railways

Indian Railways started in 1853 from Bombay to Thane covering a distance of 34 km. At present, Indian Railway network is the largest in Asia and the fourth largest in the world with the length of more than 64000 km. 

It is the largest government undertaking employing 1.6 million people and a separate budget is presented for it. It has been divided into 16 zones for better administration and management of work.

Technical advancement provided by Indian Railways

There is a direct rail link available from the north to the south of the country covering a distance of 3751 km in 71 hours. Facilities to travel in 1st A.C., 2nd A.C., 3rd A.C., A.C. Chair Car, 2nd Class sleeper and General class are available to cater to the needs of the people of different economic strata. Only diesel and electric locomotives are used on broad gauge providing pollution free journey. The passengers can avail the facility of booking electronic tickets easily from home. The trucks loaded with goods are delivered directly to the consumers or factories in special rail wagons.

2. Water Transport

From olden days till now waterways had been an important means of transportation. It is because:

  • It is the cheapest means as compared to other means of transport because it involves no expenditure on construction other than maintenance.
  • It is very useful for transporting heavy and bulky goods. A ship can carry lakhs of tonnes of goods at a time.
  • It is a better mode of transportation for petroleum and its products as it involves cross-continental transfers. India lacks in petroleum deposit and most of it is imported from Middle East countries.
  • It is fuel efficient and environment friendly means of transportation.

Water ways have been classified into two types:

1. Inland Waterways: India has inland navigable waterways measuring 14,500 km which include canals, rivers, backwaters and narrow bays etc. But only 3,700 km of river length is suitable for mechanized boats in river Ganga and Brahmaputra in the north and Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri in the south. A good network of inland waterways is able to reduce the traffic on the highways. It also helps transportation of goods.

Inland Waterways Authority of India was constituted in 1986 and looks after the development, maintenance and management of inland water ways in the country. The following three waterways have already been declared as National Waterways:

  • NW 1 - River Ganga from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh to Haldia, West Bengal (1620 km)
  • NW 2 - River Brahmaputra from Sadiya to Dhubri in Assam (891 km)
  • NW 3 - Kollam to Kotapuram stretch of canal in Kerala (205 km)

2. Oceanic Waterways: India is surrounded on three sides by the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean with a coastline of 7516 km. India had only 49 ships in 1946 with a capacity of 1,27,083 tonnes. After independence, the Government has taken various measures resulting in procurement of 616 ships in 2004 with a gross tonnage of 700,000 tonnes of carrying capacity. The two categories of Indian Sea Waterways are:

  • Coastal shipping: Transporting passengers and cargo between the ports located along the coast of the country is done by coastal waterways. Ships of about 100 navigation companies are engaged in coastal waterways handling about 7 lakh tonnes of cargo through 12 main ports and 189 small and medium class ports.
  • International shipping: Most of the shipping capacity of India is used in international trade. Through the ports of the east coast to Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, China, Japan and from the west coast ports to the U.S.A., Europe and Asia, are used for export and import.

3. Air Transport

By airways, you can reach at the destination quickly and without encounter any traffic. Modern day airplane was designed by the Wright Brothers in 1903. Air transport in India began in 1911. Today it is one of the important means of transportation like roadways and railways. India has facilities of both domestic as well as international airways.

Air transport is considering that world is becoming a global village. It is the fastest means of transport and one can reach the destination in a few hours covering the distance of hundreds of kilometers.

  • It is free from surface hindrances such as inaccessible mountains, dense forests, marshy lands or flooded areas.
  • It is most important due to its utility in national defence.
  • It also connect countries of different continents making earth a global village.
  • It is suitable for transporting fruits, vegetables or high value goods like costly drugs and sophisticated machines in desired time frame.
  • It is very useful at the time of natural or any other calamities for saving people or supplying goods of their basic requirements immediately.

The only drawback is the high cost of travelling or transportation. That is why, it is still out of reach for the common man. In the last few years, the use of air transport has recorded a rapid increase.

Air transport services in India can be classified into the following categories:

Domestic and International Services

Domestic and International services are provided by government and private provider.