Road transport is an old means of transport. It plays a significant role in carrying goods and people in all parts of the country. Particularly, the rural economy depends upon the road transport. The importance of roads has increased with the advent of auto vehicles.
The relative importance of roads is much more than that of railways.
They supplement the railways by linking the interior areas with railway heads. Roads are ideal for the promotion of tourism in the country.
With the total length of 3.32 million kilometre, India has the largest road network in the world. However, it is far from adequate or efficient.
Surfaced roads are the metaled roads and are made up of cement, concrete or bitumen. These are all weather roads. The total route length of surfaced roads in India till march 1997 was 13,94,067 km.
Unsurfaced roads are ‘Kucha’ roads made up of earth. They provide tracks for the bullock carts and link the rural areas with the urban centres. They play an important role in the development of rural economy. During rainy season these roads are of little use. The total length of these roads was 10,71,816 km till march 1997.
There has been a considerable development in the road length after independence. Route length of surfaced roads has increased from 1.57 lakh km (1950-51) to 13.94 lakh km in 1997. The length of unsurfaced roads during the same period has increased from 2.42 lakh km to over 10.71 lakh km.
Not only the route length of roads has increased but the number of commercial heavy vehicles, particularly the buses and trucks has also shown a tremendous increase since Independence. Vast increase in the road traffic has posed serious problems in handling it smoothly. The number of road accidents has also shown a steady increase. With increased road traffic, pollution of air has been on the rise.