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Transport in India

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Transport in India

The Bandra-Worli Sea Link is a cable-stayed bridge which is currently the largest bridge in India
The Mumbai Monorail is the first equipped monorail system in India
Spiral roads connecting to an over bridge i.e., Cloverleaf interchange at Kathipara Junction, Chennai

Transport in the Republic of India is an important part of India's economy. Since the economic liberalisation of the 1990s, infrastructure development has progressed rapidly, and today there is a variety of modes of transport by land, water and air. However, India's relatively low GNP per capita has meant that access to transport has not been uniform.

In the interim, public transport remains the primary mode of transport for most of the population, and India's public transport systems are among the most heavily used in the world.[1] India's rail network is the 4th longest and the most heavily used system in the world,[1] transporting 8,224 million passengers and over 969 million tonnes of freight annually, as of 2012.[2]

Motor vehicle penetration is low by international standards, with only 10.3 million cars on the nation's roads.[3] In addition, only around 10% of Indian households own a motorcycle.[4] Despite this, the number of deaths caused by traffic is amongst the highest in the world and is still increasing[5][6] The automobile industry in India is currently rapidly growing with an annual production of over 4.6 million vehicles,[7] and vehicle volume is expected to rise greatly in the future.[8]

Despite ongoing improvements in the sector, several aspects of the transport sector are still riddled with problems due to outdated infrastructure and lack of investment in less economically active parts of the country. The demand for transport infrastructure and services has been rising by around 10% a year[1] with the current infrastructure being unable to meet these growing demands. According to Goldman Sachs, India will need to spend US$1.7 trillion on infrastructure projects over the next decade to boost economic growth, of which US$500 billion is budgeted to be spent during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan.[9]


  • Traditional means 1
    • Walking 1.1
    • Palanquin 1.2
    • Bullock cart and horse carriage 1.3
    • Hand-pulled rickshaw 1.4
    • Cycle rickshaw 1.5
  • Public road transport 2
    • Bus 2.1
      • Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) 2.1.1
    • Taxi 2.2
    • Auto Rickshaw 2.3
  • E Rickshaw 3
  • Urban rail transport 4
    • Suburban railway 4.1
    • Urban mass rapid transit 4.2
    • Monorail 4.3
    • Light rail 4.4
    • Tram 4.5
  • Other local transport 5
    • Motorcycle and scooter 5.1
    • Automobile 5.2
    • Utility vehicles 5.3
  • Long distance transport 6
    • Railway 6.1
      • International 6.1.1
    • Road 6.2
  • Aviation 7
    • History 7.1
    • Airports 7.2
    • Heliports 7.3
  • Ports and shipping 8
  • Waterways 9
  • Pipelines 10
  • Environmental issues and impact 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14

Traditional means


In ancient times, people were so poor that they covered long distances on foot. For instance, Adi Sankaracharya travelled all over India from Kalady near Kochi.[10] Walking still constitutes an important mode of transport in urban areas.[11] In the city of Mumbai, to further improve the transit conditions for pedestrians, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, has commenced the construction of more than 50 skywalks,[12][13] as part of the Mumbai Skywalk project.


Drawing of a doli or covered litter in which an upper class bride was conveyed to the bridegroom’s house, in Delhi (1843)

Palanquins, also known as palkis, were one of the luxurious methods used by the rich and noblemen for travelling. This was primarily used in the past to carry a deity or idol of a God, and many temples have sculptures of God being carried in a palki. Later on, it was primarily used by European noblemen and ladies from the upper classes of society prior to the advent of the railways in India.[14] Modern use of the palanquin is limited to Indian weddings and Pilgrimage.

Bullock cart and horse carriage

Bullock Cart in Ahmedabad

Bullock carts have been traditionally used for transport, especially in rural India. The arrival of the British saw drastic improvements in the horse carriages which were used for transport since early days. Today, they are used in smaller towns and are referred as Tonga or buggies. Victorias of Mumbai are still used for tourist purposes, but horse carriages are now rarely found in the metro cities of India.[15] In recent years large cities have banned the movement of bullock carts and other slow moving vehicles on the main roads.[16][17][18]

bicycle, with ownership rates ranging from around 30% to 70% at the state level.[4] Along with walking, cycling accounts for 50 to 75% of the commuter trips for those in the informal sector in urban areas.[11]

or cycles.[19] It was built for the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games. However, recent developments in Delhi suggest that bicycle riding is fast becoming popular in the metro cities of India. The Delhi government has decided to construct separate bicycle lanes on all major roads to combat pollution and ease traffic congestion.[20]

Hand-pulled rickshaw

A human-pulled Rickshaw in Kolkata

Hand-pulled rickshaw is still available in the city of Kolkata wherein a person pulls the rickshaw by hand. The Government of West Bengal proposed a ban on these rickshaws in 2005 describing them as "inhuman".[21] Though a bill aiming to address this issue, termed as 'Calcutta Hackney Carriage Bill', was passed by the West Bengal Assembly in 2006, it has not been implemented yet.[22] The Government of West Bengal is working on an amendment of this bill to avoid the loopholes that got exposed when the Hand-pulled Rickshaw Owner's Association filed a petition against the bill.[22]

Cycle rickshaw

Cycle rickshaws were introduced in India in the 1940s.[23] They are bigger than a tricycle where two people sit on an elevated seat at the back and a person pedals from the front. In the late 2000s, they were banned in several cities for causing traffic congestion.[24][25][26] Cycle rickshaws have been a feature of Delhi streets since Indian independence in 1947, providing the cheapest way around the capital. The Delhi Police recently submitted an affidavit against plying of cycle rickshaws to ease traffic congestion in the city but it was dismissed by the Delhi High Court.[27] In addition, environmentalists have supported the retention of cycle rickshaws as a non-polluting and inexpensive mode of transport.[28]

Public road transport

A congested road showing buses, taxis, autorikshaws and other modes of road transport
A congested road in Kolkata showing buses, taxis, autorickshaws and other modes of road transport.

Public transport is the predominant mode of motorised local travel in cities.[11] This is predominantly by road, since commuter rail services are available only in the seven metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune, while dedicated city bus services are known to operate in at least 25 cities with a population of over one million.[29] Intermediate public transport modes like tempos and cycle rickshaws assume importance in medium size cities.[11] However, the share of buses is negligible in most Indian cities as compared to personalised vehicles, and two-wheelers and cars account for more than 80 percent of the vehicle population in most large cities.[29]

Traffic in Indian cities generally moves slowly, where traffic jams and accidents are very common.[30] India has very poor records on road safely—around 90,000 people die from road accidents every year.[31] At least 13 people die every hour in road accidents in the country,also in the year 2007 road accidents claimed more than 130,000 lives, overtaking China.[32][33] A Reader's Digest study of traffic congestion in Asian cities ranked several Indian cities within the Top Ten for worst traffic.[30]


A recently acquired air conditioned public bus in Bangalore
A Tata Marcopolo bus in use in Chandigarh, India

Buses take up over 90% of public transport in Indian cities,[34] and serve as a cheap and convenient mode of transport for all classes of society. Services are mostly run by state government owned transport corporations.[29] However, after the economic liberalisation, many state transport corporations have introduced various facilities like low-floor buses for the disabled and air-conditioned buses to attract private car owners to help decongest roads.[35][36] Bengaluru was the first city in India to introduce Volvo B7RLE intra-city buses in India in January 2006.[37][38][39] Bengaluru is the first Indian city to have an air-conditioned bus stop, located near Cubbon Park. It was built by airtel.[40] TNSTC has been acknowledged as the single corporation having the largest bus fleet in the world. The city of Chennai houses one of Asia's largest bus terminus, the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus.[41]

Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS)

New initiatives like Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems and air conditioned buses have been taken by the various state government to improve the bus public transport systems in cities. The idea of a BRT concept in India - based on the successful system in Curitiba, Brazil - was first introduced in the year 2000 in the form of a feasibility study for Bangalore carried out by Swedish consultants but was not implemented at the time. Today, however, the concept has caught on and Bus Rapid Transit systems already exist in Pune, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Mumbai and Jaipur with new ones coming up in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bangalore and Hubli-Dharwad. High Capacity buses can be found in cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Nagpur, Indore and Chennai.[42]


Ambassador taxis in Kolkata

Most of the traditional taxicabs in India are either Premier Padmini or Hindustan Ambassador cars.[43] Depending on the city/state, taxis can either be hailed or hired from taxi-stands. In cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad, taxis need to be hired over phone,[44] whereas in cities like Kolkata and Mumbai, taxis can be hailed on the street. According to government of India regulations, all taxis are required to have a fare-meter installed.[45] There are additional surcharges for luggage, late-night rides and toll taxes are to be paid by the passenger. Since 2006, radio taxis have become increasingly popular with the public due to reasons of safety and convenience.[46] In cities and localities where taxis are expensive or do not ply as per the government or municipal regulated fares, people use share taxis. These are normal taxis which carry one or more passengers travelling to destinations either en route to the final destination, or near the final destination. The passengers are charged according to the number of people with different destinations. A similar system exists for autorickshaws, known as share autos. The city of Mumbai will soon be the first city in India, to have an "in-taxi" magazine, titled MumBaee, which will be issued to taxis which are part of the Mumbai Taximen's Union. The magazine debuted on 13 July 2009.[47] In Kolkata there are many no refusal taxis available with white and blue in colour.[48]

Auto Rickshaw

Autorickshaw in Mumbai

An auto rickshaw is a three-wheeler vehicle for hire that has both side doors and is generally characterised by a small cabin for the driver in the front and a seat for passengers in the rear.[49] Generally it is painted in yellow, green or black colour and has a black, yellow or green canopy on the top, but designs vary considerably from place to place. The color of the autorickshaw is also determined by the fuel that it is powered by, for example Agartala, Ahmedabad and Delhi have green autos indicating the use of compressed natural gas, whereas the autos of Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore have green or black autos indicating the use of LPG.

In Mumbai and other metropolitan cities, 'autos' or 'ricks' as they are popularly known have regulated metered fares. A recent law prohibits auto rickshaw drivers from charging more than the specified fare, or charging night-fare before midnight, and also prohibits the driver from refusing to go to a particular location. Mumbai and Kolkata are also the only two cities which prohibit auto rickshaws from entering a certain part of the city, in these cases being South Mumbai and certain parts of Downtown Kolkata.[50] However, in cities like Chennai, it is common to see autorickshaw drivers demand more than the specified fare and refuse to use fare meter[51]

Airports and railway stations at many cities such as Howrah, Chennai and Bengaluru provide a facility of prepaid auto booths, where the passenger pays a fixed fare as set by the authorities for various locations.[52]

E Rickshaw

A new popular means of transport, rapidly grew in number in India, due to low running and initial cost, other economic and environment benefits, these vehicles are becoming popular in India. E Rickshaws are made in fiberglass or metal body, powered by a BLDC Electric Motor with max power 2000W and speed 25km/h.[53]

Urban rail transport

Suburban railway

A MRTS station in the city of Chennai
Delhi Metro, operational since 2002
Purple Line of Namma Metro in central Bangalore
India's oldest metro is the Kolkata Metro

The present suburban railway services in India are limited and are operational only in Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad .[29] The Mumbai Suburban Railway is the first rail system in India which began services in Mumbai in 1867, transports 6.3 million passengers daily and has the highest passenger density in the world.[54] The first rapid transit system in India, the Kolkata Suburban Railway, was established in Kolkata in 1854.[55] Its first service ran between Howrah and Hooghly covering a distance of 38.6 km (24 mi).

Urban mass rapid transit

The first modern rapid transit in India is the Kolkata Metro and started its operations in 1984,this is also the 17th Zone of the Indian Railways.[56] The Delhi Metro in New Delhi is India's second conventional metro and began operations in 2002. The Namma Metro in Bengalore is India's third operational rapid transit and began operations in 2011. Currently, rapid transit systems have been deployed in these cities and more are under construction or in planning in several major cities of India.

Cities with metro systems:
Metro systems under construction


Monorail in India is generally considered as feeder system for the Metro train. Mumbai Monorail is the first operational monorail network in India[57] (excluding the Skybus Metro Test Track in Goa) since the Patiala State Monorail Trainways closed in 1927.

Green background for the systems that are currently in progress. Blue background for the systems that are currently in planning.

System City Opening Year System length (km) No. of lines No. of lines under construction
Mumbai Mumbai Monorail 2 February 2014 8.26 1
Thiruvananthapuram Monorail Thiruvananthapuram 2015 22.50 2 1
Chennai Monorail Chennai 2014 57 3
Bangalore Monorail Bangalore 60 3
Delhi Monorail Delhi 90 6
Indore Monorail Indore
Kanpur Monorail Kanpur 63 6
Kolkata Monorail Kolkata 72 2
Kozhikode Monorail Kozhikode 2015 35 1
Navi Mumbai Monorail Navi Mumbai 2014 38 2
Patna Monorail Patna 32 4
Pune Monorail Pune 52 2
Aizawl Monorail Aizawl 2015 5 1
Coimbatore Monorail Coimbatore

Light rail

Like Monorails, Light rail is also considered as a feeder system for the Metro systems. Two Light rail projects have been proposed in Delhi and Kolkata.

System City Opening Year System length (km) No. of lines No. of lines under construction
Delhi Light Rail Transit Delhi 45 3
Kolkata LRTS Kolkata 2


Kolkata tram is the only remaining tram network in India

The arrival of British rule in India saw trams in addition to trains, being introduced in many cities including Bombay and Kolkata. The Kolkata tram is currently the only tram system in the country and provides an emission-free means of transport in Kolkata while the other tram systems in India were phased out. The nationalised Calcutta Tramways Company is in the process of upgrading the existing tramway network at a cost of 240 million (US$3.9 million).[58] Presently the limited tram system in India is extremely slow and technologically backward, new light rail projects are being proposed rather than tram projects which have one reason or another not been very successful in the country. However, there are some proposals to reintroduce trams as a new transport avatar in some new Indian cities.[59] There are also plans to introduce trams in medium sized cities.[60]

Other local transport

Motorcycle and scooter

Motorised two-wheel vehicles like scooters, motorcycles and mopeds are very popular mode of transport due to their fuel efficiency and ease of use in congested roads or streets. The number of two-wheelers sold is several times that of cars. There were 47.5 million powered two-wheelers in India in 2003 compared with just 8.6 million cars.[61] Yamaha, Hero MotoCorp, Honda, TVS Motors, Bajaj Auto and Mahindra 2 Wheelers are the largest two-wheeler companies in terms of market-share.[62] Royal Enfield, an iconic brand name in the country, manufactures different variants of the British Bullet motorcycle which is a classic motorcycle that is still in production.[63]

Manufacture of scooters in India started when Automobile Products of India (API), set up at Mumbai and incorporated in 1949, began assembling Innocenti-built Lambretta scooters in India post independence. They eventually acquired licence for the Li150 series model, of which they began full-fledged production from the early sixties onwards. In 1972, Scooters India Ltd (SIL), a state-run enterprise based in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, bought the entire manufacturing rights of the last Innocenti Lambretta model. API has infrastructural facilities at Mumbai, Aurangabad, and Chennai but has been non-operational since 2002. SIL stopped producing scooters in 1998.

Motorcycles and scooters can be rented in many cities. Wearing protective headgear is mandatory for both the rider and the pillion-rider in most cities.


Private vehicles account for 30% of the total transport demand in urban areas of India. An average of 963 new private vehicles are registered every day in Delhi alone.[64] The number of automobiles produced in India rose from 6.3 million (6.3 million) in 2002–03 to 11 million (11.2 million) in 2008–09.[65] However, India still has a very low rate of car ownership. When comparing car ownership between BRIC developing countries, it is on a par with China,[61] and exceeded by Brazil and Russia.[66]

Compact cars, especially hatchbacks predominate due to affordability, fuel efficiency, congestion, and lack of parking space in most cities. Chennai is known as the "Detroit of India" for its automobile industry.[67] Maruti, Hyundai and Tata Motors are the most popular brands in the order of their market share. The Ambassador once had a monopoly but is now an icon of pre-liberalisation India, and is still used by taxi companies. Maruti 800 launched in 1984 created the first revolution in the Indian auto sector because of its low pricing. It had the highest market share until 2004, when it was overtaken by other low-cost models from Maruti such as the Alto and the Wagon R, the Indica from Tata Motors and the Santro from Hyundai. Over the 20-year period since its introduction, about 2.4 million units of the Maruti 800 have been sold.[68] However, with the launch of the Tata Nano, the least expensive production car in the world, Maruti 800 lost its popularity.[69]

India is also known for a variety of indigenous vehicles made in villages out of simple motors and vehicle spare-parts. A few of these innovations are the Jugaad, Maruta, Chhakda, peter rehda and the Fame.[70]

In the city of Bengaluru, Radio One and the Bangalore Traffic Police, launched a carpooling drive which has involved celebrities such as Robin Uthappa, and Rahul Dravid encouraging the public to carpool.[71][72][73] The initiative got a good response, and by the end of May 2009, 10,000 people are said to have carpooled in the city.[74]

Utility vehicles

The first utility vehicle in India was manufactured by Mahindra and Mahindra. It was a copy of the original Jeep and was manufactured under licence.[75] The vehicle was an instant hit and made Mahindra one of the top companies in India. The Indian Army and police extensively use Mahindra vehicles along with Maruti Gypsys for transporting personnel and equipment.

Tata Motors, the automobile manufacturing arm of the Tata Group, launched its first utility vehicle, the Tata Sumo, in 1994.[76][77] The Sumo, owing to its then-modern design, captured a 31% share of the market within two years.[78] The Tempo trax from Force Motors till recently was ruling the rural areas. Sports utility vehicles now form a sizeable part of the passenger vehicle market.[79] Models from Tata, Honda, Hyundai, Ford, Chevrolet and other brands are available.[80]

Long distance transport


Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in West Bengal is a World Heritage Site,[81] and one of the two steam engine operated railway line in India, other being Nilgiri Mountain Railway.

Rail services in India, first introduced in 1853, are provided by the state-run Indian Railways under the supervision of the Ministry of Railways. Indian Railways provides an important mode of transport in India, transporting over 18 million passengers and more than 2 million tonnes of freight daily across one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world.[82] The proposal to construct to build the highest railway track in the world from Manali to Leh overtaking current record of Beijing-Lhasa Railway line has not been taken up for implementation. By 1947, the year of India's independence, there were forty-two rail systems. In 1951 the systems were nationalised as one unit, becoming one of the largest networks in the world. Indian Railways is divided into seventeen zones including the Kolkata Metro Railway.[83] The city of joy "Kolkata" is the Headquarters of three Railway Zones in India namely Eastern Railway zone, South Eastern Railway Zone and the Kolkata Metro.The Indian Railways are further sub-divided into sixty seven divisions, each having a divisional headquarters.[84][85]

New initiatives include the introduction of double decker carriages
A train waiting for its departure in Agartala railway station

The rail network traverses through the length and breadth of the country, covering more than 7,000 stations over a total route length of more than 65,000 km (40,000 mi) and track length of about 115,000 km (71,000 mi).[82] About 22,224 km (13,809 mi) or 34% of the route-kilometre was electrified as on 31 March 2012.[86] Indian Railways is the world's largest commercial or utility employer, with more than 1.4 million employees.[87][88] As to rolling stock, IR owns over 200,000 (freight) wagons, 50,000 coaches and 8,000 locomotives.[87] It also owns locomotive and coach production facilities. It operates both long distance and suburban rail systems on a multi-gauge network of broad, metre and narrow gauges, and is in the process of converting most of the metre gauge (5,000 km (3,100 mi) at end of 2012) and narrow gauge tracks into broad gauge in a project called Project Unigauge.

The Indian Railways runs a number of special types of services which are given higher priority. The Rajdhani trains introduced in 1969 provides connectivity between the national capital, Delhi and capitals of the states. On the other hand, Shatabdi Express provides connectivity between centres of tourism, pilgrimage or business. The Shatabdi Express trains run over short to medium distances and do not have sleepers while the Rajdhani Expresses run over longer distances and have only sleeping accommodation. Both series of trains have a maximum permissible speed of 110 to 140 km/h (81 to 87 mph) but average speed of less than 100 km/h. The 12001 Bhopal Shatabdi express, however, runs at a peak speed of 150 km/h on small stretches which makes it the fastest train in India. The other specialised services operated by the Railways are the Duronto Express (without any commercial stop between the origin and the destination but with a few technical stops for crew change and food intake) and Garib Raths that provide cheap no-frill airconditioned rail travel. Besides, The Indian Railways also operates a number of luxury trains which cater to various tourist circuits. For instance, the Palace on Wheels serves the Rajasthan circuit and the The Golden Chariot serves the Karnataka and Goa circuits. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites on IR – the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus[89] and the Mountain railways of India. The latter is not a contiguous railway line but comprises the following three separate historic railway lines located in different parts of India:[90]

The Indian Railways has also initiated a number of highly ambitious projects to provide connectivity to the remote and inaccessible areas of the country. The 738 km long Konkan Railway with around 2000 bridges and 92 tunnels is one such highly difficult project through fragile mountainous terrain of the Konkan region Salient features of Konkan railway to connect two important port cities of Mangalore and Mumbai by a short route and was constructed in 1991-1998. Another such highly ambitious project is the Kashmir Railway, the Kashmir valley part of which was completed in 2009.[91]

Proposals have been made to construct high-speed railway lines in India but no concrete action has been taken. In 1999, the Konkan Railway Corporation introduced the Roll on Roll off (RORO) service, a unique road-rail synergy system, on the section between Kolad in Maharashtra and Verna in Goa,[92] which was extended up to Surathkal in Karnataka in 2004.[93][94] The RORO service, the first of its kind in India, allowed trucks to be transported on flatbed trailers. It was highly popular,[95] carrying about 110,000 trucks and bringing in about INR 740 million worth of earnings to the corporation till 2007.[96]

As the railway tracks from Kandla, Pipavav, Mundra and other ports in Saurashtra to Ahmedabad and Palanpur and then to Rewari via Ringas are not electrified, freight trains (goods trains) with containers double-stacked ply on this route to Rewari junction and then take the containers further north from Rewari. Infringements like low road overbridges and foot overbridges that fouled with double-stacked containers were either dismantled or raised in years 2004-06 for running these freight trains. In India freight (goods) trains can carry standard containers double-stacked on flat-bed wagons with normal axle load of about 22 tonnes and do not require special low-bed wagons unlike in other countries that have (relatively narrow) 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge. They carry almost 4000 tonnes per rake which is almost twice the load a normal goods train can haul. Some double-stacked container freight trains on this route through Rewari station also carry "high cube" containers that are 2896 mm (9 ft 6-inch) high (higher than standard containers that are generally 8 ft or 2.438 mm high) on special low-well wagons owned by private clients. Some private logistics operators have built container storage yards north of Rewari near Garhi Harsaru for this purpose.


Rail links between India and neighbouring countries are not well-developed. Two trains operate to Pakistan—the Samjhauta Express between Delhi and Lahore, and the Thar Express between Jodhpur and Karachi. Bangladesh is connected by a biweekly train, the Maitree Express that runs from Kolkata to Dhaka. Nominal rail links to Nepal exist—passenger services between Jaynagar and Bijalpura, and freight services between Raxaul and Birganj.[97]

Indian and Bangladeshi governments will start work late by December or early by January 2015 on a new rail link to ease surface transport.[98] India will build a 15-km railway tracks linking Tripura's capital Agartala with Bangladesh's southeastern city of Akhaura, an important railway junction connected to Chittagong port, resource-rich Sylhet and Dhaka.[99] An agreement to implement the railway project was signed between India's former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina during her visit to India in January 2010.[100] Total cost of the proposed project is estimated at Rs.252 crore. The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) would lay the new railway tracks on both sides of the border. Of the 15 km rail line, five km of tracks fall in the Indian territory.[101][102] The NFR is now laying tracks to connect Tripura's southern most border town Sabroom, 135 km south of here. From Sabroom, the Chittagong international sea port is just 72 km.[103]

No rail link exists with Myanmar but a railway line is to be built through from Jiribam (in Manipur) to Tamu through Imphal and Moreh.[104] The construction of this missing link, as per the feasibility study conducted by the Ministry of External Affairs through RITES Ltd, is estimated to cost 29.41 billion (US$480 million).[105] An 18 km railway link with Bhutan is being constructed from Hashimara in West Bengal to Toribari in Bhutan. No rail link exists with either China or Sri Lanka,.[106] A railway line is being built from Siliguri to Rangpo in Sikkim but there are no plans to extend it further north towards China.


The Network of National Highways in India.

India has a network of National Highways connecting all the major cities and state capitals, forming the economic backbone of the country. As of 2013, India has a total of 70,934 km (44,076 mi) of National Highways, of which 1,208 km (751 mi) are classified as expressways.[107] Under National Highways Development Project (NHDP), work is under progress to equip some of the important national highways with four lanes; also there is a plan to convert some stretches of these roads to six lanes.[108] However congestion and bureaucratic delays en route ensure that trucking goods from Gurgaon to the port in Mumbai can take up to 10 days.[109]

As per the National Highways Authority of India, about 65% of freight and 80% passenger traffic is carried by the roads. The National Highways carry about 40% of total road traffic, though only about 2% of the road network is covered by these roads.[107] Average growth of the number of vehicles has been around 10.16% per annum over recent years.[107] Highways have facilitated development along the route and many towns have sprung up along major highways. Road transport Benchmark Freight Index (BFI) initiative taken in India in recently by ITRANS.

All national highways are metalled, but very few are constructed of concrete, the most notable being the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. In recent years construction has commenced on a nationwide system of multi-lane highways, including the Golden Quadrilateral and North-South and East-West Corridors which link the largest cities in India. In 2000, around 40% of villages in India lacked access to all-weather roads and remained isolated during the monsoon season.[1][110]

To improve rural connectivity, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (Prime Minister's Rural Road Program), a project funded by the Central Government with the help of World Bank, was launched in 2000 to build all-weather roads to connect all habitations with a population of 500 or above (250 or above for hilly areas).[110][111]

As per 2013 estimates, the total road length in India is 4,689,842 km (2,914,133 mi);[112] making the Indian road network the second largest road network in the world after the United States. At 0.66 km of highway per square kilometre of land the density of India’s highway network is higher than that of the United States (0.65) and far higher than that of China's (0.16) or Brazil's (0.20).[1]

Type of Road Length
Expressways 1,208 km (751 mi) as of 2011
National Highways 79,116 km (49,160 mi)
State Highways 155,716 km (96,757 mi)
District, Rural and Other Roads 4,455,010 km (2,768,210 mi)
Total Length 4,689,842 km (2,914,133 mi) (Approx)

Buses are an important means of public transport in India, particularly in the countryside and remote areas where the rail network cannot be accessed and airline operations are few or non-existent. Due to this social significance, public bus transport is predominantly owned and operated by public agencies, and most state governments operate bus services through a State Road Transport Corporation.[113] These corporations, introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, have proven extremely useful in connecting villages and towns across the country.[29]


Air India, the flag carrier of India
Airports Authority of India (AAI), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi and Public Sector Undertakings including Air India, Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.[114]

Air India is India's national flag carrier after merging with Indian in 2011[115] and plays a major role in connecting India with the rest of the world.[116] IndiGo, Jet Airways, Air India, Spicejet and GoAir are the major carriers in order of their market share.[117] These airlines connect more than 80 cities across India and also operate overseas routes after the liberalisation of Indian aviation. Several other foreign airlines connect Indian cities with other major cities across the globe. However, a large section of country's air transport potential remains untapped, even though the Mumbai-Delhi air corridor was ranked 10th by Amadeus in 2012 among the world's busiest routes.[118][119]

Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi is India's busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic


Civil Aviation in India traces its beginnings back to the year 1911, when the first commercial civil aviation flight took off from Allahabad for Naini on 18 February. Henri Pequet, a French aviator, carried 6,500 mails on a Humber biplane.[120] On October 15, 1932, J.R.D. Tata flew a consignment of mail from Karachi to Juhu Airport. His airline later became Air India.[121]

In March 1953, the Indian Parliament passed the Air Corporations Act. India's airline industry was nationalised and the eight domestic airlines operating independently at that time, Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga Airlines, Indian National Airways, Air India and Air Services of India were merged into two government owned entities. Indian Airlines focussed on domestic routes and Air India International on international services.[120] The International Airports Authority of India (IAAI) was constituted in 1972 while the National Airports Authority was constituted in 1986. The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security was established in 1987 following the tragic crash of Air India Flight 182. Pushpaka Aviation operated scheduled international passenger flights from Bombay to Sharjah, as an associate carrier of Air India from 1979 to 1983.

East-West Airlines was the first national level private airline to operate in the country after the government de-regularised the civil aviation sector in 1991. The government allowed private airlines to operate charter and non-scheduled services under the ‘Air Taxi’ Scheme until 1994, when the Air Corporation Act was repealed and private airlines could now operate scheduled services. Private airlines like Jet Airways, Air Sahara, Modiluft, Damania Airways and NEPC Airlines among others commenced domestic operations during this period.[120]

Air India placed orders for more than 68 jets from Boeing for US$7.5 billion in 2006 while Indian placed orders for 43 jets from Airbus for US$2.5 billion in 2005.[122][123] Jet Airways invested millions of dollars to increase its fleet,[124] but was later put on hold due to the recent economic slowdown.[125] IndiGo announced orders for 100 Airbus A320s worth US$6 billion during the Paris Air Show, the highest by any Asian domestic carrier.[126] Kingfisher Airlines became the first Indian air carrier on 15 June 2005 to order Airbus A380 aircraft worth US$3 billion.[127][128]

More than half a dozen low-cost carriers entered the Indian market in 2004–05. Major new entrants included Air Deccan, Air Sahara, Kingfisher Airlines, SpiceJet, GoAir, Paramount Airways and IndiGo. But Indian aviation industry struggled due to economic slowdown, rising fuel and operation costs. This led to consolidation, buy outs and discontinuations in the Indian airline industry. In 2007, Air Sahara and Air Deccan were acquired by Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines respectively. Paramount Airways ceased operations in 2010 and Kingfisher shut down in 2012. Etihad Airways agreed to acquire 24% stake in Jet in 2013. AirAsia India, a low cost carrier operating as a joint venture between Air Asia and Tata Sons launched in 2014. As of 2013–14, only IndiGo and GoAir were generating profits.[129]


Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai is India's second busiest in terms of passenger traffic

As of 2013, there are 346[130] civilian airports in India - 253 with paved runways and 93 with unpaved runways. Of these, 66 are licensed by the DGCA in the public use category while 21 are licensed for private use.[131] Most of these are managed by the AAI while the rest are owned by State Governments and private entities. There are more than 20 international airports in India. Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai handle more than a half of the air traffic in the country.[132][133][134]

The operations of the major airports in India have been privatised over the past 5 years and this has resulted in better equipped and cleaner airports. The terminals have either been refurbished or expanded.

Length of runways Airports
with paved
with unpaved
3,047 m (10,000 ft) or more 21 1
2,438 to 3,047 m (8,000 to 10,000 ft) 59 3
1,524 to 2,438 m (5,000 to 8,000 ft) 76 6
914 to 1,524 m (3,000 to 5,000 ft) 82 38
Under 914 m (3,000 ft) 14 45
Total 253 93


As of 2013, there are 45 heliports in India.[130] India also has the world's highest helipad at the Siachen Glacier a height of 6400 metre (21,000 ft) above mean sea level.[135]

Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited is a public sector company that provides helicopter services to ONGC to its off-shore locations, and also to various State Governments in India, particularly in North-east India.[136]

Ports and shipping

Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Navi Mumbai ranks 25th in the world as per container traffic.[137]

There are many major ports in India. Maritime transportation in India is managed by the Shipping Corporation of India, a government-owned company that also manages offshore and other marine transport infrastructure in the country. It owns and operates about 35% of Indian tonnage and operates in practically all areas of shipping business servicing both national and international trades.[138]

International Container Transhipment Terminal at Kochi seaport

It has a fleet of 79 ships of 2750,000 GT (4.8 million DWT) and also manages 53 research, survey and support vessels of 120,000 GT (060,000 DWT) on behalf of various government departments and other organisations.[139] Personnel are trained at the Maritime Training Institute in Mumbai, a branch of the World Maritime University, which was set up in 1987.[140] The Corporation also operates in Malta and Iran through joint ventures.[139]

Visakhapatnam seaport is one of the busiest ports on the East Coast of India

The ports are the main centres of trade. In India about 95% of the foreign trade by quantity and 70% by value takes place through the ports.[141] Mumbai Port & JNPT(Navi Mumbai) handles 70% of maritime trade in India.[142] There are twelve major ports: Navi Mumbai, Mumbai, Kochi, Kolkata (including Haldia), Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Ennore, Chennai, Tuticorin, New Mangalore, Mormugao and Kandla.[143] Other than these, there are 187 minor and intermediate ports, 43 of which handle cargo.[143]

The distinction between major and minor ports is not based on the amount of cargo handled. The major ports are managed by port trusts which are regulated by the central government. They come under the purview of the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963. The minor ports are regulated by the respective state governments and many of these ports are private ports or captive ports. The total amount of traffic handled at the major ports in 2005-2006 was 382.33 Mt.[143]


Motor Vessel in Hooghly river in West Bengal

India has an extensive network of inland waterways in the form of rivers, canals, backwaters and creeks. The total navigable length is 14,500 kilometres (9,000 mi), out of which about 5,200 km (3,231 mi) of river and 485 km (301 mi) of canals can be used by mechanised crafts.[144] Freight transport by waterways is highly underutilised in India compared to other large countries. The total cargo moved by inland waterways is just 0.15% of the total inland traffic in India, compared to the corresponding figures of 20% for Germany and 32% for Bangladesh.[145]

Cargo that is transported in an organised manner is confined to a few waterways in Goa, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in India. It does the function of building the necessary infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration and regulation. The following waterways have been declared as National Waterways:

Boats sailing on National Waterway 2 at Guwahati
  • National Waterway 2: SaidiyaDhubri stretch of the Brahmaputra river system with a total length of 891 kilometres (554 mi) in 1988.[146]
  • National Waterway 3: KollamKottapuram stretch of the West Coast Canal along with Champakara and Udyogmandal canals, with a total length of 205 kilometres (127 mi) in 1993.[146]
  • National Waterway 5: MangalgadiParadeep and TalcherDhamara stretch of the MahanadiBrahmani river system along with the East Coast Canal, with a total length of 623 km (387 mi) in 2007.[147][148]


  • Length of pipelines for crude oil is 20,000 km (12,427 mi).
  • Length of Petroleum products pipeline is 15,000 km (9,321 mi).
  • Length of Natural gas pipelines is 1,700 km (1,056 mi).

The above information was calculated in 2008.[130]

Environmental issues and impact

Buses on the Delhi BRTS. Delhi was one of the first cities in the World to introduce CNG powered buses

The National capital New Delhi has one of the largest CNG based transport systems as a part of the drive to bring down pollution. In spite of these efforts it remains the largest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions in the city.[149] The CNG Bus manufacturers in India are Ashok Leyland, Tata Motors, Swaraj Mazda and Hindustan Motors.[150]

In 1998, the Supreme Court of India published a Directive that specified the date of April 2001 as deadline to replace or convert all buses, three-wheelers and taxis in Delhi to compressed natural gas.[151]

The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation was the first State Transport Undertaking in India to utilise bio-fuels and ethanol-blended fuels.[152] KSRTC took an initiative to do research in alternative fuel forms by experimenting with various alternatives— blending diesel with biofuels such as honge, palm, sunflower, groundnut, coconut and sesame.[153] In 2009, the corporation decided to promote the use of biofuel buses.[154]

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 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.

External links

  • Follow a young commuter on her way through Mumbai, a web documentary by Deutsche Welle Global Ideas (
  • Freight Benchmarking Index
  • Transport Search in India
  • India Transit
  • India Routes
  • Ministry of Road Transport & Highways
  • India Transport Portal
  • Motor Vehicles Act, 1988
  • Railways Information India
  • Mile by Mile, India Paves a Smoother Road to Its Future, New York Times, 4 December 2005.
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