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The Indian transportation connectivity: Some reflections

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In India, the main modes of transportation for moving people and goods into, around, and across the nation are the roads, railroads, airports, and waterways. In actuality, transportation is a crucial tool for connecting people and services in remote areas. Since a strong transportation infrastructure system symbolizes a vital part of the country’s rapid expansion, the focus of this piece is to shed some light on India’s transportation connectivity.

Strong transportation connections enable the quick and simple transfer of raw materials, machinery, completed items, etc., which has a substantial positive impact on manufacturing and other businesses. A strong transportation system can also expand the market for goods. It also provides access to manufacturing resources and distant locations. Transporting people and products is less expensive with wise transportation expenditures. In general, the output of goods and services per dollar of private and governmental investment can be calculated as an indicator of economic productivity.

Road Highways: Over the last two decades, India’s road infrastructure has grown significantly. With a total length of 6.4 million kilometres, India has the second-largest road network in the world (in terms of kilometres). In India, there are 599 national highways. India’s road network carries 80% of all passengers and accounts for 65% of all freight. According to reports, during India’s fiscal year 2019, road transportation moved over 2.7 trillion metric tonnes of freight per kilometre, while the country’s road transportation carried about 22.6 trillion passengers per kilometre.

Railways: As of the end of March 2022, India’s national railway network had a total length of 68,103 kilometres (42,317 miles), ranking it as the fourth largest in the world. Routes with two or more tracks are 36.83 per cent of all routes. Under one management, it is the second-biggest rail network in the world and the largest in Asia. Sikkim is the only state in India without a railroad station due to its challenging hilly topography.

In India, there are 7,325 stations served by the 13,169 passenger trains that run daily on both long-distance and local routes, according to the Indian Railway Year Book 2020–21.

Airways: India’s states are all connected by air. It has 137 operational airports, and there are seven domestic airlines in operation. The airline runs a non-stop service between Delhi and Port Blair, India’s longest domestic trip at 2,482 kilometres. In India, air connectivity has increased during the past ten years. During the financial year of 2021, all scheduled airlines in India carried a total cargo volume of nearly 470 thousand metric tonnes in the domestic sector.

In the fiscal year 2022, over 188 million people passed through Indian airports, with over 22 million of them being foreign visitors.

Waterways-Inland: According to the National Waterways Act of 2016, there are 111 officially notified inland national waterways (NWs) in India have been designated for inland water transportation. About 20,275.5 km are covered by the National Water Network (NWN). In 2020–21, 92,055,965 metric tonnes of cargo were transported on waterways, and inland water vessels carried roughly 3 million people.

Waterways-Maritime: According to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, marine transit accounts for around 95% of India’s trade by volume and 68% by value. In 2020, all domestic ports will have handled a combined total of 709.6 million passengers. By 2021, India will have 218 ports, with 13 large ports and 205 minor ports.

Improving transportation connectivity in rural India:
In the past, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has estimated that USD 600 billion will be needed as a significant investment between 2011 and 31 to strengthen the country’s transportation network, with roughly 55% of that amount going toward urban highways and mass transit systems. For rural Indian populations, the transportation system is still a problem.

Local governments need to improve rural transportation services more than ever because they have challenges with funding, service frequency, wider travel zones, and access to services when compared to urban public transportation. Flexibility is crucial when it comes to improving transportation connectivity in rural areas and giving more people a simple, effective method to use public transit. In this sense, a demand-responsive transportation system offers a means of extending the geographic reach of conventional public transit service.

According to Himanshi Kapoor and Amit Bhatt, there are five possible ways to increase transportation connectivity in rural India, including the introduction of a multi-modal integration system (for example, Delhi has such a system), the use of technology, creative financing strategies, institutional improvement by removing fragmented governance, and user experience feedback.


To reach the targets of a $5 trillion economy, swift economic growth, and luring foreign direct investment, this infrastructure needs to be created quickly. It is a known fact that during the last eight years of Narendra Modi’s rule, India has witnessed a marked increase in the scope, speed, and quality of transport connection construction. This is because the Modi era of postponing, dithering, and unnecessarily objecting to development projects is now over.

The availability of transportation options and connections has a big impact on people’s lives and helps the local economy by creating certain jobs. However, there is still more to be done in this regard. Given the vast amount of financial resources required to support its ambitious infrastructure plan, the Modi government should consider the viability of establishing a financial institution to handle transportation infrastructure funding requirements. A programme for investing in rural connections should also be launched because it would be closely linked to reducing poverty in rural India.

Prof. Dr. Prem Lal Joshi
(Former NRI Professor of Accounting)

(Prof. G. Marathandan provided feedback on this article, which the author gratefully acknowledges)

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