Classification of Roads in India

Classification of Roads in India
Posted on 23-08-2023

Road Classification in India

In India, roads are categorized into four functional groups:

  1. National Highways: National Highways form a critical network of major roads under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. They are managed by various entities including the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), and state Public Works Departments (PWDs). These roads serve inter-state and strategic defense purposes, connecting state capitals, major cities, significant ports, and border areas. They are the backbone of India's road transport system, comprising around 151,019 km (93,839 mi) as of March 2021.
  • Noteworthy routes include the historic Sher Shah Suri Marg (National Highway 1) linking Delhi and Amritsar, and National Highway 7 which is the longest, connecting Varanasi and Kanniyakumari.

  • Maharashtra boasts the longest National Highway length, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

  • Initiatives like the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) and the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) have aimed to upgrade and expand major highways across India.

  1. State Highways: State Highways are managed by state governments and link state capitals, district headquarters, and key towns. They account for about 3.5% of India's total road length. The Central Road Fund (CRF) provides financial assistance for state road development, including grants for inter-state connectivity and economically significant projects.
  • Maharashtra leads in state highway length, followed by Karnataka and Gujarat.
  1. District Roadways: District Roadways connect district headquarters with other local areas. These roads fall under the jurisdiction of Zila Parishads, which oversee their development and maintenance. Maharashtra holds a prominent position in this category.

  2. Village Roads: These roads are managed by village panchayats and link villages with nearby towns and cities. Often unpaved, these roads become impassable during the rainy season. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) has been pivotal in enhancing rural connectivity, especially for habitations with a population of 500 or more.

Additional Categories:

  • Border Roads: The Border Roads Organization (BRO) was established to improve roads in India's northern and northeastern border regions for economic growth and defense readiness. The BRO notably constructed the world's highest road at Umlingla Pass in Eastern Ladakh.

  • Urban Roads: These roads lie within municipality areas, military cantonments, ports, or railway authorities.

  • Project Roads: Roads within development project areas, such as those linked to resource exploitation like forests, irrigation, and hydro-power.

  • International Highways: Financed by the World Bank, these roads connect India with neighboring countries. They include main arterial routes between capital cities and routes joining major cities, ports, etc., with arterial routes.

The road network in India encompasses National Highways, State Highways, District Roadways, Village Roads, and specialized categories like Border Roads, Urban Roads, Project Roads, and International Highways. These roads collectively play a crucial role in India's connectivity, economic development, and defense preparedness.

Road Classification Systems

Roads are classified based on various factors, including traffic volume, transported tonnage, importance, location, and function. Different agencies use varying criteria, resulting in a lack of consensus on classification thresholds. Here's an overview of the classification criteria:

  1. Traffic-Based Classification: Roads are categorized according to daily traffic volume:
  • Very Heavy Traffic Roads: Over 600 vehicles per day

  • Heavy Traffic Roads: 251 to 600 vehicles per day

  • Medium Traffic Roads: 70 to 250 vehicles per day

  • Light Traffic Roads: Below 70 vehicles per day

  1. Tonnage-Based Classification: Roads are grouped based on daily transported tonnage:
  • Very Heavy Traffic Roads: Above 1524 vehicles per day

  • Heavy Traffic Roads: 1017 to 1524 vehicles per day

  • Medium Traffic Roads: 508 to 1017 vehicles per day

  • Light Traffic Roads: Below 508 vehicles per day

  1. Importance-Based Classification: Roads are classified based on their significance in connecting key locations like holy sites, major cities, and stations. This results in categories like Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 Roads.

  2. Location and Function-Based Classification: A more universally accepted classification is based on location and function, as demonstrated by the Nagpur Road Plan in India. This classification includes five categories:

  • National Highways (NH)

  • State Highways (SH)

  • Major District Highways (MDR)

  • Other District Roads (ODR)

  • Village Roads (VR)

National Highways (NH): These are major routes connecting key parts of India, including state capitals, industrial centers, and strategic defense roads.

State Highways (SH): These link to national highways of adjacent states, district headquarters, and important cities within the state.

Major District Roads (MDR): These roads connect production and market areas within a district to each other and to major highways.

Other District Roads (ODR): These serve rural areas, connecting them to market centers, tahsil headquarters, and railway stations.

Village Roads (VR): Crucial for rural development, these roads link villages to each other and higher-category roads. They are generally unpaved and narrow.

Urban Road Classification:

Within urban areas, roads are classified as follows:

  • Arterial Roads: For high-volume through traffic with excellent mobility.

  • Sub-Arterial Roads: For through traffic with slightly lower mobility than arterials.

  • Collector Streets: Connect arterials and local streets, distributing traffic.

  • Local Streets: Access streets for adjacent properties.

Road classification varies based on different criteria, with location and function-based systems being widely accepted for practical implementation. The Nagpur Road Plan in India and the Third Road Development Plan provide comprehensive frameworks for road categorization and development.

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