India: Safe, Clean, Affordable, and Smart Transport

August 13, 2014


India’s transport network is one of the largest and densest in the world. Its roads rank third in terms of length, next only to China and the United States. In terms of density India’s roads are similar to the United States and far denser than those in China or Brazil.

However India’s current road network is increasingly insufficient to support rapid growth in the economy. Most roads are generally in poor condition, urban traffic is clogged, public transport is unreliable and unsafe, and intra-regional connectivity is inadequate.  While rail and inland waterways are more cost-effective and environment-friendly than roads, their enormous potential has yet to be realized. Despite the existence of an advanced IT industry, advanced Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) technologies and applications have not been widely utilized in the transport sector in India.  

India’s railway network - one of the largest and most densely-used in the world - has seen little new investment.  And ports need to be modernized and better connected with the hinterland. An integrated logistics strategy will need to address the missing links in the transport system and connect key transport modes - roads, rail and ports – with each other.  

Poor safety, especially road safety, is a major concern.  Road fatalities in India are among the highest in the world – touching almost 140,000 in 2012 alone. This costs the economy some 3% of GDP a year according to Planning Commission estimates. Moreover, the growing number of vehicles is leading to rising air pollution as the country continues to add new motorized vehicles at a record pace.

It is estimated that the transport sector alone will require an investment of nearly $500 billion (3.7 percent of GDP) over the next 10 years. Given this scenario, both the public and private sectors will need to increase their transport sector investments as a proportion of GDP, and strengthen their capacity for executing infrastructure project in a rapid and efficient manner

On its part, the Government of India has progressively committed significant investments to the sector. It plans to channel a further 30% out of the US$1 trillion earmarked for infrastructure under the country’s 12th Five Year Plan (2013-18).  It is also making efforts to incentivize and facilitate institutional and capacity development in the transport sector.

World Bank Support

For decades, the World Bank has been assisting India in developing appropriate solutions to the sector’s tremendous challenges. World Bank projects support the Government of India’s efforts to reform and develop the railways, improve the highways, increase the network of rural roads, upgrade urban transport, pilot applications of ITS technology, and improve road safety. The Bank especially focuses on strengthening institutions, increasing accountability, and building capacities among transportation agencies at both the national and state levels. Currently, projects under implementation total $6.88 billion.

Going forward, the Bank will increasingly focus on projects that improve the connectivity of the low-income states, as well as those that support a shift to more efficient modes of transportation, including to ports.


Rail: In the railways sector, the World Bank Group is supporting India’s Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor program (DFC) – a transformational program that seeks to build dedicated freight-only lines running parallel to the Golden Quadrilateral. These electrified lines, built to international standards, aim to ease congestion along major rail corridors, giving India the opportunity to create one of largest freight operations in the world. Read More

Rural roads: The World Bank has been involved with India’s flagship rural roads program – Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) - since its inception. It provided technical support in formulating the program’s guidelines, and now supports the program in eight states. Of these, seven are either low-income states or those which fall under a special category such as those in hilly or remote  regions. The Bank is also helping specific states - such as Rajasthan - to build on its network of rural roads by improving connectivity in small villages that are not covered by the PMGSY.  In the years to come, Bank support for the sector is likely to develop into a more broad-based engagement that will strengthen the overall management of the road system and further expand the network of rural roads. Read More

State highways: Over the years, the World Bank has helped upgrade state highways in a number of states, including in the northeastern states of Assam and Mizoram. Projects have also helped improve the capacity of the states’ road management agencies and sharpened the focus on road safety. In Gujarat, a World Bank project places particular emphasis on improving financing and contracting systems. Read More

National highways: The World Bank has helped upgrade some sections of the Golden Quadrilateral and is now supporting the development of highways in three low-income states (Rajasthan, Bihar and Orissa) and in the less-developed regions of two middle-income ones (Karnataka and West Bengal). The Bank-financed National Highways Project is also supporting the development of national road policies and standards, with a particular emphasis on road safety. In addition, it is helping implement a range of contracting and institutional reforms.  Read More

Urban transport: In five select cities, the World Bank is piloting environment-friendly modes of transport. It is helping modernize bus services, improving their fuel efficiency, rehabilitating infrastructure, and introducing new technology to facilitate smoother, citizen-friendly services.  In the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the Mumbai Urban Transport Project is building on the gains of an earlier program to increase the speed, capacity and efficiency of the city’s suburban rail system. The Bank is also helping develop the planning and management capacity of urban transport departments at both the national and local levels. Read More

Inland water transport: Given the untapped potential of India’s inland waterways, the World Bank is working with the Government of India to explore ways of reviving inland water transport, particularly on the national waterways of the Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Brahmani rivers. It is also working with India and its neighbors to improve regional connectivity and facilitate trade along the waterways, such as those between India and Bangladesh.  Read More