India launches Road Safety Program for Major Highways with World Bank collaboration

November 16, 2010

NEW DELHI, November 16, 2010: The Government of India and the World Bank launched a road safety initiative to reduce the high and increasing number of fatalities and serious injuries on Indian roads. An average 550 Indians are killed in road accidents each day and, the government estimates that the situation may deteriorate with rapid motorization and traffic growth unless safety measures are rapidly integrated into the road development program.

The Project, which will implement the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), will assist the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and state Public Works Departments in Assam, Gujarat and Karnataka improve road safety on 3,000 km of high-risk roads. 

The World Health Organization estimates that about 200,000 people are killed yearly on Indian roads. This represents 15 percent of the world’s road fatalities, despite the fact that India has only 1 percent of the world’s motor vehicles.  A large number of these fatalities are attributed to poor road design and lack of protective features for road users. With economic development and motorization, this number will most likely increase in the coming years unless efficient measures are implemented. In fact, India has overtaken China to top the world in road fatalities and continues to pull steadily ahead. By comparison, road deaths in China, despite its own auto boom have been falling for much of the past decade, to 73,500 in 2008.

There is a need for a program that will assess the safety of these roads and propose measures to improve them. The Government’s Sundar Committee Report on Road Safety and Traffic Management (2007) made a comprehensive assessment of the road safety situation and provided detailed recommendations to make Indian roads safer for all.  The iRAP project is part of the World Bank’s ongoing efforts to help the government implement the Sundar Committee’s key recommendations.

"Enhancing road safety measures across the road network of the nation is a priority for India. There is need to ensure that deaths and disabilities in accidents are reduced significantly. The new initiative of the World Bank for ensuring road safety is a welcome step. This project will enhance the capacity of the three States of Gujarat, Assam and Karnataka in addressing one of the major challenges of the road sector" said Mr Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

Speaking at the Project launch, World Bank Country Director Mr. Roberto Zagha said, “No other country has ever had such a high number of vulnerable road users. Given the scale of this unique challenge, India cannot afford to emulate the slow path to safer roads taken by the high-income countries; rapid and innovative action is needed if a major public health crisis is to be averted.”

The iRAP India is funded by the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF) as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Road Safety Project (RS-10 Project).  It builds on the success of the GRSF partnership with iRAP in Vietnam, Serbia, Peru, Argentina and the Philippines.  Safer road investment plans have been developed in these countries. In Vietnam for example, the Government will start the implementation of a recently launched iRAP project on a 3,000 km road, which will save about 360 fatalities per year.

The India Project will inspect more than 3,000 kilometers of national and state highways sections in Assam, Gujarat and Karnataka.  It will also use the latest digital imaging technology on the identified stretch to bring in cost-effective improvements that could help reduce road deaths and injuries on these roads.  “The inspections will help identify affordable improvements that can dramatically reduce road death and injury. We know, for example, that the provision of flexible posts in the center of the road can significantly reduce head-on crashes,” said iRAP Asia Pacific Regional Director Mr Greg Smith.

"In 2010 the GRSF funded two iRAP pilots on NH-1 from Delhi to Panipat and on three corridors in Andhra Pradesh.  The results are being finalized and will be included in ongoing World Bank transport projects," said GRSF representative Mr Said Dahdah.

While the World Bank, through its multi-donor Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF) will finance and oversee the iRAP Project in India, the Australian Road Research Group and India Road Survey and Management will assist State PWDs in Assam, Karnataka and Gujarat in its implementation.  “Building capacity will be part of this Project so that local engineers can undertake this type of assessment on the rest of their State and National Highway networks in the future,” added Mr Dahdah.

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