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Road and rail infrastructure in India - statistics & facts

The Indian economy has benefitted considerably from the infrastructure sector. The construction industry across the south Asian country encompasses urban development along with the real estate sector. It contributed a share of about nine percent to India’s GDP. The sector was also the second largest employer in 2017. In the country’s organized market, popularly referred to as India Inc., the construction sector was valued at over eight trillion rupees in financial year 2019. There was however a significant decline in the FDI inflows in construction in 2019. The drop came after six years of continuous increases in these investments. The last decline in FDI inflows was recorded in financial year 2013, with a 36 percent contraction compared to the year before.

An important component in the infrastructure sector across India is road and rail transport. The sector has expanded manifold since independence. The network is composed of rural and district roads, national, and state highways. Road density across India increased from 104.2 kilometers per hundred squared kilometer of land area in 2002 to 142.7 kilometers per hundred squared kilometers in 2011 indicating an annual growth rate of over 3.5 percent. The road network in the subcontinent was the second largest in the world. In 2016, the length of roads across the country stood at around 4.7 million kilometers. Among the metropolitan cities, the capital region of Delhi had the longest road network spanning over 33 thousand kilometers as of 2018. Though the road density and length in the country is quite high, the nation continues to suffer from poor quality of roads as compared to other developed countries. The conditions of the road network combined with the high passenger and freight traffic has created a demand for further planning and investment into the road transportation sector.

Infrastructure development and investments in the railway sector in India has also been quite significant. The industry is the backbone of long-distance domestic transport that has made the country’s rail network the third largest across the globe. There are over 22 thousand trains that connect around eight thousand stations. In 2018, over one billion metric tons of freight were carried via Indian railways. That year, the passenger traffic stood at over eight billion. On average, the railway network carried around 23 million passengers every day. The government has continued investing in the industry, to cater to the increasing demand of daily commutes created by a better connectivity between rural and urban areas, predominantly for employment purposes.

The economy of any country is directly affected by its infrastructure. A direct impact on the development can be seen from the physical infrastructure. The increased growth rate of the Indian economy over the years prior to the slowdown had placed a lot of stress on the physical infrastructure within. A plethora of constraints and delays in implementation of projects has created major disputes throughout the nation. Cost overruns and project delays with decision making and appropriate financing are also key issues the government might need to address moving forward.

In the National Infrastructure Pipeline or NIP introduced by the country's finance minister, transport infrastructure was the most significant investment. The expectation from road transport was to enhance highway characterization and to further the construction of expressways. For railways, semi high-speed corridors and dedicated freight corridors were the focus for improvement. Despite the investments, land acquisition disputes and environmental clearances are likely to disrupt a streamlined enforcement of the development plans. This will need to be leveraged by the government to maintain a proper balance between sustainability and growth.

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Road and rail infrastructure in India

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