The National Highways Network of India, is a network of highways that is managed and maintained by agencies of the Government of India. These highways measured over 79,243 km (49,239 mi) as of 2014, including over 1,000 km (620 mi) of limited-access Expressways. Out of 71,000 km of National Highways 15,000 plus km are 4 or 6 laned and remaining 50,000 km are 2 laned.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is the nodal agency responsible for building, upgrading and maintaining most of the national highways network. It operates under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The National Highways Development Project (NHDP) is a major effort to expand and upgrade the network of highways. NHAI often uses a public-private partnership model for highway development, maintenance and toll-collection.
National highways constituted about 2% of all the roads in India, but carried about 40% of the total road traffic as of 2010. The majority of existing national highways are two-lane roads (one lane in each direction), though much of this is being expanded to four-lanes, and some to six or eight lanes. Some sections of the network are toll roads. Over 30,000 km (19,000 mi) of new highways are planned or under construction as part of the NHDP, as of 2011. This includes over 2,600 km (1,600 mi) of Expressways currently under construction.
India has 79,116 km (49,160 mi) of national highways (NH) connecting all the major cities and state capitals as of July 2013. National highways comprise 1.7% of India's total road network, but carry about 40% of road traffic. Most of them have two lanes. About 10,000 km (6,200 mi) have been widened to four lanes with two lanes in each direction as of August 2011. Only a few of NH are built with cement concrete. As of 2010, 19,064 km (11,846 mi) of NH were still single-laned roads. The government is currently working to ensure that by December 2014 the entire National Highway network consists of roads with two or more lanes.
India has the distinction of having the world's second highest-altitude motor highway— Leh-Manali Highway, connecting Shimla to Leh in Ladakh, Kashmir.
National highways form the economic backbone of the country and have often facilitated development along their routes, and many new towns have sprung up along major highways. Highways also have large numbers of small restaurants and inns (known as dhabas) along their length. They serve popular local cuisine and serve as truck stops.
Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India adopted a new systematic numbering of National Highways in April 2010. The new system will indicate the direction of National Highways whether it is East-West (odd numbers) or North-South (even numbers) and also the geographical region where it is located, increasing from east to west and from north to south.
The total length of the system was 29,023 km in 1980, which was expanded to 76,818 km by the end of 2012. According to an affidavit filed by the Central Government in the Supreme Court on 1 July 2013, 23,814 km of the system was built between 1997 and 2002 (ninth five-year plan), during the NDA Government's rule. This is the largest construction of national highways during any five-year period since independence.
Under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee India launched a massive program of highway upgrades, called the National Highway Development Project (NHDP), in which the main north-south and east-west connecting corridors and highways connecting the four metropolitan cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata) have been fully paved and widened into four-lane highways. Some of the busier National Highway sectors in India have been converted to four or six lane expressways – for example, Delhi-Agra, Delhi-Jaipur, Ahmedabad-Vadodara, Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Surat, Bangalore-Mysore, Bangalore-Chennai, Chennai-Tada, Delhi-Meerut , Hyderabad-Vijayawada and Guntur-Vijayawada. Phase V of the National Highway Development Project is to convert all 6,000 km (3,700 mi) of the Golden Quadrilateral Highways to 6-lane highways/expressways by 2012.
The National Highways Act, 1956 provides for private investment in the building and maintenance of the highways. Recently, a number of existing roads have been reclassified as national highways. Bypasses have also recently been constructed around larger towns and cities to provide uninterrupted passage for highway traffic. The hugely varied climatic, demographic, traffic, and sometimes political situation in India results in NHs being single lane in places with low traffic to six lanes in places with heavy traffic. National highways are being upgraded or are under construction. Some NHs are long while some are short spurs off other NHs to provide connectivity to nearby ports or harbours.
The longest NH is NH7, which runs between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, at the southernmost point of the Indian mainland, covering a distance of 2,369 km (1,472 mi), and passes through Hyderabad and Bangalore. The shortest NH is the NH47A, which spans 6 km (3.7 mi), to the Ernakulam - Kochi Port.
Some of National Highway in India: