Roads and highways are strips of land. These provide routes for travel by automobiles and other vehicles.
Roads work as arteries of the economic, social and cultural health of a country by transporting men and materials both during peace and war. Road transport enjoys certain benefits as against rail transport. These are :
(i)The road transport is cheaper than railway transport.
(ii) The road transport is suitable because it carries goods to other destinations without much re-handling any through the quickest route. It can provide door- to-door service. The goods may be loaded directly from factory or a warehouse and unloaded at the desired place.
(iii) Road transport is beneficial for carrying light as well as perishable goods like vegetables, fish, meat, dairy products and flowers. It is far less expensive over short distances.
(iv) Road transport is more flexible than railways. A motor vehicle can be hired at any time. It can go to the interior of the country. Road transport has no fixed route or time.
(v)The expenses for maintenance of railway stations and equipment are quite high. These are not done for in case of road transport.
(vi) The maintenance charges of roads are less as compared to those of railways.
The road transport has the following limitations:
(i) Road transport is expensive over long distances.
(ii) Roads become unfit and unsafe for vehicles in rainy and snowy season.
(iii) It is less dependable because chances of breakdown are common.
(iv) For long journeys, rail travel is more comfortable than the bus (road) transport.
Road transport plays a significant role in transportation of goods and passengers. The invention of the automobile at the end of the 19th century has resulted in great extension and improvement of roads in the world.
Motor transport is divided into two parts-passenger carriers and goods carriers or commercial vehicles. Passenger carriers may be further classified as private cars, taxis and buses. Goods carriers include owner operated contract and common carriers. During the last few decades, there has been a tremendous growth of motor transport.
This growth has resulted in the problems like air pollution, accidents, congestion. Road mileage is still poor in India, considering its areal vastness, topography volume and variety of trade items and size of population. India's road mileage development is inadequate as compared to some other advanced' countries of the world.
While road length (all roads) in India in 1991 worked out just to 18 km per 100 square kilometres of area, countries like Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom were having 317, 310,275,179,156 lan respectively The density of all roads per lakh of population is 75 km in India while it is 7,198 km in Australia, 3,850 km in Canada, 3,325 km in New Zealand, 2,997 km in the U.S.A., 1,545 km in France and 1,253 km in Denmark. In India building of roads dates back to 5000 years ago.
The ruins of Mohanjodaro and Harappa show signs of paved roads. Later on Kings of Mauryan Dynasty and those of Gupta Dynasty took interest in construction of roads. Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan king was deeply interested in road construction activity. So he got G.T. road constructed. It connects Peshawar with Kolkata.
In olden days, before Independence, the road system in India developed round the four trunk roads connecting Khyber Pass with Kolkata through Delhi, Kolkata with Madras, Madras with Mumbai and Mumbai with Delhi.
These trunk roads were of] military importance. All these roads were known as National Highways. Besides these trunk roads there were other roads of national importance. Road development has increased rapidly during the Five Year Plans.
Road transport plays a very important role in socio-economic development of the country. It is most suitable for short and medium distances. It offers a number of advantages such as flexibility, reliability, speed and door-to-door service. Number of motor vehicles has substantially increased over the years.
The Nagpur Plan was initiated for the purpose of increasing road length in India from 2, 65,000 km to 4 Lakh km till 1954. According to this plan roads in India were classified on functional basis. These categories are:
1. National roads,
2. State roads,
3. District roads.
Nagpur Plan could not be implemented owing to shortage of funds. The development of roads in India was undertaken under the Five Year Plans.
The fund allocation was as under:
In 1961, a 20 year road development plan was started. It envisaged making
(i) 2 lane carriage way on all national highways.
(ii) Making village roads.
Road transport has become the life line of Indian economy and passenger transportation. It has given boost to automobile industry in the country. Automobile of different shapes, size, purpose are being manufactured in digenously at many centres throughout the length and breadth of the country.
The number of vehicles being manufactured in the country and on roads have risen beyond any estimate and expectation.
Buses, trucks, three wheelers, scooters, motorcycles, cars, jeeps etc are countless in number.