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India: Transportation
Country Study > Chapter 6 > Character and Structure of the Economy > Transportation


Transportation is a large and varied sector of the economy. Modes of conveyance for goods range from people's heads (on which loads are balanced) and bicycle rickshaws to trucks and railroad cars. The national railroad was the major freight hauler at independence, but road transport grew rapidly after 1947. Both rail and road transport remain important.

The share of transportation investments in total public investment declined during the period from the early 1950s to the early 1980s; real public transportation investment also declined during much of that period because of the need for funds in the rest of the economy. As a consequence, by the early 1980s the transportation system was barely meeting the needs of the nation or preparing for future economic growth. Many roads, for example, were breaking up because of overuse and lack of maintenance; railroads required new track and rolling stock. Ports needed equipment and facilities, particularly for bulk and container cargo; and at many airports the national civil airlines needed supporting equipment, including provision for instrument landings. The government planned to devote 19 percent of the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1992-96) budget to transportation and communications, up from the 16 percent devoted to the sector during the seventh plan.

Although there is a large private-sector involvement in transportation, government plays a large regulatory and developmental role. The central government has ministries to handle civil aviation, railroads, and surface transportation. Counterpart agencies are found at the state and union territory level. Critical to improving the entire transportation sector in the late 1990s is the ability of the sector to adjust to the central government's national reform initiatives, including privatization, deregulation, and reduced subsidies. The sector must also adjust to foreign trade expansion, demographic pressures and increasing urbanization, technological change and obsolescence, energy availability, and environmental and public safety concerns.

Last Updated: September 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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