With the development of the golden quadrilateral, India definitely has arrived on the big stage. The golden quadrilateral besides connecting the four corners of the country also has several well developed multi lane highways criss-crossing the country and connecting important nerve centers. It is good to see that Central Government has aggressive plans for constructing 23,477 km this fiscal at the rate of almost 20 km day. Driving on these highways is a fairly pleasant experience and definitely safer than the bus rides of yesteryears. In those times a single lane used to carry traffic in both directions. In fact, in those days accidents used to lurk around corners.
However these Indian highways hold both promises and perils
The Hope: With better developed roads there will be development all around. Hopefully with better infrastructure people will start to move to the quieter suburbs just like in the developed countries. The highway system should pretty soon spawn an entire ecosystem of restaurants, petrol bunks, fast food joints and motels. A good highway system will provide a major incentive to for vacation travel. The government could develop good vacation spots and getaways for vacationers. There is no dearth of good places to visit in India. The only drawback in most places is that the approach roads to these spots are poorly maintained or there are no good hotels to stay nearby. Well connected and well maintained roads will infuse new energy to the tourism industry
The Horror: While there are lots of positives in the privatizing the construction and maintenance of these roads there are certain perils which need to be addressed immediately
1) Head-on traffic: While there are very clear dividers across almost the entire stretch of the highway, whenever there is any accident or repair on any section of the road, the traffic is diverted entirely from one side of the road to the other, without warning. It is not uncommon when travelling at high speeds on highways to suddenly see trucks and busses come head-on towards you in the same lane. There are no signs anywhere in the road warning travelers that the next section of the road would have oncoming traffic and vehicles need to use only the left lane. This situation is an accident waiting to happen
2) Bad drainage system: While the roads are good, the drainage on some of the roads are not adequate. Hence there are pools of water on either sides of the road and there is every possibility of vehicles hydroplaning on these pools.
3) Highway patrol: The highway patrol is virtually non-existent on Indian highways. Highway patrols are necessary to ensure that vehicles follow speed limits and warn traffic with appropriate sign-boards when roads are under repair. The Highway patrol would need to inform the traveler that the next section of the highway will need to be shared between ongoing and oncoming traffic and. Patrols are also needed to handle emergency situations like car pile-ups.
So while the move to make world class roads by the government is a commendable, there is lot more that needs to be done for it to be truly world class.