Any country with over one billion people--and, there is only one other, China--is going to have a major challenge in constructing and maintaining the infrastructure needed for the levels of economic growth required to support such an enormous number of people. India has made tremendous advances in some areas, including its technology and related aerospace sectors. It continues, however, to lag behind in other areas crucial to the well-being of a large percentage of its population. India's struggles to develop and expand infrastructure throughout its vast and densely-populated cities, towns and villages are well known, and transportation is one example of the nation's shortcomings. A 2011 study by the World Bank, while noting impressive statistics with respect to kilometers of roads and railway traffic, nevertheless concludes by stating,
"However, the sector has not been able to keep pace with rising demand and is proving to be a drag on the economy. Major improvements in the sector are therefore required to support the country's continued economic growth and to reduce poverty."
Inadequate transportation infrastructures will invariably degrade any country's ability to provide for the welfare of its people. One of the compelling attributes of ancient Rome that allowed for its success relative to most other major concentrations of people was its advanced network of roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Conversely, one of the main weaknesses of the former Russian empire, the Soviet Union, was its lack of adequate transportation nodes and systems for moving goods to where they needed to go. In the case of India, its success in building a major transportation infrastructure is marred by its failure to keep pace in that area with the growth of its population. India, like China, has such a large population that its successes, such as those mentioned above, are dwarfed by the scale of its failures. As much as 30 percent of its population of 1.3 billion live well-below the internationally-recognized poverty line. That equates to the entire population of the United States. Unless or until its transportation infrastructure catches up with its population, India's economic growth will remain below the numbers it requires to support that population.
A viable conclusion regarding transportation in India, then, would emphasize both the scale of its existing infrastructure, which is, by most measures, impressive, and the inadequacies that remain to be addressed.
. The present transport system of India comprises several modes of transport including rail, road, coastal shipping, air transport, etc.
The Railways in India provide the principal mode of tranportation for freight and passengers.
India has one of the largest road networks in the world, aggregating to about 33 lakh kilometers at present. The country's road network consists of National High-ways, State Highways, major/other district roads and villages/rural roads.'
Shipping plays an important role in the transport sector of India's economy. Approximately, 90 percent of the country's trade by volume (70 per cent in terms of value) is moved by sea. India has the largest merchant shipping fleet among the developing countries and ranks 20th amongst the countries with the largest cargo carrying fleet with 8.83 million GT as on 01.06.2008 and the average of the fleet being 18 years.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation is responsible for the formulation of national policies and programmes for development and regulation of civil aviation and for devising and implementing schemes for orderly growth and expansion of civil air transport.
India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which comprise rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc. About 50 million tonnes of cargo corresponding to 2,82 billion tonne km was transported in 2005-2006 by Inland Water Transport (IWT).