The debate over increasing highway speed limits- Gadkari in favour


India boasts of one of the largest road networks in the world, over 43.2 lakh kilometres, with highways-national and state-accounting for 2.09 lakh kilometres. Despite this extensive network, the maximum speed on Indian highways remains a challenge. With vehicle technology, as well as the quality of highways, improving, the opportunity provided by the improved logistics will be lost if the speed limit continues to be what it was a decade ago.

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari recently stated that speed limits on some roads and highways were too low that rules on penalising vehicles for speeding need to be revisited. Last year, Gadkari indicated the ministry’s intent, given India’s improved highway infrastructure and vehicle technology. A committee headed by Abhay Damle, joint secretary (transport), was then established, which has now given its recommendations to raise the speed limits.

Speaking at a virtual conference on road safety, Gadkari said that it is unfortunate that vehicles are being penalised for breaching speeds as low as 40 km/h on some roads. The minister spoke in favour of increasing speed limits on such roads, especially the multi-lane highways, and suggested that the state road administration go easy on penalising vehicles over speeding.

“I have already discussed this issue with my officials. We need to revise our speed norms considering the new roads that are being built, including the expressways, greenfield highways and widening of highways to 4 and 6 lanes,” the minister said while addressing an event for online training programme on “Way to Vision Zero”, a collaboration between the governments of Sweden and India. Klas Molin, Sweden’s ambassador, participated in the online event.

The Union Minister said that regulation on speed limits need to be reworked, with more emphasis on multi-lane roads. There have been discussions on the matter with officials, he said, adding that speed norms must be revised considering that India is building new roads, including new expressways, and widening of existing roads to four or six lanes. On the subject of the high number of accidents in India, Gadkari pointed out that one of the reasons behind high accident statistics is road design. His ministry is working on identifying such black spots which have a high frequency of accidents, and that 1,000 of such spots have been improved upon, he said, adding that the Centre will assist state governments to develop and maintain highways.

On the problem of enforcement, Gadkari mentioned the transparency in enforcement of site visitors rule violations will deliver good outcomes. He mentioned although India has dedicated to scale back highway crashes and fatalities by 50% by 2030 on the Stockholm summit, his goal can be to attain this by 2025. The minister mentioned the establishment of the Road Safety Board, which has been cleared by the regulation ministry, will assist enhance highway security within the nation.

Though the Centre has notified most speed limits of 100 kmph on national highways for vehicles and 120 kmph on expressways, the state police have the authority to repair the speed limit on highways and expressways falling underneath their jurisdiction. This has been the principle cause of why speed limits on sure parts of NHs differ from state to state.