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Hike speed limits on Indian expressways for better road efficiency, says panel

The committee submitted its recommendations to the road transport ministry last week.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2017 21:49 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India,Speed Limit,Expressways
The Yamuna Expressway in Noida, India, on November 27, 2014. (HT File Photo)

The speed limit for passenger cars on Indian expressways may be increased from the existing 100 km per hour to 120 kmph, and from 80kmph to 100 kmph on national highways, if the government accepts the recommendations of a committee constituted by the Union road transport ministry.

The committee has also recommended a uniform speed limit of 80kmph for two-wheelers on highways and expressways, and for 90kmph on expressways and 80 kmph on national highways for buses and trucks. The committee’s recommendations echo the opinion of Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari.

In June, HT reported that the ministry should review speed-limits keeping in mind improved road infrastructure and vehicle technology. The committee, headed by Abhay Damle, a joint secretary in the transport ministry, was formed soon after.

It submitted its recommendations last week. All it needs now is the minister’s sign-off.

Experts said that the recommendations are a reflection of improved road infrastructure, and that higher speeds would make freight operations more efficient, but said that there is still work to be done to make roads safer and drivers more safety conscious.

Abdul Majeed, partner and auto lead at advisory PwC India said that compared to other countries, the speed limits recommended by the ministry are not very aggressive. “Highway infrastructure is far better than what it was 10 years ago. You have many more four and six-laned highways now.” Majeed added that he’d like to see better safety standards. “Currently, drivers do not have adequate training, violation of traffic rules is rampant and enforcement is lax,” he said.

In 2015 (the latest period for which data is available), 500,000 road accidents were reported in India, of which 28.4% were on national highways. And speeding accounted for 44% of the 146,000 deaths in road accidents.

Vishnu Mathur, director general, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, said that from a transport logistics point of view, higher the speed limit, better the efficiency. “It will benefit the economy. With vehicle technology as well as quality of highways improving, we will miss the opportunity provided by the improved logistics if the speed limit continues to be what it was a decade ago.” Mathur added that vehicle safety standards have also improved manifold over the years. “There are over 60 vehicle safety norms that are now mandatory,” he said. However , he too said safety was an area of concern. Roads have to be designed scientifically, enforcement has to be further bolstered and drivers need to be disciplined,” he said.

Some states in the United States have speed limits in excess of 120 kmph. In Texas, for instance, it is 137km/hour for passenger vehicles. The average speed limit on Germany’s famed Autobahns is 142km/hr, while some stretches have no limit at all, for some classes of vehicles.

Autobahns, however, are access controlled. A driver is unlikely to encounter cattle crossing the highway while hurtling along at over 100 kmph.

First Published: Nov 25, 2017 21:49 IST