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What is the Golden Quadrilateral?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Golden Quadrilateral is the name given to an enormous highway project in India. It is basically four major expressways, connecting the key cities of Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata. The expressways range from four to six lanes, and all told run more than 3600 miles (5800km).

The highway system in India is developing rapidly, as part of a program to integrate the country and help bring some of the wealth from the cities into the surrounding countryside. The Golden Quadrilateral is the first phase of a major National Highways Development Project, which will eventually connect all of the major points of India. The various routes connect Delhi to Kolkata, Kolkata to Chennai, Chennai to Mumbai, and Mumbai to Delhi.

There is also a Golden Quadrilateral rail system, which also connects Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai. This rail is responsible for moving more than three-quarters of the cargo rail load in India, and more than 60% of the passenger load. The rail system runs at virtually full capacity at all times, although this will likely change as the new highway system takes on some of that load.

The Golden Quadrilateral highway system, like many projects of this magnitude, is running somewhat behind schedule in its implementation. Although portions are largely complete, there are still large swaths which are in poor repair, or are only a single lane wide. The official statistics have the Golden Quadrilateral at somewhere near 96% complete, but some of the sections remaining are being held up by contractual issues, either with regional governments who don’t want to cede the land, or with providers, so it is uncertain how long it will take to complete the remainder of the system.

The Golden Quadrilateral, it is hoped, will help push the economic gains made in the cities more into the surrounding country. Small towns the highway passes through will likely expand in order to provide services to the constant flow of traffic making their way past. A strong highway system will also allow more people to live outside of the city core, effectively creating a commuter belt and weekender region for those with more financial mobility.

More than $12 billion US dollars have been pumped into the Golden Quadrilateral project, making it one of the largest public works projects in India’s modern history. Inevitably, a great deal of corruption and graft has accompanied this enormous outlay of funds. Perhaps most famously, in 2003 a project director in the Bihar region wrote a list of grievances to the Prime Minister, outlining what he saw as corruption issues in his section. Within only a few months he had been assassinated.

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Discussion Comments

By candyquilt — On Mar 31, 2011

@burcidi: The National Highways Authority of India is already building some additional roads from the Golden Quadrilateral to some smaller cities and towns. I think that there are just two now, the North-South Corridor and the East-West Corridor.

I have a Golden Quadrilateral map from the NHAI that shows all these roads. The North-South Corridor goes from Srinagar in the very North to Kanyakumari and Cochin in the very South. The East-West Corridor is from Porbandar in the West and Silchar in the East. They are building these additional roads to cover other major cities that the Golden Quadrilateral is not covering. One can literally drive all over India and have a country tour now.

By serenesurface — On Mar 29, 2011

Oh yea, this was in Western media too. They were saying that parts of the golden quadrilateral superhighway is taking forever to be completed because the Indian government keeps terminating their deals with the contractors. Then, the contractors go and sue the government and the project is halted until the court makes a decision. And I think that the workers refused to work once because they said they don't have security.

It was started in 1999, right?

By burcidi — On Mar 27, 2011

I was in India when the Golden Quadrilateral project was started. There was huge excitement in the whole country. I've been following its development through newspapers even though I left India soon after. India is such a huge place, I think the government was actually late in implementing such a project.

The population in cities are huge and growing very quickly. Most of the economic growth is taking place in the cities but the rest of the country is largely impoverished. Indians in the country side mainly farm for a living but that sector has decreased in importance when compared to the industrial developments. So people in villages are becoming poorer and are being forced to slowly go and work in cities. Part of the problem has been traveling to the countryside because many villages still don't have proper roads.

Hopefully, when the golden quadrilateral is complete, additional roads will be made from the countryside to the major cities. That will help small towns and villages to develop. Maybe people can start working in cities without having to move there permanently or work opportunities will be created closer to where they are.

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