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.