Golden Quadrilateral

29/08/2020 0 By indiafreenotes

The Golden Quadrilateral, which connects four major cities in India, is the fifth-longest highway in the world. This column presents research that finds that by improving connectivity, the highway has helped with the efficient distribution of industries across locations. It has facilitated the shift of land and building intensive industries from the core to peripheries of cities, and has made medium-sized cities more attractive locations for manufacturing activity.

Transport investments within cities and across cities are essential for economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. Beyond simply facilitating cheaper and more efficient movements of goods, people, and ideas within cities, transport affects the distribution of economic activity across cities.

Many researchers have shown that transport investment plays an important role in spatial development and urbanisation. Henderson et al (2001) find that industrial decentralisation in South Korea is attributable to massive transport and communications infrastructure investments. Baum-Snow et al (2012) show that transport infrastructure aided the decentralisation of industrial production and population in Chinese cities. Several other studies find positive economic effects in ‘non-nodal’ locations due to transportation infrastructure in China (e.g. Banerjee et al 2012, Roberts et al 2012). Desmet et al (2012) have argued that manufacturing in India is slowly moving away from high-density districts to districts that are less congested, allowing industrial activity to spread more equally across space. Recently, Datta (2011) found a decline in the number of days of inventory stock held by firms in India as a result of a large scale highway construction (Golden Quadrilateral Project).

The Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) is a national highway network connecting most of the major industrial, agricultural and cultural centres of India. It forms a quadrilateral connecting the four major metro cities of India, viz., Delhi (north), Kolkata (east), Mumbai (west) and Chennai (south). Other cities connected by this network include Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Balasore, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Durgapur, Jaipur, Kanpur, Pune, Kolhapur, Surat, Vijayawada, Ajmer, Vizag, Bodhgaya, Varanasi, Agra, Mathura, Dhanbad, Gandhinagar, Udaipur, and Vadodara. The main objective of these super highways is to reduce the distance and time between the four mega cities of India.

At 5,846 kilometres (3,633 mi), it is the largest highway project in India and the fifth longest in the world. It is the first phase of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), and consists of four- and six-lane express highways, built at a cost of ₹600 billion (US$8.4 billion). The project was planned by 1999, launched in 2001, and was completed in 2012.

The Golden Quadrilateral project is managed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) under the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways. The vast majority of the system is not access controlled, although safety features such as guardrails, shoulders, and high-visibility signs are in use. The Mumbai–Pune Expressway, the first controlled-access toll road to be built in India, is a part of the GQ Project but not funded by NHAI, and is separate from the old Mumbai – Pune section of National Highway 48 (India). Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) has been one of the major contributors to the infrastructural development activity in the GQ project.


Only National Highways are used in the Golden Quadrilateral. The four legs use the following National Highways (new numbering system):

Delhi – Kolkata: NH 44 from Delhi to Agra & NH 19 from Agra to Kolkata

Delhi – Mumbai – Chennai: NH 48

Kolkata – Chennai: NH 16

Road transport is the principal mode of movement of goods and people in India, accounting for 65% of freight movement and 80% of passenger traffic. While national highways constitute about 1.7% of the road network, they carry more than 40% of the total traffic volume.

Highways and spatial development

Can investment in infrastructure such as highways play a role in facilitating the shift of manufacturing activity from large, dense cities to medium-sized cities? We group districts into three groups, based on their population density.

GQ upgrades have increased the number of new entries the most in high- and medium-density districts that lie 0-10km from the GQ network. For instance, moderate-density districts like Surat in Gujarat or Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh that lie on the GQ highway registered an increase in new output and new establishment counts of more than 100% after GQ upgrades. On the other hand, the GQ upgrades are not linked to heightened entry or performance in low-density areas. These results suggest that the improved connectivity enables manufacturing establishments to efficiently locate in cities with medium population density, but that agglomeration economies prevalent for the sector discourage entry in low-density places.