India has achieved a significant milestone in its efforts to modernize its infrastructure and catch up with its neighboring rival China with the opening of the first section of a 1,386-kilometer expressway linking the capital New Delhi to the financial hub of Mumbai.
The eight-lane carriageway, which will be India’s longest once complete, is expected to reduce travel time between the two cities to 12 hours, cutting the entire journey by half.
On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 246-kilometer section of the expressway connecting Delhi to the city of Lalsot in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, a popular tourist destination that attracts tens of thousands of travelers with its sprawling palaces and mountainous topography.
The Indian government has invested about $13 billion in the project, which aims to provide a faster link between the capital and five states: Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. The first section alone cost $1.4 billion.
The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway is one of the most advanced expressways in the world, which presents a grand picture of developing India,” Modi said during the opening ceremony. He added that its development is expected to boost India’s economic growth and investment. The expressway is a major boost for the world’s fifth-largest economy and soon-to-be most populous nation, with India’s infrastructure lagging far behind that of China.
India is investing in ambitious infrastructure projects such as the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor to improve the country’s railways. The under-construction 1,506-kilometer route will eventually connect the city of Dadri in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh to Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is expected to decongest India’s railway network and increase the average speed of goods-carrying trains.
Modi sees these projects as a powerful tool for social integration and political influence, connecting disparate regions with key cities. “The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway and the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor are going to become two strong pillars of progress for Rajasthan and the country,” he said on Sunday. “We are making a competent, capable, and prosperous India.”