How Indian Highways are Numbered (New NH Numbering System)?

(Just in case you are not aware of) the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways had taken the initiative of re-numbering most of the highways in India a couple of years ago. It was a minor news item in most dailies then but I thought it’s a huge step towards rationalizing our road network names along with rebuilding the infrastructure. The National road grid in India has been getting a good boost ever since our former Prime Minister Shri. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s National highway development project (NHD) started materializing in stages.

Highway System in India

India at present (Feb 2013) has more than 200 national highways totaling to a length of 70,000+ kilometers which is maintained by the NHAI (National Highway Authority of India)

The primary highway grid, as per Vajpayee’s dream project, consists of the following major stretches (picture below) supported by existing highways significantly enhanced:

The North-South Corridor stretches from Srinagar in J&K state to Kanyakumari – the southernmost tip of India. The length of this major road is 4000kms.

The East-West Corridor connects Porbandar in Gujarat with Silchar in Assam and the total length of this road being 3300kms. (Wonder why they didn’t plan it till the boarder including Arunachal Pradesh!)

The Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) is the highway network connecting the four metros in India – i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The spin-offs of GQ also connects cities like Bangalore, Pune and Ahmedabad. The total length of GQ is 5846kms.

Most part of the above highways is 4-lanes while 6-laning project is being undertaken in many stretches.

Please note that the North-South and East-West corridors are often referred as ONE i.e. NS-EW corridor

north-south east west corridors
North-South and East-West Corridors

golden quadrilateral India
The Golden Quadrilateral

(Image courtesy: Wikipedia – The boundaries shown here may not be the actual boundaries of India)

Highway Types in India

If you refer to Google map for driving, you must have noticed symbols like AH, NH and SH. The following are the explanations for these respective codes.

1. National Highways (NH): These are major highways in India that provide connectivity to all cities and states. NHs are maintained by the Government of India (i.e. NHAI). As I mentioned earlier, National highways spans over 70,000 kms and even the NS-EW corridor and GQ are formed by many such highways.

2. State Highways (SH): State highways spans over 150,000kms in length and are managed by the state governments to provide accessibility and city/town inter-connectivity within each state.

3. Great Asian Highways (AH): Asian Highways are part of the cooperative project within Asian countries. While in principle, the National Highways in India themselves forms the AH stretch in India, it’s good to understand them from the map’s point of view. You will encounter many places in a map where the highway is referred to as an Asian Highway or AH. In reality though, there’s no separate road network for AHs but they consume the respective major highways in the participating countries to form the Asian Highway grid. You can read more about Asian Highways at Wikipedia.

How the New Highway Numbering in India Works?

Let us come to our main topic now. Until recently, the Indian highways were numbered in a very confusing manner that didn’t provide any logic behind their numbers. However, the Government of India took a major decision in 2010 to rationalize the highway numbers in a way that the number provides some clue about the geographic location and the direction of a particular highway.

Please refer to this circular by DORTH to know all the renumbering that took place.

The logic behind national highway numbering in India is as follows:

  1. All North-South highways will carry EVEN number
  2. All East-West highways will have ODD numbers
  3. All major Highways will be single digit or double digit in number (Read the exception in point 6 below)
  4. North-South highways will increase their numbers from East to West. For example, a particular North-South highway in Central India or Western India will have a higher number than the one in East India. To be specific, now you can guess that NH4 is somewhere in East India where as highway 44 may be towards the west of India while both runs north-south due to the even numbering
  5. Similarly East-West highways will increase their numbers as we move from North to South. By this logic NH1 will be running East-West somewhere in North India while NH 83 may be somewhere down south. Of course, there may be a minor confusion among some roads that may be running diagonally in stretches
  6. THREE digit numbered highways are secondary routes or branches of a main highway. For example, 144, 244, 344 etc will be the branches of the main National highway 44. Please note that since NH44 (NS Corridor) runs the length of the country from North to South a side shoot say 144 may be up north while something like 944 may be down south
  7. Suffixes A, B, C, D etc are added to the three digit sub highways to indicate very small spin-offs or stretches of sub-highways. For example, 966A, 527B etc

So next time when you are driving based on the map or navigation device and when you see/hear something like ‘Turn left to Old NH47’ you should remember that the particular highway is being re-numbered.

I am not sure when the numbering process will be complete but I sincerely hope that they introduce a lot of sign boards to avert any confusion. Also, like in the US and some western countries, it may help if they provide some clue about which direction one is heading at any given moment. For example, 35W means a west bound highway. In India, since the major number (e.g. 35) corresponds to the direction itself, what the road signs or milestones should carry is something like 35-W or 35-E, I think.

Picture References

Wikipedia has a nice picture showing all the re-numbered highways. Please refer to this image link.

For a magnified view of the National highway map in India, please refer to this link.

‘Highways for Life’ is indeed the punch line for India as well.

61 Replies to “How Indian Highways are Numbered (New NH Numbering System)?”

    1. Thanks for the info. But I am confused about NH-5.If your first point is correct i.e all N-5 highways should be numbered as even ones,then how it’s numbered as 5(odd number) ? For your info NH-5 runs from kolkata to Chennai which I believe should come under N-S category.

  1. Sooper!! Info very helpful was checking for AH and opened the link and got to know so many things…. Thank you Ajith sir 🙂

  2. Sir,
    The method in giving new nos is not scientific. It should have started no 1 from Golden quadrilateral, west to east corridor, north to south corridor.

    Venugopal
    Retired Road Engineer
    Govt of Andhrapradesh

    1. Sir, I too agree with you. There is no indication that the NHs are numbered from 1. If so, definitely the previous NH7 (the longest Highway in the country) cannot be 44 now. If NHAI schedules to re-number again, it would be very sensible to number with a priority to the lengthiest Highway.
      Thank you.
      Dr.D.R.Pratima Roy
      RS Road
      Kurnool.

  3. Number for solapur pune hihway was nh9 but it is now 65
    Is there any change for nh13 solapur chitrdurga and 211 solapur dulhe?

  4. Very Very deep and useful information

    I have one question
    does our country needs AH (Asian Highway Network) system
    when our country have its own capable system
    its really confusing to see NH and AH systems together
    I personally feel that ! its really not necessary to follow Asian Highway Network
    there may be some agreements in Asian Countries about this
    there should be only one Highway system exist to avoid confusion and overall development
    it should be either AH or NH

  5. Very useful information…. thanks!!

    I have few clarifications…
    When are the new numbers commissioned?
    The old and new numbers are really confusing now.
    For Eg: When you travel from Bangalore to Pune/Mumbai on NH4, I could see many names like, NH4, NH48, AH48…

    Is NH number and AH number different?

  6. Whenever one sees or walks or motors on a India’ national highways,one tends to lower his.her head before Bajpayee, Indian ex Prime Minister.Minister. Bajpayee was a great thinker and for his great thinking, the present day india’ highways have taken to days’ shape.

  7. Thank you for this Important information as I was wondering from a few years as I saw the Old NH numbers changing and New ones coming up and the AH bit. It is very helpful Sir

  8. What’s the meaning of fraction numbering we often come across in road s in milestones and that too why some numbers are written 2/4 instead of 1/2… Has is it anyway got anything to do with the distances between intermediate locations??

  9. Great information bringing about a semblence of order.. NH47 the road from Kkumari to Salem is named odd .. Is in’t it odd ?

  10. Kurnool to Guntoor national highway road in very very inportant – new capital (Amaravathi) road in Adhara Pradesh

  11. Very nice and important information being given .very difficult to keep such complex information .nice work being done highway authority of India. Very useful also to locate places

  12. Wrong
    NH7 is south to north I. e. from kanyakumari to Varanasi.
    It’s odd. As per your info it should be even.
    Don’t confuse people

    1. Hai Rajesh , Ajith has taken a step forward to explain these things to the society . Which you and me didn’t do … Let us encourage him…

  13. Thank you Ajith, For taking some interest and time to explain the NH logic to our people … keep on sharing such useful articles . Such articles should come in news papers …. But they don’t… happy atleast you took that initiative …

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