Road classification in Nepal


Nepal has a population of 26.5 million, making it more populous than (for example) Australia and Taiwan.

Nepal has an area of 147,181 and covers three very different main geographical regions.  These strongly affect the quality and quantity of the transport networks. More than one-third of Nepal’s people live at least a two hours walk from the nearest all-season road; 15 out of 75 district headquarters are not connected by road. In addition, some 60% of road network and most rural roads are not operable during the rainy season (from Wikipedia).

The country is divided into 5 development regions, 14 zones and 75 districts. The districts are required to prepare “district transport master plans”.


Nepal can be divided into three belts: Terai, Hill and Mountain Regions. The Terai (plains) region covers 17% of the area of Nepal and is home to about 48% of Nepal’s population. It provides excellent farming land, has a reasonable road network, and is the region where most of the country’s manufacturing industries are based. Average elevation is 100 to 300 metres above sea-level. The Hills region contains 68% of the Nepalese land. The altitude ranges between 600m. to 4877 m. Altogether 39 of the 75 administrative districts are within this region. The Mountain region is the northernmost region of the country and accounts for 15% of the total land of Nepal. Its altitude ranges between 4,877 m. to 8,848 m.  The northern 16 districts of Nepal are mostly within this region (source: see e.g. here).

Road classification

There are three road networks in Nepal,

  • Strategic roads
  • Urban roads
  • Local roads

Strategic roads

The Strategic Road Network (SRN) has a  total  length  of  about  14,490  km and is made up  of  national  and  feeder  roads (ref. 559). The SRN ” consists of 3 main east west corridors and several north south corridors. The east west corridors are: (i) East West Highway (EWH, 1,024 km), the main artery of SRN with heavy traffic located in the Terai region; (ii) postal roads running in parallel with EWH along the Indian border in the south; and (iii) Mid-Hill East-West corridor (MHC), a series of feeder roads that link mid hill districts and provide routes to the main centers in the hills, including Kathmandu and Pokhara”.

(ref. 556) says that “Feeder roads are important roads of a more localised nature than National Highways. Feeder roads are classified into Feeder Roads (Major) and Feeder Roads (Minor).”

Urban roads

The “Nepal urban road standards 2068 (draft)”  (ref. 472) says that: For the purpose of geometric design urban roads are classified into five categories considering function of the road and traffic level:

  1. Expressways
  2. Arterial
  3. Sub-arterials
  4. Collector streets
  5. Local streets

Rural roads

The DoLIDAR document “Nepal rural roads standard(2055)- (ref. 508) says that the local road network (LRN) for rural roads has two classes of road

  • District roads (the core road network). These are roads joining a VDC HQ office or nearest economic centre to the district headquarters via either a neighbouring district headquarters or via the Strategic Road Network. It is to consist of all-weather roads. (Note: VDC stands for village development committees, which are the lowest administrative part of Nepal’s local development ministry. For more, see here).
  • Village roads, including other agriculture roads.

Other road classifications in Nepal

The Nepal Investment Board says there are two broad classifications of roads in Nepal: Classification on the basis of strategic importance and on the basis of quality of roads.Roads on the basis of quality consist of:

  • Sealed road
  • graveled roads
  • unsealed roads

The Master plan for the strategic road network 2002 – 2022 (ref. 451) gives the road classification as below and says this classification is based largely on functional and administrative requirements.

  • National highways
  • Feeder roads
  • District roads
  • Urban roads
  • Village roads

The Rural road technical design manual (ref. 450) speaks of

  • Trails
  • Fair weather track FWT
  • All weather track AWT
  • Fair-weather road FWR
  • All-weather road AWR

Annex II-2 of the Nepal rural road standard (2055) (ref. 460) says rural links are classified according to

  • Function of the linkage
  • Level of users
  • Traffic volume
  • Topography

The document also says that rural transport linkages in Nepal are classified into 5 classes,

  • Road category
  • Rural road class A – district road
  • Rural road class B – village road
  • Trail category
  • Rural road class C – main trail (defined as non-motorable foot or mule trail)
  • Rural road class D – village trail (defined as non-motorable foot or mule trail)
  • Ropeway category
  • Rural road class E – ropeway

The Lalitpur district transport master plan (ref. 473) has the following classification for its transport linkages:

  • District roads
  • Village roads
  • Main trails
  • bridges

A study to map the historically important trade routes in the Nepal region (ref. 507) refers to routes of trails (not roads) which can be classed as including

  • routes with local function
  • routes with regional function
  • routes with over-regional function

Possible overall classification of roads in Nepal

Nepal table 01


Other notes

Road classification and road networks are related to the types of vehicle which they are designed to carry. For Nepal these vehicle types include various types of motor vehicle, and as many as ten types of non-motorised transport (NMT). The NMT include rickshaws and tricycles carrying goods, pack animals, and porters.(see e.g. ref. 508, table of passenger car units).

The road network in Nepal appears to be very much under-developed. For example (ref. 504) says that

  • 10 million people live more than two hours walk from the nearest road and in the hills and mountains, more than 30% of the population live more than four hours walk from a road
  • Maintenance is largely absent leading to half of rural roads being unusable

The Government of Nepal has accessibility targets, namely to bring the entire hill population within a four hour walk to an all season road and the Terai population within two hours. Also, only 6.27% of Nepal households “own” a motorised vehicle (from World Bank website, “Nepal transport sector”).


  • There seems to be no overall road classification statement for Nepal. As with other countries, classification stops at the level of responsibility of the organisation which defines it.
  • A top level of classification is missing from the above table – a classification for “international roads.” In fact there are international trails (or walking routes) through Nepal just as there are international roads which pass through the country. For example the Great Himalaya Trail is one of the longest and highest walking trails in the world. Nepal’s GHT is divided into ten connecting treks with a duration of 2-3 weeks each on average (see link). For roads, Nepal is crossed by two links in the Asian Highway Network, Asian Highways 2 and 42, with a total length of 1324 km (ref. 562)
  • It’s not clear what the difference is between a foot trail and a mule trail (in terms of design at least), nor what the difference is between a trail and a track.


450 – RAIDP, Rural road technical design manual

451 – Nepal Ministry of Physical Planning and works, draft discussion paper “Master Plan for Strategic Road Network 2002 – 2022” (2004)

460 – DoLIDAR, Nepal rural road standard (2055) Annex II-2

472 – Nepal urban road standards 2068 (draft)

504 – DfID (UK), “Nepal RAP project business case and intervention summary” (2012)

507 – Graafen and Seeber, “Important trade routes in Nepal and their importance to the settlement process” (1992) (source: link)

508 – DoLIDAR, “Nepal Rural Roads Standards (2055) 1st revision”

556 – Nepal Department of Roads, “Design standards for feeder roads (3rd revision)” (1997)

559 – ADB, “ADB Sasec road connectivity project” (project data sheet) (2013)

562 – unescap,”Status paper on Asian Highway Nepal, 2011″ article by Hariom Srivastav, joint secretary, Ministry of Physical Planning and works, Government of Nepal.


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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