The road uphill
India is fast emerging as a global economic power, but
sectors like aviation, roadways, ports and railways leave much to be desired, observes Prabal Kansal, Manager-Consulting, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd.
What does one expect from a city transportation system? Most
of us would say, "A well-organised and effective system."
Now, the next question is: What makes a transportation system well-organised
and effective? I believe a transportation system can be called so if it provides
increased accessibility, ensured sustainability, expanded capacity and enhanced
Increased accessibility is about making it well-situated and suited for
everybody to get to and from work, school, college, shopping, business and
social activities. It is also about making it better-off for trade to access raw
materials, workers and above all markets.
Ensured sustainability anticipates a modern transport system to be
sustainable from an economic, social and environmental perspective. The system
should be committed to deal with the adverse environmental impacts of the
transport sector while maximising efficiency and increasing mobility of goods
and people on the transport network.
Expanded capacity, as a matter of general practice follows
'forecast and construct' strategy of auguring future traffic growth and
constructing infrastructure to fill the gaps. It's not just about creating new
infrastructure, there is a need to improve management of transportation networks
for the best possible use of the existing infrastructure before new
infrastructure is constructed.
Quality enhancement concerns various attributes of the transportation
system: Physical quality of network; construction, maintenance and operation;
speed, reliability and comfort of a journey; and physical accessibility for
people with mobility impairments
With population and economic growth testing the limit of transport capacity and
environment, the search for sustainable transport solutions has become
requisite. The need today is to focus on productivity improvement and on
integrated transport solutions that are designed, funded and delivered across
modes. Informed users need real-time end-to-end information across modes to make
sensible journey choices.
The need for connected, sustainable transport solutions is shared around the
world—ranging from tough action against emissions in California to urban
congestion reduction in Stockholm, and longer distance road charging in Germany
and Austria. More than ever, transport thinking and policy needs to be joined up
across boundaries and borders.
Because transport touches so many people, there is no shortage of ideas for
improving the status quo. Yet getting something done requires a bridge between
innovative proposals and changes on ground to be sustained through a lifecycle
of what is inevitably a major implementation programme.
Reorientation within a changing transport landscape: The traditional
roles and responsibilities of different organisations in the transport sector
are being challenged by the wider evolution of the market and policy
environment. Public sector organisations are under increased pressure to become
customer-focused and delivery-orientated, while the private sector businesses
must adapt to new regulatory and policy requirements.
Opportunities and challenges of new technology: The transport sector
continues to embrace and deploy new technology to change the way in which
services are provided to users. However, without a full understanding of the
ramifications, compelling new concepts can introduce significant risks into the
Getting the basics right (helping local authorities improve local transport):
Most transport journeys are local, and individual local transport authorities
operate in the front line in providing the infrastructure required. This core
role is becoming more demanding—and authorities must explore new ways of getting
existing jobs done within their financial constraints.
India's transport sector is large and diverse and caters to the demands of more
than 1.1 billion people across the country. As per the Central Statistical
Organization (CSO), overall transport sector accounted for a share of 6.4 per
cent in India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2004-05.
Roads: Road transport is an imperative to the economic development and
social integration of the country. Easy approachability, flexibleness in
operations and dependability have rendered road transport a progressively higher
share of both passenger and freight traffic vis-à-vis other transport modes. The
transport sector accounts for a share of 6.4 per cent in India's Gross Domestic
Product (GDP). The composition of various sub-sectors of the transport sector in
terms of GDP is given in the table below:
Roads are the dominant mode of transportation in today. They carry almost 90 per
cent of the country's passenger traffic and 65 per cent of its freight.
The density of highway network; at 0.66 km of highway per square kilometer of
land is similar to that of the United States (0.65) and much greater than China
(0.16) or Brazil (0.20). However, most highways are narrow and congested with
poor surface quality, and 40 per cent villages do not have access to all-weather
Railways: Indian Railways is the largest railway in Asia and the fourth
most heavily used system in the world. It carries some 14 million passengers a
day and is one of the world's largest employers.
Ports: India has 12 major and 185 minor and intermediate ports along its
vast coastline. These ports serve the country's growing foreign trade in
petroleum products, iron ore and coal, as well as the increasing movement of
containers. Inland water transportation remains largely undeveloped despite
14,000 kilometers of navigable rivers and canals.
Aviation: India has 60 airports, including 11 international ones. The
dramatic increase in air traffic for both passengers and cargo in recent years
has placed a heavy strain on the country's airports.
The major challenges which are being faced by the transport sector are depicted
Roads: According to a recently-released survey conducted by LeasePlan,
one of the world's leading vehicle leasing and fleet management companies, a
high 71 per cent of drivers polled across 16 countries felt that congestion
levels in their country were serious and 41 per cent felt congestion was at a
critical level or very serious. The survey was based on responses of 9,057
company car drivers across several European nations and Australia, New Zealand
In India, congestion generally adds 138 minutes to driving time each week, which
has gone up from 130 minutes in the last survey. Thus, the impact on driving
time in the intervening years has been deteriorating.
In India, the causes of road rage are driving in wrong direction (64 per cent),
jumping the queues (61 per cent), driving aggressively (57 per cent) and jumping
traffic lights (51 per cent). The problems on the road indicated by Indian
drivers are autorickshaw drivers (selected by 27 per cent of survey
participants) and call centre vehicle drivers (selected by 26 per cent).
Connectivity to rural areas: Rural road connectivity should be a vital
component of the country's overall strategy for rural development. India has a
vast road network of over three million km spread across its length and breadth.
Although, the rural road network is extensive, some 40 per cent villages do not
have access to all-weather roads and remain cut-off during the monsoon season.
Port capacity constraints: Ports today are congested and inefficient.
Indian ports have a combined annual cargo handling capacity of 750 million
tonnes. The ports need to significantly ramp up their capacity and efficiency.
As per 11th Plan, the objective set in the context of port capacity is to double
the capacity to 1.5 billion tonnes. For an economy that is growing at 9 per cent
per annum with seaborne trade accounting for 95 per cent of the country's
foreign trade, the present port capacity is inadequate.
(The author can be contacted at email@example.com)
[May 19-25, 2008]