Social network that needs connecting

Robust and well-laid-out transport systems are critical because they facilitate access to work, healthcare and education. Yet, India’s focus on improving this sector has been limited, leading to commuter harassment, delays, loss of revenue and high environmental costs. According to a report in this paper, GoI is planning a revamp of the urban transport sector. This would help integrate metro and bus networks with an emphasis on clean fuel, incentivise greening of intracity goods transport through small trucks and align bus and metro routes. Financial support could be offered for electrification of small commercial vehicles that move goods within cities.

While there are several reasons for India’s transportation system being fragmented and under-resourced, one key reason is the lack of a holistic approach. Close to half a dozen central ministries, including roads, railways, housing, civil aviation and shipping, form the backbone of the sector. Almost all of them work in isolation, with minimal or no coordination. This has often sparked discussions on the need for an omnibus transport ministry.

In 2014, the National Transport Development Policy Committee recommended setting up a single unified transport ministry at the Centre, with a similar merger of transport functions at the state level. But all plans remain on paper. In the last five years, Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari has also spoken about the need to have an integrated, multimodal transport planning body. Such integration, if it finally happens, should prioritise seamless travel, enhanced affordability, reliability, safety and, crucially, align with India’s recent climate pledges, given that the sector contributes 14% – and rising – of GHG emissions.


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