Solving India’s transport dilemna

Solving India’s transport dilemna

The government plans to launch “common mobility cards" next year, enabling passengers to travel with one smart card across different modes of transport and different cities, minister of state for urban development Saugata Roy said at the third annual Urban Mobility India conference in Delhi over the weekend.

“At present India has the second largest urban system in the world," said Roy, “and by 2035 we will have double the urban population we have today. We must plan for the future."

If policy makers fail to act cohesively the result could be the creation of vast urban slums, warned Amitabh Kant, who heads the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation.

“India is a very late starter in this process of urbanisation," he said, “but that to my mind is a big advantage because technology today allows you to cut across and integrate sectors to create smart cities."

In the process, Indian cities may be able to leapfrog some of the problems encountered in cities with an older transport infrastructure. Cutting edge innovations like the common mobility card and fuel-efficient or hybrid buses can be installed from scratch. India’s software and tech industries can be harnessed to invent intelligent modes of transport.

But inefficient or inflexible delivery systems are likely to be a hurdle, said Peter Hendy, the commissioner of Transport for London, who has overseen the introduction of London’s own smart travel card, the “Oyster", and managed a 7% shift from car usership to public transport.

Comparing London to Delhi, Hendy said that India’s challenge was formidable. “Delhi will grow more in the next three years than London will in the next 20," he said. “With this speed of growth you need a very proactive and comprehensive agency in charge."