Unified body needed to make public transport work in Delhi, say experts
Having a single unified accountable body, relying heavily on empirical data and optimising operational transit modes is the key to make public transport work in Delhi, experts said on Tuesday.
Discussing how the national Capital can have an accessible, efficient and sustainable mobility system at the ‘Re-inventing Delhi’ conference organised by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and Delhi Development Authority, experts agreed that much of the planning and policymaking in the city “gets lost in translation” because of the multiplicity of authorities.
“Clarity is extremely important. In London, the mayor is responsible for the entire transportation sector in the city and we report to him every Monday. So, having that one authority that is accountable is significant for a city because it ensures timeliness and efficiency,” said Alex Williams, director of City Planning, Transportation for London (TfL).
Contrary to London’s unified structure, Delhi has as many as 11 agencies that work on transportation alone, said OP Agarwal, country director and CEO, World Resources Institute, India. “And yet the city has a bus network that is on a steady decline and it is only half the required fleet of 11,000. We have 327 km of metro in Delhi, of which the busiest lines are those that cater to neighbouring cities – Noida, Ghaziabad and Gurugram. It implies that metro is being used more as a suburban transit mode rather than an intra-city travel option. So, planning metro routes should also be included in the Master Plan for Delhi as it unlocks land for urbanisation,” Agarwal said.
Williams said even in London, the TfL is incurring losses in operating its 8,000 buses. “40% of passengers are using our buses for free. But, we have an integrated-first policy under which we cross-subsidise. This means, the profits earned from our tube (metro) service are used in to run the buses,” he said.
Interestingly, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) runs 3,750 buses in the city, which have a daily average ridership of about 35 lakh passengers — nine lakh more than Delhi Metro. Yet the DTC continues to be the biggest loss-making state road transport unit (SRTU) in India. According to a 2017 report on the performance of SRTUs released by the Union ministry of road transport and highways, the DTC registered losses to the tune of ₹3,411 crore in 2015-16 and ₹2,917 crore in 2014-15.
The TfL City Planning director suggested that policies and future transportation networks should be designed based on “evidence”. “Evidence-based plans is absolutely fundamental. Every year, a ‘London Travel Demand’ survey is conducted to understand people’s transport demands. This guides us in deciding the kind of trips (walking, cycling) that we need to further improve,” he said.
Reacting to the Delhi Metro’s continuous expansion within the national Capital region, Williams said it is equally important to improve efficiency of the existing trains. “Without building any new station or creating new lines, we increased the London Tube’s ridership from 2.5 million per day in 2000 to 5 million a day in December, 2018. This was achieved simply by increasing the frequency and carrying capacity of operational trains,” he said.