Need to revive ridership in Covid-hit public transport

Experts noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely impacted the public transport system including the Metro network that is incurring huge losses due to continuing travel restrictions
Managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said that the ridership has decreased by 48% from September 2019 to September 2021 (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said that the ridership has decreased by 48% from September 2019 to September 2021 (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Published on Oct 30, 2021 10:01 AM IST
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As cities plan for sustainable and resilient public transport systems, experts say ridership needs to return close to the pre-Covid levels, especially in metro rail networks, to minimise long-term impact.

At the day-long 14th Urban Mobility India conference, organised online by the ministry of housing and urban affairs, experts deliberated on refashioning transport systems to ensure ‘Mobility for all’, which was the theme of the conference. They also stressed on the need for integrated planning, innovative measures and mobility audits while planning for capital intensive public transport infrastructure.

Housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the country has 733 km of operational metro rail network in 18 cities. “It (metro network) provides a reliable and accessible transit medium for the vulnerable sections…With another 1,046 km of network in the pipeline in 27 cities, the ministry’s endeavours to connect 50 cities and towns with metro network by 2024,” said Puri.

Durga Shanker Mishra, MoHUA secretary, said that the focus was on achieving ease of living with suitable urban mobility policies through innovation and technology in the sector.

The Covid-19 pandemic has adversely impacted the public transport system including the Metro network that is incurring huge losses due to continuing travel restrictions, the experts noted.

Mangu Singh, managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said that the ridership has decreased by 48% from September 2019 to September 2021. “But to ensure social distancing and Covid protocols, we decided to provide maximum services so that the space available for passengers is maximum… As on today, our ridership is around 27 lakh per day,” said Singh.

Even private bus operators say that their business has been badly affected. At a time when the Centre is planning to introduce a scheme for operating public transport buses in second tier cities on Public Private Partnership model, bus operators say there is a need to provide financial support to tide over the losses incurred due to Covid.

Also Read: BJP Kisan Morcha to hold national executive meeting in Delhi today

Prasanna Patwardhan, chairperson and managing director, Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions, said, “Public transport should be treated as a priority sector.” He pointed out that in many states, payments are pending for the past one-and-a-half-years while fuel rates have increased without any revision of ticket prices.

“All these aspects have to be looked into while planning for a resilient transport system,” he said.

Experts say that there is a need to reassess the restrictions or re-strategise transport system planning to stop people from switching from public transport to personal vehicles.

“The drop in ridership in public transport systems, which are capital intensive projects, and revenue, will have a long-term impact as it will delay in fleet expansion and technology advancements if right interventions or financial assistance is not given to agencies,” said Laghu Parashar, deputy project head, SMART-SUT, GIZ India.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022