INDIA SHOULD FOCUS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN CITIES IN COMING 10 YEARS - SECRETARY GENERAL, UITP BRUSSELS

Association of State Road Transport Undertakings (ASRTU) organised 2nd edition of International Conference and Exhibition on Public Transport Innovation (ICEPTI) 2017 on 10-11 August 2017 in New Delhi, India. UITP India Office was the official Knowledge Partner of the event. The event was a big success as lots of policy makers, managing directors and senior officials attended the event. 

Mr. Alain Flausch, Secretary General, UITP Brussels delivered the inaugural speech at ASRTU ICEPTI 2017, who was on his fourth trip to India in last 5 years. He has seeing the growth of the country in last 10 years. 

Mr. Flausch started his journey with public transport sector in year 2000, when he joined as CEO of the STIB, the Brussels public transport operator. He served the company till 2011, before joining UITP Brussels as Secretary General. He has spent around 20 years in the sector. Some of the key points made by him during the speech are:

1. Public transport Sector has witnessed a lot of changes in last two decades. Earlier, public transport was viewed as a transport for the poor except in some big cities, biking and walking were no option for decision-makers and even viewed as an obstacle for public transport leaders, Diesel engines were regarded as state of the art engines, sprawling cities were not criticized and the individual private car, especially BMW, Audi and Mercedes were reigning on the cities with the total complicity of our politicians.

2. Earlier, public transport was run mainly by engineers and customers were viewed as an unfortunate disturbance preventing the system to be working perfectly. The operators were generally running the show, enjoying monopolies in most of the cities, receiving huge public money. Commuters had very few options if they wished to move in a city: either walking or using public transport or driving a car. Role of the authorities were limited to regulation of public transport and to provide subsidies to the local public transport monopolist. Public transport was the mode of transport for the poor and kind of a social service heavily subsidised. Above all, public transport in a city was generally in the hands of a one and having therefore a limited interest in company enjoying a long term monopoly. Public transport did not face major capacity problems as the cities were of reasonable size in terms of surface and populations. Further, public transport was never seen as a major contributor to developing sustainable and liveable cities

3. There has been a major shift in last two decades. Public transport which has gained a much better status and recognition than ever when compared to 20 years ago. There has been change in the perception of public transport. The system are made first for the sake of the commuters and need to be customer-centric. Public transport is recognised as a key ingredient of sustainable mobility in cities and seen as driver of competitiveness and attractiveness of the city. There has been increase in supply with the entry of new players like Uber, Moovel and Ola etc. and commuters enjoy more transport options. In most of cities around the world, the structure of the public transport industry is changing with competitive tendering and allowing private players participation. The cities are expanding around the world. Demographic and economic trends have led to major developments of public transport networks. Public transport combined with the active modes of transportation – walking and cycling- is viewed as a major tool to tackle the climate change issue.

4. Public transport has changed a lot in last two decades. However, it is important to highlight that the sector is still facing many challenges in many countries of the world. Public transport is struggling to get the money it needs to develop the systems and to provide to all citizens the service they are entitled to and would allow them to stop relying on the individual car. 

5. Public transport is very important for developing countries like India. The demand for mobility will increase owing to rapid Urbanisation. According to BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research 2017 Study, urban population of India will increase from 410 million in 2015 to 875 million in 2050. Transport is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gases. The demand for private vehicles is growing in India and the country has now become the 5th largest automobile market in the world. According to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), India along with other South Asian Countries could witness deadly heat waves by the 2100, with heat and humidity levels that may likely exceed human tolerance, affecting 70% of India's population. Thus, there is need to invest in sustainable mobility. Public transport has deteriorated for the last years as it could not keep pace with the rapid and substantial increases in the demand.

6. Government of India is aware of these challenges and is taking many initiatives including Smart Cities Mission (89 cities), Atal Mission For Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME), Green Urban Transport Scheme (GUTS) and Move In India (MII)

7. India has made a good progress in last 10 years with the expansion of metro network, induction of quality city buses, development of modern transport hub and bus stations, digitatisation of public transport network and emergence of new mobility services. There is need to do much more in the next 10 years and at much faster pace. India should put more buses on the urban roads to provide better connectivity. India would require to work on 3 key areas - Coping with Rapid UrbanizationDeveloping Smart Cities and Building Political Will

8. In order to cope up with rapid urbanisation, India should avoid urban sprawl through a better planning of cities, including for example the creation of satellite towns with sufficient density to make public transport viable. Chinese cities are good examples of fast growing cities where public transport, in particular rail, has been used to accompany urban development from the early stages and now plays the role of backbone to the city.

9. Under smart cities mission, India is looking to build 100 smart cities. Accessible, Efficient and Integrated Public Transport Systems are the keys of success for Smart Cities. To make people choose, the cities will need to make public transport system attractive looking, easy to use, safe and affordable. UITP did analysis of key mobility projects proposed by first 20 smart cities in India and observed that those cities will need an investment of ₹43 billion (US$ 700 million) in Smart mobility solutions only, excluding investment in civil infrastructure.

10. Strong political will is the most critical factor for the development of sustainable public transport in the city. Daring and visionary politicians with strong leadership skills are needed to initiate policies, projects and investment to develop public transport and sustainable mobility in cities. UITP studied the budget allocation of 6 states in India for transportation for the year 2017-18. It was found that the budget allocation is still a very small part of overall State budget like Delhi (11%), Maharashtra (0.3%), Karnataka (2%), Telangana (3%), Gujarat (1%) and Andhra Pradesh (3%). State governments across India are still allocating small funds for public transport and it is even more frustrating to realize that some finance ministers do not even use the word "Public Transport or Transport" in their entire budget speech.

India has still a long way to go to create sustainable transport network for its billion populations. It is indeed UITP duty and honour to support and accompany its Indian members in their activities.

Download the copy of full speech 

Speech delivered by Mr. Alain Flausch, Secretary General, UITP Brussels