by Akhilesh K. Prasad
In developing countries, transportation has a direct impact on socio-economic development of regions and consequently the nation as a whole. In a country as densely populated as India, the development of transportation systems is riddled with a plethora of problems and finding a solution to one of those, often leads to many others.
The root cause of our transportation woes lies in faulty planning. There is a lack of a fast and adequate alternative transport system in many of India’s bigger cities. This necessitates that residents have their personal means of transport, thus creating an unnecessary pressure on road transport. Moreover, mixing of traffic worsens the situation as the same roads are being used by high speed cars, trucks, tractors and even animal driven carts. Consequently, there is an increase in traffic time, congestion and wastage of fuel, pollution and road accidents. The success of the metro rail project in Delhi has prompted many Indian cities to opt for the same in order to ease the pressure on their roads.
Rail and road are the two main means of transportation in India. However, the share of freight and passenger traffic between the two has historically been skewed. For instance, in 1951 the share of road in freight and passenger traffic was 11% and 26% respectively. At present, the corresponding figures stand at 60% and 80%. This is neither viable from an economic nor environmental standpoint. Rail should be used for bulky goods and longer distances whereas road transport should be used for the opposite.
Worn-out or obsolete assets have been the bane of government owned transport assets. 25% of the railway route length and approximately 80% of the machinery used in workshops are in urgent need of replacement. Same is the case with 80% of the buses being used by State Transport Corporations. Such assets are a cause of accidents and pollution.
Obsolete technology being used for construction of roads increases wear and tear of vehicles, thus resulting in escalation of overhead expenditure. It is pertinent to note here that 42.65% of India’s roads are un-surfaced and unfit for vehicular traffic. The poor situation is further aggravated in the rainy season. In railways, the engine design, signalling systems, multi-axle vehicles and worn-out tracks need urgent up-gradation.
In summation, it is quite evident from the current situation that government initiative is relatively inadequate in comparison with the ever rising need for better transportation facilities. Private enterprise, which is otherwise deterred from participation in the sector due long gestation periods, low-returns and a stringent legislative framework, should be encouraged in order to meet the challenges of the future.
An MBA by qualification, Akhilesh has dabbled into various businesses. He is a keen debater, data miner and analytically inclined. His blogs tend to present a fresh perspective on any given matter.