An Era of Seamless Transit and Transportation Beacons

An Era of Seamless Transit and Transportation Beacons

As stated while launching the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan for multimodal connectivity, this national platform is aimed at coordinating, planning and execution of infrastructure projects to bring down logistics costs. Moving away from the silo approach of ministries, this umbrella program bri...

As stated while launching the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan for multimodal connectivity, this national platform is aimed at coordinating, planning and execution of infrastructure projects to bring down logistics costs. Moving away from the silo approach of ministries, this umbrella program brings together twenty one (now 23) ministries of the central government as well as the states together to jointly ensure faster and integrated implementation of critically important infrastructure projects. As we all know infrastructure development has very high importance in taking the country to the targeted five trillion dollar economy and in this process, the National Infrastructure Pipeline announced in 2019, which has some 7,400 projects with total outlay of Rs.111 trillion becomes a key player in the Gati Shakti scheme of things. The seven engines for economic transformation include seamless multi modal connectivity since multi modal connectivity is vital in development. It is not just the central programs which get covered but infrastructure development by states as per the Gati Shakti Master Plan also is included thereby facilitating more synergy as well. The impact which the PM Gati Shakti has been able to make so far can be validated from the fact that currently 53 high impact projects with project value of `2.79 trillion are being monitored. In respect of these projects various complicated issues which normally take long time to get resolved like grant of right of use or right of way have been sorted out. In the case of urban infrastructure projects also some of the common problems which need to be addressed like utility shifting, tree cutting, land acquisition etc are now getting addressed faster through the National Master Plan portal tools. There are many positives which are evident when we look at how this whole program will help better urban development or development of our cities. 50 per cent of our population is expected to live in cities by the year 2050. A substantial part of the city residents have access to basic amenities like electricity, drinking water and sanitation but urban mobility is an issue to handle which much more remains to be done. How the PM Gati Shakti can become relevant here is explained by an example given in the guideline itself. In the case of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway Package II, the overall project was delayed by eleven months due to delay in approval and issuance of clearance for General Agreement Drawings from railways. Though the entire road construction got completed, time taken for approval of just one road over bridge resulted in delay in commissioning of the project. Similar instances were there when the first private metro project in Mumbai was taken up. Here the issue related to clearance from the highways authority for the metro to cross the road. First of all it is difficult to get private participation in a metro project and here the private partner was finding it difficult to move forward. With an arrangement like the PM Gati Shakti, with all concerned ministries participating, clearances of this type can happen faster and this in turn could result in timely completion of the project. Since Gati Shakti also aims at facilitating the laying down of standardized procedural timelines by all, the agencies concerned will have to act within laid down time schedules. In another example successfully demonstrated by the ministry of Environment, institutionalizing the practice of accepting applications for environmental clearances for difficult projects only through online mode, not only has the clearance process been expedited but there is increase in transparency and improvement in facilitating the process of early decision making. This initiative, it is reported, has resulted in reducing the average time period for environmental clearance from about 600 days to 162 days. The National Master Plan is also expected to facilitate the last mile connectivity of the infrastructure so that road, rail, power, optical fiber cable, gas pipeline are all available to the people easily. Another much felt requirement in cities is that of a well-integrated public transport system, instead of each unit operating as a standalone entity in the form of a Metro or a bus corporation or suburban rail. Today there is all the more need for all of them to come together to provide seamless connectivity to the commuters. And this needs to start with integrated planning for implementation of efficient interchanges. If the much talked about Unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities for million plus population cities come into existence for all such cities, then the problem could get addressed to a considerable extent at least with regard to operations. But what is also important is that at the planning stage itself such integration has to be properly planned. The example cited in the guidelines of the Sarai Kale Khan and Anand Vihar RRTS stations in Delhi in which case dovetailing with the existing infrastructure and the proposed projects like bus terminal, metro, railway stations, taxi stand, shopping complex, office spaces etc. has been planned in advance. Providing seamless interchanges like this ensures promotion of ease of living for people. In the earlier instances of metro development we have examples like the Delhi Metro, which remained a standalone mode and as such could neither provide enough parking space for cars, scooters, cycles, etc. at stations nor facilitate easy availability of last mile connectivity linking with buses, three wheelers etc. Kochi Metro is another example of a different type where, thanks to the platform of the Metropolitan Transport Authority, integration between metro stations and the water metro has been worked out. Further, working with the bus operators and the three wheeler operators, there is some sort of integration worked out after commencement of metro operation though issues like having parking space at stations, space for bus bays and three wheeler parking all still remain an issue. The interest shown by states in opting for the PM Gati Shakti mode for quicker implementation of infrastructure projects can be seen from the progress reported that all states and Union Territories have been on boarded to use the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan, they have set up similar institutional frameworks at the state level also. 14 states have formed the much needed State Logistics Policy. With the announcement early this year of guidelines for special assistance to states for capital expenditure, under the, envisaged one lakh crore assistance, a provision of Rs.50 billion has been made for the PM Gati Shakti related expenditure. Our cities have a major role to play in the overall development of the country. When it comes to mass transit, while the metro rail system is operational or about to start in some 22 big cities, with such projects approved for more cities like Gorakhpur, Nashik etc, being on PM Gati Shakti should naturally facilitate timely completion of these projects and considerable relief to the city commuters. By: Dr M Ramachandran, Former Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development

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