Visit to Delhi and Singapore – Day 2

Professor Greg Marsden

Today was a full on workshop around how to progress an integrated urban transport programme for Indian Cities. There are 53 cities of more than a million population and ten with a population above 3 million. Clearly the problems of congestion, air pollution (not just the post Diwali induced smog), traffic safety and equity and inclusion are as chronic here as in other rapidly developing economies. An interesting paradox was suggested that perhaps because still less than 50% of the population of most regions is urbanized, the importance of urban development remained to be firmly embedded in policy.

SPA and ITS Leeds Seminar

SPA and ITS Leeds Seminar

The morning keynote was given by the Dr Sudhir Krishna, Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development in India. He reflected that post independence cities in India were left to grow rather than being shaped. In addition, India is a country with many laws which have often seen statutory bodies established to oversee implementation. This makes pulling the organizations together challenging – there are around 25 agencies involved in transport in Delhi for example.

Other contributions mapped out the scale of the problem facing Delhi (10% growth in vehicles, 70% of air pollution from vehicles and one fifth of all of India’s road fatalities) but also a vision to do things differently. Ideas include more effective corridor planning, better multi-modality around the 68 Metro stations and a zero fatality aspiration. My contribution (view below via link) to the discussion was to highlight that the problems are multi-faceted and so we need an integrated approach to tackle these problems. The toolkit of interventions requires major new investment, renewal and upgrading, freight management, urban design and travel demand management policies. This set the scene for the afternoon discussion which asked how 25 agencies might be brought together to make some of these things happen. It also brought discussion around key gaps – such as the absence of a clear parking policy for the city.

Delhi AM Transport policy experiences

The afternoon’s workshop focused on possible institutional frameworks for improving urban transport. 29 years ago at the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi a proposal was made for the adoption of Urban Metropolitan Transport Authorities (UMTA). The 2006 National Urban Transport Plan put this in motion with some funds being channeled to those states that demonstrated these UMTAs had been established. Despite this, around one half of local planners are not aware of the national policy and within those that are 90% report facing difficulties in implementing it. A Presentation from Ishita Chauhan showed that of the 11 cities with UMTA most have very infrequent meetings, as yet have not secured legal status and therefore have delivered comparatively little on the ground.

I reviewed the experience of Transport for London and what I took to be the successful elements of an urban transport authority. These were:

  • Responsible for an overall transport strategy
  • To have a role in co-ordinating the different transport modes
  • To have a clear legal status
  • To oversee delivery of strategy
  • To have strong funding and independent financial management

Looking at experiences from Manchester (UK), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Bangalore (India) drawing on work by recent Leeds PhD graduate Fatimah Kamal I suggested that the absence of most of these ingredients explained the comparative failure of UMTA in India. However, Kuala Lumpur and Manchester have not got all of the powers of Transport for London. Governance reforms need to be seen as a process and provided they have sufficient powers to make a difference at the outset, credibility will build and other powers may be absorbed (as has been the case in London). Presentation available below at link.

Delhi PM Transport Institutional Frameworks

I was surprised by the apparent lack of urban transport technical capacity in the cities. The best planners and designers are apparently more likely to take jobs in the major highway construction programmes or consultancies where the career paths are clearer. Transport for London is, in my view, a really dynamic and sector leading organization that people are attracted to work for (which doesn’t mean it won’t have the problems that any organization faces but…). Without a clear UMTA related career trajectory this appeared more difficult to achieve.

There were many interesting analogies and sayings used during the day. One which stuck was that “Indian soil is most infertile for co-ordination”. Whilst the thirty year struggle to improve urban transport governance continues I saw a willingness today to innovate and to make progress with some of the key ingredients even if it is not the complete package. A greater political understanding of the importance of integrated transport and land-use planning for the economic prosperity, environment and well-being of the cities is perhaps necessary to reinforce why these reforms will really make a difference. A great programme put together by Dr Sanjay Gupta and hopefully a springboard to more collaborations.

After a full day I am looking forward to a bit of a rest while the rest of Delhi celebrates the festival of brothers and sisters. Tomorrow I take a bit of a tour of the transport network and some of Delhi life before moving on to Singapore. From UMTA challenges to a global leader in integrated planning and delivery!


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