Round Table conference on Funding Strategies for Bus Transport held on December 18, 2012 in Delhi
Buses provide the bulk of public transport services in many Indian cities. Its share in daily travel in bigger cities can be as high as 40-60 per cent. Cities are looking at bus transport reforms to reduce auto mobile dependence, congestion, and pollution. Cities like Delhi are setting such high targets as 80 per cent public transport share by 2020, but such a goal can be met only if bus transport is scaled up.
The daunting challenge is that most of the bus sector is ailing for lack of reforms and fund crunch. This is leading to plunging passenger volumes and poor public transport services. Bus sector reforms, fleet renewal and modernization will push up capital as well as operational costs. Though private sector investment has begun, there is no strategic planning or set timetables to create a dramatic turnaround.
This demands a well designed fiscal strategy and public transport fund. But very little thinking has gone into the ways and means of funding bus transport in cities. It is time to set a whole new term of policy debate and seek solutions.
A round table conference was held on December 18, 2012 at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi to address the above issues. The discussion saw the involvement of many bus transport corporations, regulators, industry, experts and media. It was a half day long discussion split over three sessions which addressed the financial barriers confronting the bus agencies in Indian cities. The imperative need of the hour to make the bus agencies solvent and self sustainable was the main highlight of the event.
Herein, the issue of taxation was also discussed. It was agreed by all that excess taxation on the buses is one of the major impediments in their financial performance. Rising fuel prices along with other rising costs was another dimension that was discussed upon.
On the other side, several revenue side reforms were also discussed.
All in all, it was a very structured discussion addressing a wide variety of issues concerning the growth of bus sector and services in many Indian cities.
Air pollution is the fifth largest killer and seventh biggest illness burden in India as estimated by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report. The speed at which urban air pollution is growing across our cities is alarming. Severe particulate pollution and newer pollutants like nitrogen oxides, ozone and air toxics are worsening the public health challenge. Vehicles are a special challenge as these are the fastest growing sources of air pollution.