Accelerated Development of Transport Infrastructure
An efficient, reliable, and safe transport system is vital for fostering rapid economic growth. Over the decades, in spite of significant development of transport modes, transport capacity has tended to lag behind the requirement of economy leading to congestion, asset deterioration and high level of energy consumption, pollution and accidents. Rural areas have inadequate connectivity and there is a continuous increase in the share of road traffic at the expense of rail. Though successive Five Year Plans took cognizance of these problems, there is inadequate investment in capacity building mainly because of resource problem facing the public sector that has been largely responsible for transport infrastructure development. The problem was exacerbated by increasing concentration of economic activity and human settlements in certain areas by relative under-pricing of hydrocarbon fuels and transport services. In spite of special attention being paid, particularly in the recent years, for development of transport infrastructure, some areas like North-East continue to be inadequately served and this has affected not only their economic development but even social and political integration with the rest of the country.
In the recent years, economic liberalization has quickened the impulses of economic growth. A rapidly-growing middle class needs of domestic and international trade, large-scale mobility of working population to longer distances and growing demographic pressure have fuelled further demand for transport. The new economic policies have opened new avenues for private participation in transport, thus, augmenting resources as also increasing the scope of commercial orientation to transport operations. At the same time, this development may lead to greater concentration of industrial location around existing growth centres and encourage an untrammeled growth of certain modes of transport with regard to their social cost.
The major objective in the 12th Plan would be to augment the capacity of various modes of transport and set up an infrastructure comparable with best in the world. The completion of construction of both Eastern and Western Freight Corridors would be expedited. The investment strategy would aim at also developing capacity of high density rail corridors. The augmentation of rail capacity is of utmost urgency as the Railways is the backbone of our transport infrastructure. High speed rail network will be developed. The network itself would be further expanded to more areas. In roads, apart from completing the various phases of NHDP which are in progress, substantial progress would be made in development of expressway network to increase the mobility. Standards of maintenance of National Highways would be further strengthened and a network of six-lane roads augmented and significantly increased. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), which aims at improving the accessibility need to be given higher priority. All the habitations identified under the program would be linked with all-weather roads. Efforts would be made to provide accessibility to all the habitations in the rural areas of the country during the Plan period. The programs for development of road infrastructure in the North-East and Naxalite affected areas taken up during the 11th Plan would be completed which would considerably improve the accessibility to these areas leading to their economic development and social and political integration with the rest of the country.
The progress towards development of Port sector has been slow in the recent past. Procedures and processes which hamper the development of port sector would be streamlined so that flow of private investment in this sector is increased and able to take care of expanding capacity and modernization needs. Selected deepening of Ports to match with emerging ship technologies would be taken up.
Modernization of Airports has been progressing satisfactorily. Further, technological upgradation is, however, needed in traffic control system. With the increase in traffic, the development of non-Metro Airports would be taken up at accelerated pace through private sector participation.
The augmentation of capacity in the various sectors would require huge investment. While Public sector would continue to play important role in building transport infrastructure, it is necessary to involve private sector more aggressively. This will help meet investment deficit gap in the Infrastructure sector, improve efficiencies and provide competition to Public sector players which will in turn lead to better quality of service. In sectors like Railways, although the past attempts to raise resources through private sector participation did not pay any dividend yet it is this very option that seems to be one of the most promising courses of action. The resources for the sector as a whole also need to be increased by improving self financing capacity through appropriate policy relating to pricing and user charges.
While developing capacities of various modes of transport, the focus would be on modernization and technological upgradation. This would be strongly supported by investments in maintenance of assets to ensure their reliability and continued efficiency.
Substantial augmentation of capacity, large-scale investment and higher levels of efficiency in Transport sector require changes in the present organization structure of each transport mode. The process of corporatization of Ports, restructuring of NHAI and setting up a separate organization for development of expressway in the country need to be expedited. Organization structures and mechanisms for ensuring rapid large-scale investment in Railways would be required. In addition, a suitable mechanism for tariff setting in Indian Railways needs to be devised.
Transport is one of the major producers of green-house gases emission. It is necessary to encourage the modes of transport technology which consumes less energy per unit of throughput and generate lower level of emissions. Transport policies would be accordingly evolved to support this shift. A roadmap will be developed for this purpose.
The situation with regard to transport safety, particularly, that of road transport has not been satisfactory. The increase in accessibility and mobility have further intensified the need to positively effect the safety of transport operations. While developing/modernizing our transport infrastructure, it would be necessary to pay special attention to the safety of transport operations.