An unprecedented halt has been witnessed in the transport system across India from last three months. The Central govt has cancelled all the flights and trains to curb the spread of COVID-19. Even there was curfew on roads due the disease. The transport sector was badly affected as many job cuts were announced by the sector.
As Indian cities gradually revive their public transport services halted during the lockdown, technology-enabled systems, the optimal use of existing capacities and staggered commuting can help ensure social distancing and crowd management to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Fearing crowd infections, commuters prefer travelling in private modes like two-wheelers. Cities like Delhi, that resumed services nearly few weeks ago, observed less ridership than the allowed 20 passengers per bus, despite the limited frequencies on many routes. Although bus crowding is seen in some cities such as Mumbai, it is temporary and due to a lack of alternatives. A significant drop in public transport ridership can be expected for months after resumption, based on opinion surveys. That means measures are needed to gain the public’s confidence in mass transport modes, to avoid a significant modal shift to road traffic.
Elets Technomedia in association with Ansal University organized a webinar to discuss ways to rebuild urban areas as resilient and sustainable habitats by strengthening the transport systems. The webinar was attended by eminent speakers from the transport sector.
Speaking during the webinar, Sudhir Singh Chauhan, Chairman, ITPI Haryana Chapter and Senior Town Planner, Town & Country Planning Department, Haryana said “The COVID-19 is new for us and we are learning new things about this disease. The world has to prepare itself for the new normal. Transportation sector is one of the worst affected in the lockdown. The transportation system has to be changed a lot.”
He also said the govt needs to increase the number of vehicles’, change seat arrangements and many other things are needed to be changed.
We are thinking about making the city more resilient as health is very important. The planning needs to be changed a lot, he added.
Abhi Bhasin, Director, Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions Ltd. (SISL), UK said “We are still observing the situation as things are not yet normal. There is a reduction in accidents on roads due to less traffic during the lockdown. There is a decline in demand and supply. The frequency may vary, when things will be normal. There are many micro-economic benefits of lockdown. There will be a massive impact on pricing. “
Very soon people will travel for leisure and there will be an increase in private travel very soon, he added.
There are huge impacts on users, operators and regulators. Accessibility, crowd management, cleaning and security will be essentials for operators. Exemptions are very critical as situations are changing a lot, he added.
He also said communication has to be very strong and investment is the key for the sector to revive.
Shailendra Kaushik, Cofounder Cities Forum, Dubai, UAE said “The pandemic has united the entire world. Operators have to keep the city mobile, contain the COVID virus and support the finances for survival. The new normal is unknown for the world. The transportation market is under stress.”
He also said this is the time to invest in the transport sector as it can bring back the economy to its track.
With work from home has increased a lot, travel demands many plunge in coming days. We are moving to agility and mobility. We can reduce the cost and improve the safety and security during travels, he added.
He also emphasized on re-imagining and re-designing the city planning in coming days.
Amit Bhatt, Executive Director, Integrated Transport, WRI, India said “Transportation sector is the worst affected sector in this pandemic. There is a fear of contamination among the masses. It has led to lock down of cities and systems have come to a halt. The new normal is the life after COVID. We have to imagine life with COVID. The current situation is called the recovery phase. We have to re-imagining transport system.”
The COVID crisis is going to impact our cities. Public transport is the lifeline of cities and the govt needs to put in its efforts and investment to revive the sector, he added.
Gaurav Jaisinghania, Principal Consultant, Advisory, PwC, India said “The preferences of people have changed a lot. When things will be normal, it is estimated that around 30 pc less people will prefer to travel. The Govt has to renew the transport system in the country. The local governance has to play a vital role to create new policies for the transport system.”
He also said the air transport will take some time to recover from the pandemic.
There will be larger economic services and SOPs. The govt has to invest to upgrade programmes. There will be a holistic approach to include an informal travel system. We have to look into the larger perspective, he added.
Technology can play an important role in transportations. AI machine learning will redefine the transport system, he added.