Plan­ning Com­mis­sion urges for in­te­grated trans­port sys­tem

The 6th an­nual Au­to­mo­tive Lo­gis­tics In­dia con­fer­ence, re­cently held in Pune, was char­ac­terised by a new level of open­ness and de­bate among the 300 del­e­gates, and a de­sire to move on from recitals of fa­mil­iar prob­lems to en­gag­ing to­gether to solve them.

Cargo Talk - - International & Exhibition -

Amid re­cent un­cer­tainty about eco­nomic growth there re­mains con­fi­dence that, de­spite not be­ing able to ac­cu­rately forecast it, In­dia is still on its way to 5 mil­lion an­nual car sales within a hand­ful of years. That com­pares with an ex­pected 2.6 mil­lion for 2012, and will move the coun­try up to be­ing the world’s third big­gest car mar­ket, af­ter China and the USA.

Over­all, In­dia is “near­ing an in­flec­tion point” at which its eco­nomic growth will in­crease rapidly, says con­sul­tancy Roland Berger. Hav­ing started its eco­nomic lib­er­al­i­sa­tion about 15 years af­ter China, the next 15 years will see “dra­matic” re­duc­tions in poverty and put In­dia on course to be the world’s third largest econ­omy in terms of pur­chas­ing power by 2020.

The con­fer­ence fea­tured par­tic­i­pa­tion from a high level of na­tional government, with a key­note ad­dress by Vinita Ku­mar, se­nior ad­vi­sor for trans­port at the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. Ku­mar said that trans­port- re­lated is­sues are a fo­cus of In­dia’s 12th Five Year Plan, which is a year un­der­way. She noted its in­ten­tion of rais­ing the share of GDP in­vested in trans­port from 7 per cent to 10 per cent, which she char­ac­terised as a “five lakh crore pro­gramme” (50 tril­lion ru­pees or $1 tril­lion).

The con­fer­ence this year also fea­tured sev­eral new voices and themes, and heard that pri­vate in­vest­ment in rail is back on the agenda. Weak­nesses in pol­icy that have char­ac­terised de­bate at the pre­vi­ous five Au­to­mo­tive Lo­gis­tics con­fer­ences were ac­knowl­edged by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

Ku­mar re­viewed many well­doc­u­mented chal­lenges, in­clud­ing an over-re­liance on a road net­work which is it­self un­der-devel­oped, bot­tle­necks and ca­pac­ity con­straints at ports, a gen­eral lack of mul­ti­modal trans­port in­clud­ing un­der-use of rail, and maze of bu­reau­cracy that makes mov­ing goods cum­ber­some and costly.

The lat­est Five Year Plan in­cludes a range of up­grades to rail in­fra­struc­ture and rolling stock, as well as road­works and some port de­vel­op­ments. The share of the in­vest­ment an­tic­i­pated from the pri­vate sec­tor is ex­pected to grow sub­stan­tially from its cur­rent lev­els of around 25 per cent, she said. In gen­eral, the in­ten­tion is to have more ‘op­ti­mally dis­trib­uted’ trans­port with more in­ter­modal and move away from the present ex­ces­sive re­liance on road.

The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion es­ti­mates that for the fi­nan­cial year 2012-13 In­dia will have moved 1,025m tonne by rail, and nearly twice as much as that by road. Port cargo will have reached 1,032m tonne, though coastal ship­ping will have moved only 125m tonne. In to­tal, rail trans­port will have ac­counted for around 30 per cent of freight move­ment (although it is much lower for au­to­mo­tive), with just a few per­cent­age by water and air. Un­for­tu­nately the bias to road trans­port will get worse in the near fu­ture.

Ku­mar also ac­knowl­edged “the near-ab­sence of an in­te­grated reg­u­la­tory regime for over­see­ing tar­iff-set­ting, the cost of op­er­a­tions, anti-com­pet­i­tive prac­tices, etc.” How­ever, her de­scrip­tion to del­e­gates of the con­tent of the 12th na­tional plan did not in­clude any ref­er­ence to tack­ling th­ese is­sues.

Pan­elists in­ter­act­ing with the au­di­ence at Au­to­mo­tive Lo­gis­tics In­dia Con­fer­ence in Pune

Vinita Ku­mar, se­nior ad­vi­sor for trans­port, Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ad­dress­ing the con­fer­ence

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