The total investment required in urban transport works out to roughly about Rs.1 lakh crore per year for the next 20 years. It is important to find appropriate ways and means to be able to generate this kind of investment.
The next phase of India´s growth is predominantly dependent on planned urbanisation and the key to planned urbanisation is robust and sustainable urban transportation systems coupled with transit oriented development. Development of rural ecosystem is also one of the critical outcomes of urbanisation, as the people from rural areas must move to urban areas so that the average land holding size increases and the rural productivity can improve. However, lack of proper mobility solutions can dampen economic development and also results in low productivity. Two recent independent study reports, one each by McKinsey Global Institute and the High Powered Expert Committee (HPEC) commissioned by Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, project that the total investment required in urban transport will be more than 50 per cent of the total investment required for urban development in next 20 years, which also includes housing. The rough figure of investment works out to roughly about Rs.1 lakh crore per year for next 20 years for urban transport.
Though this figure of investment might seem quite large, it is important to find appropriate ways and means to be able to generate this kind of investment. It is equally important to develop the capacities for effectively utilising the investment so as to not only catch up with the infrastructure backlog but also to plan for the future, lest our cities become totally gridlocked. Delhi Metro has changed the life of common people in Delhi and the National Capital Region with its 190 km of operational network. There is now a spurt in demand for Metro rail projects in the country from various cities. A Metro Rail System can be proposed in all corridors where the Peak Hour Peak Direction Traffic demand goes more than 15,000 as per 2021 population projection for a lead travel of more than 5 km. It has also been decided that the Government of India would support preparation of Detailed Project Reports for Metro Rail systems for all the cities with 2 million plus population. This would mean that in addition to the present eight cities that is, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Kochi, where the Metro Rail Projects are under implementation, about 8-10 more cities should also become eligible to start Metro Rail Projects in the 12th Five-Year Plan and another 10 cities soon thereafter. The cities that urgently require a Metro Rail System are Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Coimbatore, Greater Chandigarh, Guwahati, Indore, Kanpur, Lucknow, Madurai, Nagpur, Patna, Pune, Surat and Varanasi. Many other cities, with population of 10 to 20 lakh, deserve other Light Rail Transit systems such as monorail or tramways. However, it would depend upon the State government taking the lead as well as availability of resources. In addition, there is also a need for providing Regional Rapid Transit System akin to Metro Rail in urban agglomerations with population greater than 4 million. Mumbai has already commissioned the first monorail system and cities like Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode have already put in place the necessary structure for developing monorail systems to meet the growing demand for quality public transit systems.
In order to facilitate this massive expansion of Metro Rail projects in the country, the stakeholders including the government and private sector have to take some very crucial steps. Special courses on urban transport and planning with specialisation in Metro technology are also proposed to be taken up in one or two premier institutions like the IITs in the country so as to generate adequate manpower for all these projects. Institute of Metro and Rail Technology (IMRT), is already putting in place a robust mechanism for delivering highly specialised training in various Rail and Metro systems & technologies. IMRT has already offered several programmes to the industry in specialised areas like Reliability Engineering (RAM), Safety, Drives & Inverters, etc. The institute has launched a One Year Post Graduate Programme in Metro & Rail Technology (PGPMRT). The programme aims to groom the next generation of professional engineers and managers who can take up challenging roles in the growing metro & rail industry.
It is high time that the policymakers especially in the Urban Development sector, start focusing on the need to develop a robust ecosystem for building a strong human resource base for the rail industry. This is required to keep up with the growing demand for professionals in the Planning, Designing, Procurement, Manufacturing, Testing & Commissioning of Civil & Track, Signalling, Train Control, Telecommunication, Traction & Power Supply, Rolling Stock and Operations systems. Apart from these other areas like Transit Oriented Development, Funding & Financing, Marketing, etc., also require professionals with the required skills and knowledge. It may also be recalled that the Finance Minister in his Budget Speech in Parliament on 10th July 2014 had announced the intention of the Government of India to launch a national multi-skill programme called Skill India for skilling the youth with an emphasis on employability and entrepreneurial skills. The Minister for Railways, Sadananda Gowda, in his Budget Speech, also has announced his keenness to undertake large scale programmes for skill development of both technical and non-technical staff, both through the government´s own systems as well as through tie-ups with non-government institutions. A new Ministry of Skill Development is also being set up at the Centre and this is indicative of the seriousness of the subject at the governmental level. It is a much-needed positive step towards achieving the objective of grooming a skilled workforce through a focussed approach. However, it is important to note here that merely developing a mechanism for skill development without actually understanding the requirements could lead to creation of talent which is not in demand.
This task however cannot be completed just by strong policy towards skill development alone. All stakeholders including government, Metro corporations, corporates in rail & Metro sectors, training service providers and academia have to come together to make a unified body to concentrate efforts in achieving the objective of grooming highly-skilled rail professionals. One of the ways of achieving this is to put in place a Sector Skill Council for the rail industry. The council can determine the essential skill-sets required at each level i.e., at the engineering and managerial levels. This can help in coordination between the stakeholders to match requirements to availability of talent. This can further help in gap analysis and designing programmes to address the shortage of talent. IMRT has already taken the first steps towards this. The institute is already putting in place a strong mechanism for bridging the industry-academia gap especially in the transportation sector. IMRT is also actively involved in getting accreditation bodies to put in place a robust assessment, evaluation and certification system.