Home » The basic problem among cities is in understanding problems and deciding priorities

The basic problem among cities is in understanding problems and deciding priorities

The basic problem among cities is in understanding problems and deciding priorities

Urban transport solutions need urban bodies to have negotiating expertise, but most of our cities—especially non-metros—do not have PPP expertise. Among other examples around the country, Maharashtra’s MUINFRA and MMRDA are taking the initiative in training their ULBs. In turn, MMRDA has tied up with US Department of Transportation in transit systems training. Ashwini Bhide, Joint Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA, and Joint Managing Director, MUINFRA, spoke to Shashidhar Nanjundaiah.

Give us some details of the training association between MMRDA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) of the United States.
The training arrangement is between Government of Maharashtra and the US Department of Transportation (DoT), and then subsequently with FTA. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s (MMRDA) Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad was a part of that delegation. FTA conducts research that they can share, expert faculty that they can make available, and a lot of literature that will be relevant to us. They can set up a very good training institute that will cater to not only India’s requirements but also South Asia’s requirements in future. From June this year, we will be in a position to run full fledged courses only in transport implementation. We will also use that infrastructure for training of urban local bodies in other sectors. But our primary focus will be on transit training.

What is the key takeaway in transit infrastructure training for Mumbai?
Primarily, security systems, integrated ticketing systems, and elements of O&M are most relevant. We are mainly looking forward for FTA’s input in security and safety aspects and their integrated ticketing and integrated fare systems, which are completely missing at the moment.

MUINFRA is de facto the central agency for PPP as well as for training in PPP in urban infrastructure…
Yes. We are trying to be, because Maharashtra Urban Infrastructure Development Fund Company’s (MUINFRA) Managing Director Manu Kumar Srivastava is also the state PPP co-coordinator. So we are trying to take up the role which MMRDA plays as far as urban development finance is concerned in MMR. What MMRDA is doing is since 1975 is that it has been providing development finance to other local bodies within MMR and we do lot of their work, some reform policies are also pressed hard and ascertain their repayment capacity, we provide finance for their internal structure and there is absolutely no default. All the urban local bodies within MMR are benefited by this. But that kind of facility was never there for the rest of the UMPs. So here, initially we started with a small fund which we were using only for project development, but by the time the company took off we also set up a project finance fund. Since the State Government has also launched the “Nagaroththan Abhiyaan”, MUINFRA funds those projects at lesser interest rate than market rates, and ensures a proper interception mechanism.

In addition to that we have taken a massive training programme for the urban local bodies with the help of MMRDA, MUINFRA and Yashada—our apex training body. We have prepared proper modules for them where they are trained for PPP projects. We have prepared an annual calendar and all the ULBs and their provident people including the Chief Officer and the local body staff are getting trained. About half of them have been finished and the remaining are undergoing training.

What does the training actually entail?
Training entails PPP principles, how PPP projects are conceived and how to do the financial analysis. Also how you can also consider many projects, though right now they are not thinking in those terms, and then the normal financial issues, reforms, administrative issues, etc.

Other than the training programme itself, we have created the enabling infrastructure for these ULBs to be able to take up projects on PPP. We have prepared toolkits for PPP in water and transport, and are in the process of preparing them for other sectors in infrastructure.

Which cities in Maharashtra have attempted PPP in urban transport?
Aurangabad and Nagpur made a good attempt in bus transport, but it was a slightly crude form of PPP. It needs further refinement because those attempts were made without a full awareness of PPP. These attempts have now been documented and the tool kit is prepared on that basis, with the help of Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In addition, we have created panels in technical considerations for preparation of CDP and DPRs for each city. This way, the ULBs do not need to issue tenders again. Instead, they can rely on the templates and the empanelled list we have provided while obtaining their quotes.

From that point of view, in these few years we will witness a drastic change and that is why I believe that urban infrastructure is going to take centre stage because right now there is a huge gap existing in the urban infrastructure space.

What are the main points you have discovered as the main training needs for your cities?
The basic problem is in understanding problems and deciding priorities. As far as transport infrastructure is concerned first the cities need to have their mobility plans ready: the current traffic demand, future traffic demand, future projections. Suddenly everybody is saying we also want a mono rail or BRTS. It won’t happen that way and then energies are wasted. Cities need to understand what is the best for them. So probably the CDPs and the mobility plans for the major cities should be done in a phased manner. Once that is done then they can identify the solutions for the current traffic problem as well as the projected traffic for the next few years and check which option is cost-effective.

What are some of the projections for Mumbai?
A comprehensive transport study that includes the demographic structure took three “horizon years”—2016, 2021 and 2031. The study had projected some 16 scenarios on the basis of which the projections have been made.

So you will actually convert proposed bus lanes into monorail space?
Either we will have Elevated Bus Lanes (EBLs) or monorail because they will be serving the same purpose. In addition to that the city envisages further expansion of the suburban rail network. For example, the Virar-Diva-Panvel stretch is only open to freight and long distance trains and it is also not being fully utilised to potential.

Do you believe the future plans will take care of the shortfalls between infrastructure and demand?
We have achieved a reduction of shortfall by 30 per cent, but it is still not adequate. We are planning mega cities in greenfield areas in MMR. Also, we are planning 10-11 growth centres within the area. We have open land and it will be used for multiple purposes. There will be Central Business Districts (CBDs) with connections to the city.

East-west connectivity in Mumbai is missing both in rail and road infrastructure, because you either have to build an overbridge or an underpass. In both cases, work becomes difficult and makes establishing such connectivity inconvenient. The Metro rail network will be a crisscross network of nine corridors and will be integrated with the existing suburban rail systems. It will serve as a transport grid connecting all important points. Our objective is to reach any place within an hour.

The horizon years study for Mumbai

• Investment of about $60 billion by 2031 in various projects
• 60-70 per cent expenditure will be on transport infrastructure
• 24 corridors in the entire metropolitan region of metro.
• 450 km of metro rail
• 150 km would be in greater Mumbai in nine corridors
• 15 new metro corridors in the Mumbai metro region including Navi Mumbai up to Khopoli, Vasai, Virar and Bhiwandi
• Exclusive bus lanes to be converted into monorail infrastructure

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