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Delay in Introducing Buses is Increasing Vehicular Ownership in India

traffic jam in India

India has been witnessing a continuous Image
increase in population for years. Rapid urbanization has been a major factor in the development of large urban centers.

Migration from less developed areas to developed areas (village to cities) has led to an increased urban population.

Constantly rising population in cities has lead to creation of massive demand for infrastructure and basic amenities like housing, water supply, sewerage, education, health centers, economic activities, etc.

The population explosion has also resulted in dramatically high growth in the number of vehicles on the roads in India.

The government of India launched a 'national urban renewal mission' in the year 2005 with an aim to revitalize urban situations.

The mission provided financial aid to an identified million plus in the cities of India to create infrastructure and establish various services.

Direct monetary assistance from the central government was given to cities based on categorization (% allocation to each city varied based on its category/classification). The total project cost had 3 shares – city administration, state, and central government.

Money to create infrastructure was given under the UIG (Urban Infrastructure & Governance) component of the mission. 24% of the total approved project costs under the mission were directed towards the 'Urban Transport Sector' which includes infrastructure creation projects like Roads & Flyovers, Mass Rapid Transport and other transport systems, and Parking structures.

Share from the National Government in the total funding for urban transport projects was 43%. The adjacent graph shows the number of sanctioned and completed projects as well as associated costs for each under various heads, approved investments and the government of India's share. 

In addition to the infrastructure investments, Image
financial aid under the mission was also given by the central government to cities for procuring urban buses.

To date, more than 25,000 buses have been given to various cities under the bus procurement funding.

The primary goal was to support cities and their public transport undertakings by buying new buses and strengthening the fleet, thereby giving more scope of public transport availability in cities and reducing traffic congestion by reducing trips through personal vehicles to some extent.

The cities did benefit out of the urban bus funding which was made available after 2007.


The above graph of average fleets size per year shows the gradual increase in the fleet size and ridership data for some public transport undertakings of India. It is also a fact that population in Indian cities has been continuously increasing, and so is the vehicle ownership.

The aim behind the urban renewal mission, which was structured around goals of 'national urban transport policy-2006', was specifically to facilitate investments in urban transport sector, to minimize personal vehicle use and ownership.

The below graph of annually registered vehicles under transport (freight carriers) and non-transport (passenger vehicles) category in the last decade shows the continuous increase.

When we consider the growth rate (% increase in annual registration of vehicles between two consecutive years) of the last decade, we can see in the other graph, the sudden drop down in vehicle registrations between 2006-07 and 2008-09 after which there was a steep increase, continuous in nature which rose to cross the maximum limits observed in the year 2004-05. 

A minute observation in the statistics tells us that while there was continuous increase in number of goods vehicles (transport category like trucks, multi axels, light commercial vehicles etc.) till the year 2006-07, it had a sudden drop down till 2008-09 onwards following steep rise untill last year which came almost at same level as it was in the year 2006-07 (10% annual growth rate in that period).

But in the non-transport category, (passenger vehicles like cars, two wheelers, rickshaws, buses etc.)  the drop down started from the year 2004-05 and lasted until 2008-09 following steep increase until last year which came almost at same level as it was in the year 2004-05 (11% annual growth rate in that period). 



From the very first graph of 'projects sanctioned v/s completed' it is understood that as of today, more than 50% of the projects under 'mass rapid transport' are still under construction.

The non-operational mass transport systems can be one of the reasons for increasing vehicular ownership. While the urban renewal mission was only meant for all million plus cities of India (63 cities identified for financial aid), it may be possible that vehicular ownerships rose dramatically in smaller sized cities which did not benefit out of mission in urban transport funding. 

Now, the questions are: can delay in planning, implementation and improving public transport systems in cities of India and procurement of buses affect the annual trend of vehicle registrations? Why is vehicle ownership still increasing inspite of huge investments claimed in 'urban transport sector' under JnNURM by Government of India?

From the graphs it can be definitely concluded that there is considerable gap in the supply. 

While JnNURM boasts about providing more than 25,000 buses worth 635 billion rupees (15,260 buses sanctioned at central assistance of Rs. 190 billion plus additional 10,000 buses sanctioned at 445 billion assistance) for public transport projects in Indian cities and investments of more than 600 billion rupees (infrastructure creation) done towards improving public transport systems in India, it is very clear from these graphs that aid from JnNURM hasn't sufficed to address demand of cities and rising vehicular ownership trend which means future investments may have to be definately more.    

There can be other reasons too for increasing vehicular ownership like:

  • delay in bus procurement
  • lack of proper planning and construction of infrastructure
  • lack in projects implementation
  • under construction projects which are yet to be finished inspite JnNURM mission has already reached its deadlines
  • lack of vision in city and state governments
  • lack of willingness to implement and improve public transport projects
  • lack in the overall planning and management of JnNURM mission to provide grants and monetary aids to cities
  • Huge investments done by international automobile manufacturers in India which attracted vehicle ownership
  • Increased per capita income and GDP
  • Major gaps in vehicle ownership policies, attractive subsidies to automobile sector by government, etc.

It is surprising that, even though the crude oil prices are continuously rising since decade, India being world's 4th largest crude oil consumer and importing 80% of its crude supplies, has not affected the vehicle ownership trend. 

But it is very clear that due to unavailability Image
and shortage of buses, poor image and service qualities and insufficient public transport systems in Indian cities, a national urban renewal mission like JnNURM has not largely impacted to sustain the demand of public transport in Indian cities, as a result of which the graph of vehicle ownership has a steep increase in last 5 years (2008-09 to 2011-12) which was the period when infrastructure construction was at peak and all JnNURM projects were sanctioned for funds and new buses were introduced in the fleets of various STU's. 

The very first graph of 'investments done in urban transport sector' shows that major share was towards construction of roads and flyovers.

It appears that there was a lot of emphasis on completing and constructing road networks in cities by building new roads, widening roads and construction of flyovers and missing links. 

From the above data and analysis, it is evident that still India and its cities, especially national government needs to focus on re-structuring the policies that are favoring vehicle purchase and ownership.

For a developing nation like India, business policies for trade investments in automobile sector needs to be caped seriously now considering the disaster and economic shut downs faced by western countries and examples of going bankrupt laid by Detroit which was once famous as an automobile hub.

Image credits: self data analysis, data/pictures available in public domain on web