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Are our new transport services tempting enough to make people ditch cars and take sustainable options?

D Dhanuraj, Chairman of CPPR, comments on the news Are our new transport services tempting enough to make people ditch cars and take sustainable options?“. The news was published in Times of India on 12th June 2023.

The Vande Bharat Express has generated a lot of excitement in Kerala, since its inauguration in late April, and train seats are booked up for weeks in advance. The Kochi Water Metro, which also started services around the same time, has proved so popular that people are being turned away. Is this the beginning of a trend of sustainable and eco-friendly public transport commuting for the Malayali?

‘Need first & last-mile connectivity’

“While these are good developments, these are not services that are accessible to everyone in Kerala,” says D Dhanuraj, who runs a think tank in Kochi. “And what we are not discussing is the increasing number of private vehicles on the road.”

Dhanuraj points out that no effort is being made towards end-to-end seamless transportation, which is what will build a culture of making people take public transportation, and there is only about 30 per cent public transportation available on Kerala roads.

Bus should be the main mode of transport across Kerala; it can connect you to the railway station or the ferry. We need to increase feeder services, such as mini buses, mini vans, shared autos, because we are lacking in first and last-mile connectivity, and modes of transport are not integrated,” he says.

‘Not enough services’

Akash PR, a young business consultant, makes routine trips between Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, agrees that connectivity issues are a hindrance when it comes to choosing public transport. “The Vande Bharat would be ideal for people like me, because it is a fast service. But I continue to drive, because there are not enough, easily available and convenient services to get me to different places, once I am in the city. Also, it offers only once service that starts at 5.20 am, so there are no different options for people like me, who aren’t working at regular office hours, but have meetings scheduled at any time of day,” he points out.

‘Build a culture of public transport users’

Santhosh Thannikat, coordinator of Cykochi, which has proposed ‘cycle priority roads’ to the administration, says that public transport is the need of the hour and is receiving a push across the world. “We need to impose higher taxes and fees for bringing and parking private vehicles in the city to create a shift in mindset. Already, we are reeling under issues like the fire at the Brahmapuram waste treatment facility, which has pushed us up in the pollution index. It will take time to change this, but we need to grab the opportunity towards creating complementary services, such as safe cycling lanes, to support the current infrastructure like our metro,” he says.

Vande Bharat Express

Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargode in 8 hrs 5 mins
By road 13 hours
Distance: 580 km

The authorities say…

The Water Metro, which currently plies between Vyttila-Kakkanad and High Court-Vypeen, has had 2 lakh ridership in three weeks and commuters have been turned away because of the crowds. People end up queuing for up to two hours and even then, they are often turned away, because there are not enough boats available.

Loknath Behra, managing director of Kochi Metro and Water metro, says this is mostly the holiday crowd and things should ease up in June, once schools reopen. “We don’t allow overloading, because safety is of prime importance. For better connectivity from the metro, we have started feeder AC bus services to the airport. But to improve it requires the participation of state and private bus operations, and the autoricksaw association, who has already offered 50 autos. We are working on building up feeder services,” he says.

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

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