“I recently visited a major city that has no public transport system,” says Union Minister for Urban Development Jaipal Reddy. “They have received funding for buses under JNNURM [Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission], but those buses are just lying idle, because no one knows how to put them to use.”

While Mr. Reddy did not name the city, sources in the Ministry say there are JNNURM public transport projects in both Bihar and Punjab which have faced such hurdles.

These are exactly the kind of hurdles that the Ministry hopes to overcome through its Rs. 1,400 crore Sustainable Urban Transport Project, launched earlier this week with assistance from the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

While one component of the scheme includes demonstration projects – bus rapid transit systems, intelligent traffic management, encouragement for pedestrians and cyclists -- in five mid-size cities, another key component focuses on training the people who will actually implement such projects.

Over 1,000 urban transport professionals at the national, state and local levels will receive such training. UNDP will assist in the creation of ten manuals, standards and tool kits as well as the preparation of operational and business plans for Unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities and Urban Transport Funds.

“When we launched JNNURM, we did not give enough importance to capacity building,” said Mr. Reddy. “Now we have realised that it must go hand in hand.”

The demonstration projects to create infrastructure encouraging green urban transport will be implemented in Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Indore, Naya Raipur and Mysore. Other cities can apply for a World Bank loan to join the scheme later.

On a different note, Mr. Reddy gave an assurance that all Commonwealth Games projects in Delhi would be completed in the next three weeks. “As the chairman of the Group of Ministers on the Commonwealth Games, and I have full confidence that all projects related to the Games will be finished by the end of June,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the launch event.