Public transport agencies will need to rebuild confidence in services: experts

Operators will need to work on physical distancing, put strategies in place, say webinar participants

Mandatory masks, a policy for staggered office timings and the need to build confidence in bus services will be among the key strategies public transport agencies will need to adopt in response to post-lockdown challenges, experts said at a panel discussion on Thursday.

The discussion was organised by WRI India as part of their ‘Bus Karo’ webinar on Thursday. Participants said a new normal will need to emerge once the lockdown is lifted. “There might be an issue of declining ridership, and broadly, there is going to be a fiscal shock that public transport agencies will face after COVID-19,” said Jasmine Shah, vice chairman of the Dialogue and Development Commission of the Delhi government.

Mr. Shah said State governments’ ability to absorb the shock through viability gap funding will also need to be assessed.

Dr. K. Ramamurthy, a representative from the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, said a policy for staggered timings for offices was required now. “Distancing norms will continue for some time and buses will run at 50%. It’s not possible to increase the capacity by 50% in such a short time to cater to peak hour rush,” he said.

Rupa Nandy, head, International Association of Public Transport, said several countries in Europe that are lifting the lockdown are slowly seeing a return of ridership and that a similar trend would be seen in India as well. Nowhere in the world had there been a ban on air conditioned buses, but standard operating procedures with regard to cleaning of ducts had been revised, she said.

The other operational issue discussed was on how public transport organisations would try and ensure physical distancing. G. Yugandhar, a representative from the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation, said in Hyderabad, they were planning to initially run buses on arterial roads. “We are also planning to install doors in the back entrance, because very often people climb in between two stops. Moreover, we plan to put in place a ground booking system so that conductors are not on board,” he said.

Dario Hidalgo, senior mobility researcher with WRI, said all governments needed to address the issue of financing and that the alternative to public transport would only increase congestion, pollution and inequality.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 8:12:59 AM |

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