1 June 2015

[FOCUS] Urban transport policy in India: in the process of “Modi-fication” ?

challenge of urban growth

The recent rapid population growth (2,45% per year) has entirely dislocated the organization of Indian cities. The larger cities have become highly attractive for the rural population. The country already has five 8million+ cities (according to the 2011 census) with a density of 15 000 to 25 000 inhabitants per sq.km. Considering that 70% of the population still live in the countryside, it is crucial to anticipate the urban growth in order to make the cities sustainable, especially in terms of urban mobility.

Even though car use is still restricted to the better off (in India, 13 cars/ 1000 inhabitants), motorized transport is growing at 9 % per year (Sharma, Jain, Singh, 2011). The high population density, coupled with the increasing number of cars has strongly affected air quality in the Indian cities, causing severe respiratory illnesses. India is home to the 13th most polluted cities in the world, out of 20.

In those large metropolis, private vehicles and two-wheelers are not predominant. Public transport usually represents 30 to 55% of the modal share, followed by walking (20-30%). However, mobility conditions are harsh for the commuters: jam-packed buses, traffic congestion, lack of footpaths…

Hence, it is imperative for the cities to anticipate the upcoming population growth and to give their population suitable mobility solutions. These solutions must meet the economic growth challenges, while ensuring social equity and a decent quality of life.

A national dynamic towards the development of urban transport policies

The interest for urban transport is quite recent in India. In 2006, an important step has been taken by the central government to regulate urban sprawl. The National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) along with the JnNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission), both led by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), have been a great opportunity for the cities to develop extensive mass transit projects (Metro and BRT).

Moreover, many cities (Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai…) have set up Unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities (UMTA) in order to gather the existing transport authorities under a same organization, and hence create an integrated transport network. At the same time, many cities develop Comprehensive Mobility Plans (CMP) in order to define efficient and coordinated goals in terms of mobility.

Medium-size cities have also started developing mass transit infrastructures (Bhubaneshwar, Raipur, Rajkot, Hubli-Dharwad, Vijayawada) to anticipate the expected urban growth the larger cities are currently facing. The city of Kochi (Kerala) is currently building a metro system and is in the process of setting up an UMTA and a CMP.

Indian cities waiting for the government to launch its “smart-city” scheme

The president Narendra Modi has recently launched a programme to develop 100 “smart-cities”, as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernising the existing mid-sized cities. This initiative starts from the observation that the urban population (30% of the total population) contributes over 60% of India’s GDP. And this figure is expected to reach 75% in the next 15 years. India is at a point of transition and that is the right time to plan its urban development accordingly. Urban transport will constitute a key aspect in that development, making it sustainable.

Many Indian cities are waiting for the “smart-city” scheme, expected to be launched in June 2015. Cities will have 6 months to prepare their vision document for the city, following the guidelines edicted by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). Ten cities will then be selected through a “city challenge” for 2016 and will receive 14 M€ a year, for 5 years. This scheme is an extraordinary opportunity for Indian cities to realize their dreams in terms of urban development and improvement of urban mobility in the next 5 years. However, the main challenge for this development is to take into account energy efficiency and sustainability. The answer partly relies in Narendra Modi’s first smart-city “Dholera”, built from scratch 100 km away from the capital city of Gujarat, Ahmedabad.


This report gathers all the recent challenges regarding urban transport in indian cities, the main dynamics and the upcomig trends:


SPOTLIGHT ON EIGHT INDIAN CITIES: “monographs” to better understand the challenges faced by the cities in terms of urban transport

In order to supplement the Overview and to give a more accurate vision of the indian context, and of the differences existing between cities, they went deeper into the urban transport context of eight indien cities. These monographs will be available shortly:

  • Ahmedabad, the city of BRT
  • Bangalore, a will to promote non-motorized transport
  • Delhi, a remarkable metro system
  • Hyderabad, one city, two states
  • Kochi, a city between land and sea
  • Lucknow, an urgent need for public transport
  • Mumbai, a mobility restrained by its territory
  • Pune / Pimpri-Chinchwad, a long and tedious town-twinning

These studies have been undertaken by Mathieu MARTIN and Marion HOYEZ, now graduates from ISUR Master Degree (Urban services networks in developing countries) – Sciences Po Rennes (France)- during their internship at the Institute of Urban Transport (IUT) of Delhi, in partnership with CODATU. During those six months, they got involved in two studies: the first one on “Improving and Upgrading IPT vehicles and services”, the second one on creating a toolkit for intermodal integration. They also wrote an overview on the Urban Transport situation in India in 2014. This report was enriched throughout their internship, thanks to their meetings and researches on the spot.

November 2017: The french journal “Ville, Rail & Transports” publishes an article on the explosion of metro systems in India – Download here [in french]