Intercity Mobility In India Has To Evolve Through Integrated Multi-Modal Approach

Manish Rathi, CEO & Co-Founder, IntrCity by RailYatriBusiness enthusiast, Manish has come up with innovative solutions which harnesses the power of Mobility, Information, Intelligence, and Interoperability is what excites us at Stelling Technologies

In terms of scale, India has the largest rail-way network in the world spread across 115,000 km, however does it solve the inter-city travel needs of entire country?
• The recent growth in the road infrastructure has resulted in the development of more than 1000 intercity routes, however do travelers trust intercity bus as a reliable and convenient mode?

Despite more than 50 million intercity travelers daily, India's inter-city mobility landscape is not without its challenges for India's growing working class. Flights account for 3-4 per cent of intercity travel and cover only few cities (80 per cent of flight capacity serves only 6 top metros),flights are expensive for lot of travelers, trains are sold-out, and over-night buses are not considered by many as a reliable option to travel.

Data suggests that if you're looking to travel inter-city within next 10 days, you may end up dis-appointed. About 86 per cent of the trains are over-booked within that time horizon, and assuming there is an airport, it may not make financial sense. And you are unsure if you or your family should travel by bus.

In terms of scale, India has the largest railway net-work in the world spread across 115,000 km, with 12,617 passenger trains from 7,349 stations plying 20 million travelers on a daily basis. The road infrastructure in India has been growing at a rapid pace. According to the most recent data, the Indian road network spans about 5.9 million kilometers thereby
making it the second largest road network in the world. This kind of continued growth in the road infrastructure has resulted in the development of more than 1000 intercity routes which have similar travel time as compared to trains. These factors are creating an opportunity for the growth of intercity mobility-which will also create a solution to last minute travel. Both state-run buses and private operators have upgraded quality of busses and are offering facilities like free water, Wi-Fi and sleeper coaches. These buses are now running at increasing frequency and connecting most major routes to illustrate, UPSRTC alone runs about 7400 buses on short as well as long routes. How-ever, this sector is affected by a low average occupancy (65 per cent which makes the business unviable especially during lean seasons.

We need such an integrated system that would allow travelers to make the best of the roadways and railways and provide the shortest and fastest route to reach the destination

This also establishes that trains are still the preferred mode of inter-city transportation for average Indian traveler and a significant segment is still not comfortable to travel by buses, especially over- night travel which is the most frequent use-case. If we look deeper and speak to intercity travelers, the reasons are several e.g., lack of washroom, open unsafe boarding points, unscheduled stops en-route and unreliability of bus arrival, and an inherent lack of trust on the bus operator. This a cliched status for any such industry which is still unorganized and lacks branded organized players with commitment to building long-term value to customers as well as have capability to invest on building services and facilities.

What is the solution to woes of 50 million intercity budget travelers especially if they have to plan on a short notice?
The best way to tackle this dis-parity is to enable the two modes of transportation to communicate with each other. The travelers, when they are planning need to be aware of the availability of an alternative to their preferred mode of travel. When it comes to female travelers, security is still one of the biggest concerns. There is a need in the industry to set a standard for the bus services much like the Indian Railways where you always get a secure boarding point i.e. railway station, washroom on train, on-board railway staff and sleepers for overnight travel. This will leave the choice of mode to the traveler and help them travel conveniently and comfortably, irrespective of the mode of travel they choose.

We need to think tech while solving these complex problems and use IOT based solutions to track buses, add 24x7 surveillance, use AI to track driver fatigue, ensure authorized access through QR based m-tickets.