Budget 2022: Why intercity mobility needs more impetus towards technology

Union Budget 2022-23: Connecting small cities to their nearest economic hubs via rapid highway expansion will usher in faster development

Manish Rathi January 26, 2022 21:59:52 IST
Budget 2022: Why intercity mobility needs more impetus towards technology

Indian Union Budget 2022: Making highways more tech friendly will help in quicker economic development. Firstpost/Ajay Singh

In 2021, India’s intercity mobility segment experienced unprecedented highs along with partial slowdown or lockdown during the last few months. It emerged stronger as the vaccination rate picked up, resulting in consumers regaining comfort travelling for functional reasons like jobs, professional travel, and family travel. During the same period, new highways being opened for inter-city mobility as well as new road infrastructure projects launched are reducing the time taken to travel between two cities and making travel time more predictable.

The sector saw significant adoption of technology with the emergence of SmartBus mobility technology, which powers digital booking, fleet management analytics, and consumer apps. All these factors have resulted in the sector moving from the domination of unorganised players to being led by organised and branded players.

It serves more than 50 million intercity travellers every day. It is quite natural that the intercity mobility landscape is not without its challenges. It is a crucial enabler for the economic growth of tier-2 and tier-3 cities and hence deserves due attention in every budget policy formation by the government.

Budget expectations for the inter-city mobility industry:

Stronger infra plans need to be incorporated into  National Infrastructure Pipeline

To achieve this target, the introduction of more expressway expansion plans, such as the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, is the need of the hour. This, along with better highways, will result in surface mobility being comparable to trains on major routes and even flights on certain shorter routes, thereby resulting in an ease of inter-city mobility within the budgets of Bharat travellers.

We appreciate the plans of the government to add around 1 lakh km of roads to its national highway network to expand it to around 2 lakh km in the next four years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled this mega plan for the sector during the inauguration of the Gati Shakti project.

Adoption of smart mobility technology critical

Technology has been widely adopted in recent years, not only in digital bookings but also in fleet management analytics, real-time tracking, and apps that allow consumers to manage their journey experience. In recent years, we have seen the global automotive industry make a tech transition towards more sustainable and eco-friendlier electric and/or hybrid modes of mobility. In recent times, India has seen improved adoption of EVs and hybrid fuel vehicles in intracity mobility. However, inter-city mobility needs more impetus towards both technology in the form of long-life batteries and green fuel pumps on highways, charging stations.

The traction towards smart mobility technologies in the segment is already visible, and as the model matures, it will witness increased adoption, aided by a superior traveller experience, especially for budget travellers. We acknowledge the positive step taken by GOI in notifying the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, which seeks to enhance national energy security, mitigate adverse environmental impacts from road transport vehicles, and boost domestic manufacturing of EVs.

Inter-city mobility is certainly a highway to growth

The year 2020 will be remembered as a turning point moment in India's transition to smart mobility, and it witnessed continued adoption in 2021. The government must prioritise efforts to accelerate this trend in 2022 and onwards while keeping environmental concerns in mind. The mobility needs of India's smart cities, I believe, will drive the next wave of intercity and intra-city mobility demand.

Implementation of all-India tourist permits for commercial vehicles, if accepted by all state RTOs, will go a long way towards smoothening the process. Promoting multiple boarding points within cities, better and connected SmartBus services, and digital booking infrastructure will also ease last-mile connectivity woes and create solutions for last-minute travel.

In my opinion, connecting small cities to their nearest economic hubs via rapid highway expansion, along with growth in surface transport modes like connected SmartBus, will be the way forward.

At the end of the day, our common goal will lie in putting India on a high economic growth path, especially in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities that will lead to economic growth.

The writer is CEO & Co-founder, IntrCity-smart mobility platform, Views are personal.

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