On the Move (2018 | Issue 1)

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Public Transportation in India

India’s rapid population growth and economic upswing present both a challenge and an opportunity. The metro trains are congested, the roads are clogged with cars and the bus service is inadequate. Something needs to be done urgently to enable an easier commute. What’s Up, Germany? looks at the steps the Indian government is taking to encourage public transport.

Our cities are groaning under the pressure of too many cars and way too many people. Traffic jams cost the country dearly: increased pollution, economic loss, frustration and road rage. We had around 4.5 million vehicles registered in 1980 and the figure skyrocketed to nearly 210 million vehicles in 2015. Delhi alone had ten million vehicles in 2016! It’s no surprise that some people have to spend two hours commuting to work.

Go EVs!

As the number of cars increases, we build more roads and flyovers. But this is a short-term solution. We need a long-term vision, a plan that enables us to shift to a new mobility system that is environment-friendly, shared and connected. To this end, a number of initiatives have been introduced, such as the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) and FAME-India (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles). FAME-India, a part of NEMMP, has been set up to promote a robust electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem. Its focus is technology development, demand creation, pilot projects and charging infrastructure. Switching to EVs would help to reduce air pollution, save foreign exchange and prevent dependence on imported petroleum products.

EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Limited), set up by the Ministry of Power to facilitate implementation of energy-efficient projects, plans to buy 10,000 electric vehicles from Tata Motors. These EVs will replace diesel- and petrol-powered cars currently used by the government. Apart from car manufacturers, startups and app-based transportation companies are also working on making EVs like electric cars, buses, taxis, bikes and scooters more common and practical.

NITI Aayog

Recognising that a wide adoption of EVs hinges on charging infrastructure, NITI Aayog, the government’s main policy think tank, has proposed a pilot scheme to provide charging facilities in Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida. This pilot will serve as an example for the rest of India.


Another critical area is the rail sector. On 31st March 2017, the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal committed that the entire rail network will be electrified by 2020–21. Indian Railways, which happens to be the fourth-largest railway system in the world, is actively looking to upgrade infrastructure, improve operational efficiency, create new corridors and increase the speed of trains.

The metro rail is an efficient and climate-neutral transport solution. In August 2017, the Indian government passed the Metro Rail Policy, which called for expanding the metro across India in a responsible manner.


Inland water transport is crucial for trade, and it’s cheaper and less polluting. Though goods travel largely by rail and road in India, the government is looking to provide another viable option: the country’s first modern inland waterway. It will revive the Ganga watercourse—also known as National Waterway 1—to ferry cargo. The World Bank is assisting the waterway’s development with a loan of $375 million. The goal is to link it to rail and road, providing a seamless network of different transport modes.

Image: Ryan Searle (via Unsplash)

Next Big Ideas

Startups, with their disruptive ideas and technology, are looking to ease commuting pain. BOSCH India’s Indo-German bootcamp, held in March 2017, brought together five Indian and five German entrepreneurs who explored ways of improving transport and mobility. At the end, two winners were declared: Adaptive City Mobility (ACM) was awarded the best German startup and PParkE won from the Indian side. ACM offers Indian cities emission-free mobility: a small electric vehicle with a replaceable battery that can be changed in five minutes flat after 120–160km. PParkE helps you find a convenient parking spot and let’s you reserve it in advance.

“As India aspires to global leadership on climate action, the time is right to develop sustainable mobility solutions for the future.”
— Anand Mahindra, executive chairman, Mahindra Group