New Delhi, India (Urban Transport News): The UITP and the World Bank has recently released the study report on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on bus operations in India.
Keeping in mind that the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the global public transport sector, UITP and the World Bank have surveyed bus operators across India to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on operations?
The Government of India has imposed a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak with public transport services limited to essential services only with effect from March 25, 2020.
The new statistics brief 'Impact of COVID-19 on Indian Bus Operators' provides an overview of the specific challenges faced by the transport sector and practical solutions needed to address them. It has been observed that the ban on transport operations during lockdown has caused significant financial losses to operators and it is predicted that when services resume, demand may not return to pre-lockdown levels due to the norms of physical distancing and passengers’ perceived risk of traveling.
As metro rail systems have also faced closure in India during the lockdown, the bus sector came to the rescue for the travel of essentials service workers. So where do buses stand now and going forward?
During the survey, the joint team of UITP and World Bank has collected responses from 27 bus operators covering government, private, urban, and inter-city operations. The operators covered include 14 State Transport Undertakings (STUs), two Government-supported urban bus contracting authorities and 11 private operators. Out of 70 percent of these operators are involved in urban buses, 56 percent in intercity bus service provision and 52 percent in rural buses.
The survey captured the key challenges which operators are likely to face during the resumption of services. These challenges were segregated into four key areas: operational and service delivery, financial management, crew management related and fleet management related. So what were some of the stand-out responses?
The survey captured the key challenges which operators are likely to face during the resumption of services. These challenges were segregated into four key areas: operational and service delivery, financial management, crew management related and fleet management related. Rupa Nandy, Head of UITP India, said:
The bus sector is an important part of the public transport landscape in India and the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic means we must observe what has happened, and will happen. The objective of the survey was to derive insights that can inform ministries, state Governments and public transport agencies in developing a post-COVID response strategy that best addresses their needs.
Buses offer affordable access to livelihoods and services for the vast number of low and middle-income families across India. At the same time, buses also offer the most efficient means of mobility in regard to space, energy and emissions in highly dense Indian cities.
However, Covid-19 induced lockdown and additional measures such as physical distancing and frequent cleaning have put an additional financial burden on the bus operators which risks the long-term sustainability of the sector. It is crucial to ensure the continuity of bus services as the lockdown comes to an end and the economic activities gradually resume: prioritizing public transport in all Covid-19 response strategies is vital.