The government should design and upgrade its national transport policy according to the current demand
Health, education, housing and transport are a few of the basic rights of the citizens that should be provided by governments all over the world. In developed countries, dedicated departments and ministries ensure the provision of these basic rights.
Rail and road transport are two basic instruments of transportation that are considered most economical for a majority of the people. In developed countries rail and road transport are well developed. That is why people from every walk of life use rail and road public transports services. The rail is often the best, hassle-free and most economical transportation system that can be used for both passenger traffic and freight.
Transport is a very important factor in socio-economic development. Citizens access jobs, markets, social interaction, education, health and other services through public transport. It enables people to improve their financial status and reduce poverty and to overcome social exclusion. Transport adds value to goods brought to the markets, links rural areas with cities and global supply chains and drives economic development.
Developed countries like the UK are known for providing reliable transport services to their citizens. In UK, health, education, housing and public transport are provided on the basis of revenue collection. Its public transport facilities are one of best.
All developed countries are providing public transport services at the same level. In the UK, the government has a dedicated department known as the Department for Transport. This department has the mandate to provide policy, guidance and funding to local authorities to help them run and maintain their road networks, improve passenger and freight travel, and develop new major transport schemes and to improve rail and bus services through funding and regulation.
Citizens use these public transport services daily to go to their workplaces, schools and colleges at a very reasonable cost.
In India, a very economical road and rail transport system is providing transport facilities for urban and inter-city transportation. Millions of passengers from the middle and lower middle classes use these services to go to their work and to come back home after work.
Road transport is also available but most people prefer to use rail transport. The relevant government department is providing transportation services at an affordable cost.
Let’s take one more example: in Malaysia, the Ministry of Transport is providing road, rail, aviation and maritime transportation facilities at a very economical cost. Millions of commuters, both male and female, use these facilities. In Kuala Lumpur alone there are three types of railway services for local transportation. Office workers, business community and labourers use these services twice a day.
The availability of public transport facilities is very important for every country. By availing these facilities citizens can easily move and travel to and from their workplaces which can directly or indirectly contribute to economic growth and development.
This is how public transport is contributing to the economic growth of these countries. The British developed the railways for their logistics and transportation needs and provided the same infrastructure to the public for their daily use. Even before independence, we had some urban and inter-city public bus services that were closed later as a result of corruption, incompetence and negligence.
The British had also started a tram service in Karachi. It was the first urban tram system in Asia. We are still using parts of the century old infrastructure but have not expanded it. A few routes have been closed due to political or other reasons.
The availability of public transport facilities is very important for any country. By availing these facilities citizens can easily move and travel to and from their workplaces which can directly or indirectly contribute to economic growth and development.
In our country, the transportation sector is largely run by the private sector. The private transporters always try to charge as much as they can for low quality services.
We have relevant ministries, departments and enforcement authorities but the private sector transporters prove so influential at the provincial and federal level that the government is unable to initiate or provide good and cost-effective transport facilities. The relevant public sector departments are not fully empowered to enforce laws on the private sector for the provision of good transport services.
Pakistan has a population of around 216 million. Nearly 76 million people live in the cities. The population is growing at 2.04 percent per annum. The urban population is expected to reach 50 percent by 2050. Pakistanis travel nearly 400 billion passenger kilometres (pkm) each year. This figure is expected to rise to 1,000 billion pkm by 2030. (The estimates are based on Pakistan Economic Survey, 2017).
We have seen that some urban transport projects have been completed by recent governments. However, a majority of the population lives in villages and small cities which need the same facilities.
The need of the hour is that the government should design and upgrade its national transport policy according to the current demand and importance of this sector. The relevant authorities should ensure proper implementation of the upgraded national transport policy.
If the current government is unable to provide public transport facilities to all urban and rural population, it should at least urge the private sector to provide safe, economical and respectable transport services.
The government should also improve the road infrastructure so that our people can easily move from one place to another. This will also help them contribute to economic growth and to increase national income. In the short term, a balanced public-private partnership can play a vital role in providing the best modern transport to the masses.
The writer is associated with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). The views expressed by him do not necessarily reflect SDPI’s official stance