Despite several initiatives aimed at decongesting state roads and highways, increasing traffic density has led to a growing need for the adoption of effective road management systems. Although some progress has been made in this regard, the segment is still at a very nascent stage in India as compared to its global counterparts.
Key initiatives for highways
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) launched Phase I of the the Highway Advisory System (HAS) pilot project on the Delhi-Jaipur highway (240 km) in March 2016. It is a free-to-air information distribution system that collects traffic data, processes and analyses it, and then disseminates updates through All India Radio. This pilot has been a great success and in Phase II, the project is being expanded to 12 highway stretches, spanning 2,400 km of national highways, with traffic updates in multiple languages.
The MoRTH is also implementing a nation-wide electronic toll collection system based on passive radio-frequency identification to remove bottlenecks at toll plazas. As of December 2016, 0.18 million FASTags had been sold. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has also partnered with leading mobile wallets like Paytm and MobiKwik to facilitate e-payments of toll charges. While the fee collection through electronic means was just 5 per cent in October-November 2016, it rose to about 11 per cent by mid-December 2016.
Further, NHAI is planning to deploy advanced traffic management systems (ATMS) across national highways and has decided to create a panel of agencies, based on their prequalification, for setting up, operating and maintaining ATMS on national highways. ATMS includes systems such as video surveillance systems; video incident detection systems; vehicle actuated speed display systems; emergency roadside telephone systems; variable message signs (fixed and portable); meteorological data systems; weigh-in-motion (WIM) systems; automatic traffic counter-cum-classifier; network/ communication infrastructure; mobile radio communication systems; and an ATMS control centre. Currently, the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority has invited requests for qualification-cum-requests for proposal for the selection of a contractor to implement ATMS on the Agra-Lucknow expressway. Meanwhile, NHAI has mandated Indian Highway Management Company Limited to install WIM bridges on public-funded toll plazas. The project is currently under implementation and is likely to be completed soon.
NHAI has also signed an MoU with the National Remote Sensing Centre under the Indian Space Research Organisation and the North East Centre for Technology Application and Research to use spatial technology to monitor and effectively manage national highways.
Key initiatives for city roads
Technology for streamlining traffic flows has also been implemented on city and state roads. Many cities in the country have installed CCTVs for traffic management. The government has further accorded high priority to the deployment of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) for providing more efficient and sustainable modes of passenger and freight transportation. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has set up an inter-ministerial core group on ITS responsible for developing a national framework for its implementation. The MoUD has further initiated the Sustainable Urban Transport Project with the support of the Global Environment Facility, in which five cities – Indore, Mysore, Naya Raipur, Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad – will showcase the pilot ITS infrastructure.
ITS will further be a key focus area under the Smart Cities Mission. Key components of ITS include CCTV surveillance; traffic management systems; vehicle tracking systems; passenger information systems; vehicle health monitoring and diagnosis; traffic analysis/video surveillance inside buses using CCTVs; variable message signboards; smart parking; etc. Currently, 31 cities of the 60 shortlisted cities under the mission have accorded high priority to the implementation of ITS. The use of technology in transport systems will facilitate the use of mobile data to undertake traffic analysis at the origin and destination and of congested routes and provide insights on on-road population over a period of time. This will give the authorities adequate time to project future traffic, and plan and undertake road development ahead of time.
The use of effective traffic management systems to mitigate the problems of congestion will be key going forward, as traffic densities keep increasing. The implementation of systems like ATMS and ITS have become priority areas for the government. These systems will eventually facilitate ease of travel through the early identification of congested routes and enable traffic authorities to manage traffic in a systematic manner. While the initial impetus has been given by the government, the comprehensive implementation of these systems is yet to be undertaken.