Current Transport Scenario in India
India's transport sector is a rapidly growing sector and contributes 6.4 % to the GDP of the country. The sector is largely oil dependent and accounts for 13 % of the country's energy-related CO2 emissions (MoEF 2010). Crude oil imports have been increasing steadily and making India the third largest oil importer globally. Nearly 80 % of India's current crude oil consumption comes from imports raising challenges of national energy security.
Intercity transport is mainly met by road (88 %), rail (11 %), and a limited share of air transport. Indian railways are among the largest rail networks globally and transport 23 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of freight daily (GoI 2015). Despite its extensive network, railways are faced with issues of capacity constraints and poor infrastructure. The share of rail has dropped from over 40 % in 1970 to 11 % in 2010 due to high competition from road transport. Similarly, rail dominated freight transport in India; however, this share is on the decline in recent years.
In urban areas, road transport dominates. Present status of urban transport is characterized by increasing trip distances, increasing share of private motorized transport, and declining share of public and non-motorized transport. These trends are leading to increasing problems of poor air quality, road safety, noise, and congestion.
Transport Scenarios for India
India is witnessing a unique period of population growth, economic growth, and urbanization. A third of India's population lives in urban areas. Urban population is expected to grow in the future, and by 2050, half of India's population is projected to reside in cities (UN 2014). India's GDP is also expected to grow at a healthy rate with per capita incomes reaching USD 15,842 (2010 prices) in 2050. Population, income, and urbanization are expected to drive vehicle ownership, travel demand, and freight transport demand.
Intercity travel demand will increase by 4.3 times between 2010 and 2050. In business-as-usual (BAU), this demand will be met by road-based transport and a growing share of air transport resulting in a higher energy demand resulting in challenges of national energy security and greenhouse gas emissions. In cities, increasing travel demand, reliance on private motorized modes, and declining share of public transport and non-motorized modes will increase energy demand and GHG emissions from cities (Dhar et al. 2013).
Under a BAU scenario, oil will dominate as the energy source, despite a minor diversification into natural gas, electricity, and biofuels. Increasing electrification of intercity rail, urban rail, and freight transport will increase electricity demand from transport. Transport emissions in the BAU are expected to reach around 1 billion tCO2 in 2050—an increase of 5.5 times increase from 2010 levels (Dhar and Shukla 2014). It is increasingly becoming clear that the BAU will not deliver the desired level of GHG mitigation. For policy makers in the Indian transport sector, this growth poses multiple challenges. Besides the impact on climate change, this raises other issues on how to offer wider mobility access at affordable rates, limit the health impacts of air pollution, and reduce traffic congestion and dependence on fossil fuels.