Saturday, 9 April 2011

Delhi congestion charge?

Delhi loses about 420 million work hours a month due to congestion.  As the Indian economy grows it faces ever increasing gridlock.  11.2 million vehicles exist in the "National Capital Region" (NCR) which is metropolitan Delhi and neighbouring states.   Delhi has built many large highways including tolled roads, as well as an expanding metro network and well established bus system.   However, discussion about congestion charging has been happening for some years.  It now appears the government is looking seriously at the idea following a report that a "Delhi High Court appointed Special Task Force (STF), headed by former Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta, has reportedly recommended that it be implemented". 

According to Indian website Mid-Day, two concepts are being floated.
One would be a central Delhi congestion charge, being a cordon/area charge similar to London or Stockholm.  Another would be for vehicles not registered in Delhi (which would include those from other states in the NCR) to be subject to a charge, effectively regulating demand for those travelling towards the city (in the hope that some may timeshift and others use the rail system).    Clearly the latter concept could potentially have the greatest impact. 

Many vehicles use the city as a transit point but "once the western periphery expressway also known as Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway (KMP) is ready, those vehicles which just use the city as transit point will not enter at all. So, those who enter the city for day-to-day work will be the only ones to be taxed".  

Hopefully if Delhi proceeds it uses an intelligent approach, aligned to Singapore more than London, but it will need to think of more options that just cordons.  It needs flexibility and to target congestion when and where it occurs, not adopt blunt tools.

Mid Day makes a few other useful points about Delhi traffic:
* Even as the national (India wide) average figure is eight private cars per 1,000 population, in Delhi the number is 85.
* During the past decade the city has added 3,500 km of road length, but the number of vehicles has increased from 3.37 million in 2000-01 to 6.8 million in 2010-11.
* A total of 1087 vehicles are registered every day In Delhi, of which 1021 are personal vehicles. Nearly 365,000 vehicles are registered annually.
* Around 45 million sq m of land is needed for parking of already registered vehicles in the Capital
* Traffic congestion in Delhi causes an overall loss of Rs 8,400,000,000 per month (US$190 million).

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