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Thursday, 01 Oct 2020
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Multimodal Transportation - aiming towards last mile connectivity

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organised a digital conference on ‘Multimodal Transportation - aiming towards last mile connectivity’ on 29 September 2020. The conference highlighted measures required to create a vibrant and efficient multimodal system covering roads, rail, sea, inland waterways, air and warehousing facilities.  
The conference focused on key infrastructure challenges that inhibit growth of transportation and the logistics sector. It also highlighted key initiatives taken by the government to promote multimodal transportation in the country and opportunities where the industry can collaborate. 
The conference saw participation of  Gen V K Singh, Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, government of India; Rampraveen Swaminathan, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer Mahindra Logistics; Sandeep Mehta, President, Adani Ports and SEZ; Shantanu Bhadkamkar, President, the Association for Multimodal Transport Operators of India; Amita Prasad, Chairman, IWAI; Sanjay Sethi, Chairman, JNPT; Amita Prasad, Chairman, IWAI; R Karikal Valaven, Special Chief Secretary, Industries & Commerce, government of Andhra Pradesh; among others. 
Gen V K Singh, Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, noted that transportation plays a very important role in overall economic growth of the country and road infrastructure makes a difference how economy grows. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the government is looking at the sector to find ways and means to further spur the growth. 
The government intends to take the road building capacity from 32 km to 60 km. This will provide thrust not only to the development of the sector, but also the spin-off that will come to the economy. The ministry is putting a lot of emphasis to bring down the cost of construction of roads and bring in better technology. 
One of the mega projects taken up by the government is Delhi-Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway which cuts down on time and cost. Another mega project coming up is a new greenfield expressway which will go from Delhi to Dehradun. This will reduce driving time from six hours to almost three-and-a-half hours to three hours. As a part of Bharatmala Pariyojana, many projects are being developed which will create better transportation, ensure manufacturing hubs gets easy, shortest route to take their goods for exports.
Moreover, the Railways is developing a new dedicated freight corridor which will ensure goods trains move faster and carry large amount of goods. The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project has also now been expedited. The Railways is also looking at PPP model which will provide a boost to the overall sector.
Sandeep Mehta, President, Adani Ports and SEZ, highlighted the new Transportation Act which will help to achieve the vision of 2030 of the Ministry of Shipping, Department of Logistics. He drew attention to the current landscapes of manufacturing hubs located in deep hinterland and far away from ports; due to this port-based industries are yet to develop. The growing containerisation and expansion in ecommerce industry requires multimodal transportation. There has been a lot of private player participation in container operations, resulting in some improvement. However, rail transportation requires some upgradation. Similarly, the last mile connectivity requires significant boost. He also noted challenges in the road sector which include --infrastructure, speed of delivery of cargo, congestion at toll gates, a large number of unorganised players, variation in fuel prices, and lack of usage of technology. 
He suggested that number plates of cargoes and trucks should be large to be picked up by camera where all cargoes and goods can be fully tracked. The data collected needs to be properly mined to bring about visibility of demand areas. He also noted that the Railways sector is taking measures by putting up dedicated freight corridor, but there is absence of integrated cargo system. The airports on the other hand also face certain issues such as high cost, lack of storage for refrigerated and precious products, limited warehousing, etc. 
Suggestions were also made for total integrated logistics as onestop solution, which includes a limited number of pass on or have a single window. The data on the logistics is available but proper mining of these data is required to create more demand and efficiency. He also highlighted importance of digitalisation. 
Shantanu Bhadkamkar, President, the Association for Multimodal Transport Operators of India, highlighted the need of digital connectivity between various modes and regulatory authorities. He said multimodal should be seamless, one should hardly know while shifting from one mode to another. Secondly, multimodal should be easy and inter-operable. He also suggested that the multimodal logistics has to be well defined with an approach towards achieving it. 
Sanjay Sethi, Chairman, JNPT, highlighted initiatives taken up at the port and government level which helped reach optimal mix of trade in road and rail connectivity. He spoke about initiatives taken up by JNPT, the recent one being a dwarf container. This mode helps in a much faster evacuation. The company has demarcated the area in the port and the initiative is likely to take off in next few months. This is also likely to increase JNPT’s rail share. 
Another initiative taken up by JNPT is proposing a rail container yard at Vasai Road in Maharashtra. There is a land parcel of the Railways, and JNPT would put in money to create infrastructure which basically will take off the load from Mumbai and shift that to Bhiwandi. This will reduce cost, time and congestion. It is also setting up four dry ports, these include in Jalna and Nashik. This is the hinterland of Maharashtra which caters to JNPT. This also conceptualises industrialisation of the area. 
On the logistics service provider, JNPT has an e-platform which saves time, stopping trucks from going empty or reducing loading time. This is divided in two parts, one is CFS to the port and another is CFS to the hinterland part where geo-technology is used to know location of the truck. 
Saroj Ayush, Senior Transport Specialist, World Bank Group, gave an overview of logistics ecosystem. Logistics services are basically an outcome of infrastructure including roads, railways, airports, terminal; transportation and ancillary services; policy and regulation along with enabling environment of digitalisation infrastructure, data analytics and information sharing. This requires integration of various verticals. However, this is yet to be integrated in the public and private domain due to various reasons and needs a solution. She highlighted on the issue of how policy and regulatory framework is yet to be integrated these various aspects. Though the country has done extremely well on digitisation of information, intergration is yet to be achieved. The integration of this data can provide a common platform for tracking of goods. 
Amita Prasad, Chairman, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), highlighted leveraging IWT connectivity for enhancing trade. The company is unlikely to shift to any other model, but the statutory authority would like to be a part of multimodal transport. The waterways can boost economic growth and provide sustainable development. 
The operational cost per tonne per km through inland waterways is Rs 1.06 as compared to Rs 1.41 by rail and Rs 2.28 by road. A 2,000 DWT barge can keep 125 trucks off the road and 40 wagons off the railroad thereby reducing congestion off roads and railways. 
There are 111 National Waterways of which 23 (5,200 km) have been identified with a potential for mechanism crafts and 16 are currently operational. The new waterways will play a significant role in overall growth and is expected to reach 140 million tpa by 2030. 
It was highlighted that the waterways in India are under-utilised when compared to countries such as Netherlands, Germany, Vietnam and US. IWAI undertakes terminal development, navigational aids, vessel operations, and other riverine structures. 
The challenges faced by the authority include shortage of IWT vessels and MEO facilities, integration of coastal shipping and other modes, lack of operational structure and allied logistics, lack of adequate skill and low technology adaptation. 
The initiatives taken up to achieve the vision of 2030 are to increase modal share from current two percent to 2.5 percent by including bulk and container cargoes; develop 5,000 km of IWTs across states; enhance connectivity in North-East India; integrate IWT with coastal shipping and other  modes, among others.  
She also noted that IWAI has taken up 120 acre of land in Sahabganj, Uttar Pradesh, to make a logistics park where industries can also be developed.  It is also taking up a lot of e-initiatives such as Portal for Assets and Navigational Information (PANI), Cargo Data (CarD), sailing permission portal for IBP route, vessel and crew registration (JalVahan), Freight and Vessel Management System (FMS). 
Moreover, the Ministry of Shipping has waived off waterways usage charges till July 2023 in a bid to promote inland waterways at an affordable mode of transport.
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