Public transport in India

KPMG Transport Summit 2017, New Delhi
My Speech

Distinguished guests, friends, on behalf of Partners and Colleagues in KPMG in India, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this inaugural KPMG Transport Summit.

I am thankful to Mr. Ashwani Lohani for joining us today. Mr. Lohani has been recently appointed as Chairman Railway Board at a time when Indian Railways is seeking to address the legacy issues and transforming its operations.  Prior to this appointment Mr. Lohani was the CMD of Air India.  He has had a celebrated career and has been widely recognized for his contributions in various roles in the transport and in the tourism sector.

I am also thankful to my colleague Mr. Richard Threlfall, Global Head of Public Transport of KPMG, for coming to India for this event to share his views about the future of transport.

The principal aim of this conference is to advance our common thinking on public transport in which India has a large gap to cover. India is urbanizing at a very rapid pace. By 2030, more than half our population will live in urban agglomerations (up from 40% today).  The stress of this will be felt in the transport sector, which is already beset with large capacity gaps.  Unless we solve the issue we will be left over-reliant on private transport, as it has come to happen in large US cities like Los Angeles.

We have seen improvements in the past decade, particularly in metro rail services. Our highways have also improved. However the end to end customer experience is poor because of poor first mile and last mile infrastructure and services.  We at KPMG have been working on how this can be changed.  For example, we see no reason why an air traveler cannot get his check-in done and his boarding pass and baggage tags printed while travelling in a cab.  We also think that large and capable organizations like the Indian Railways can extend their services through door to door seamless travel offerings. Our bus transport can become significantly smarter.  The challenge is to extend our imagination and use technology to take a user centric rather than asset centric approach.

That said, we also need a large asset build program in India since we have significant unmet needs. Studies indicate that India needs more than USD300 billion of infra spend every year for the next 13 years, as compared to recent spend rates of USD120 billion per year.  More than half of this spend will be for transport infrastructure. Raising finance on this scale and ensuring adequate returns for investors will be a significant challenge.

The opportunity exists to think about these matters inventively and address them effectively.  At KPMG we are involved in various initiatives of the Governments at national and state levels, with the public and private sector, and the financing community to find effective solutions.  We appreciate that an open, holistic and ongoing dialogue is necessary for this.  I am confident that the deliberations through the day today will be very useful.  I welcome you all once again and wish you a very fruitful day of deliberations.

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