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Against the Public Interest

A court petition and a poor study work together to undermine a major experiment in public transport.

One of the objectives of the 2006 National Urban Transport Policy was to “encourage greater use of public transport”. Yet, at times governments and even the judiciary seem to go out of their way to inflict injury on the few initiatives that are taken to facilitate public transport.

Take the case of the 5.8 km Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) corridor in New Delhi. This is a project that was more than a decade in the making and went through many layers of discussion and assessment before the first stretch was made operational in 2008. For reasons that remain unknown and can only be said to be the voice of the car lobby at work, two years ago a section of the media ignored the benefits to those who travelled by bus and attacked the project in a crude fashion claiming that it would slow vehicle movement in the project stretch. The Delhi government chose not to respond purposively to this senseless and high voltage attack on the BRT and instead put its expansion on hold. Now, in a strange decision the Delhi High Court first admitted a public interest litigation (PIL) against the BRT and then, on the basis of a poorly conducted study, has passed interim orders allowing private vehicles to ply on the dedicated bus lanes. What hope then for public transport in the country if these are the developments in the capital?

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