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The NDA government expects a unified approach to the transport sector to provide synergies and to speed up decision making. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to bring surface transport and shipping under one umbrella, as was the case in the previous NDA regime. The United Progressive Alliance government, in its second term, had bifurcated the two.
"All transport ministries should be brought under one ministry, as this would ensure that the policy decisions are taken to benefit all the segments of transport. The railways is now losing market share in goods carriage, while roads is gaining. An unified ministry would ensure that any policy decision on this benefits both segments of transport,” said former road secretary Brahm Dutt.
Dutt believes a common ministry will help build a multi-modal transport and is in favour of bringing railways into the same omnibus ministry. “A unified ministry would mean easy clearance of a large number of railway bridges on highways, which are stuck due to one approval or the other,” he said.
One problem while integrating the roads and shipping ministries could be delineating the roles of the respective regulators, NHAI and TAMP. The roles of the regulators need to be well-defined so as to avoid any overlap.
There have been instances in the past when the two ministries have worked together to speed up approvals of railway bridges over roads. In 2012, when the then roads minister, CP Joshi, was made the railways minister for a brief period, 85 road projects (including bridges over rail lines) were stuck and he managed to clear 46 of them. It was also decided that the railways will standardise the design of road overbridges across the country and that these will be factored in during the early stages of awarding contracts. This was done after it was detected that designs by consultants employed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) were at a variance with design parameters accepted by the Railways, leading to delays.