Intermodal Stations: What they are and why they are important as rollout begins in 15 cities

By Annapurna Sinharay

Intermodal Stations (IMS) is a commonly used term for terminal infrastructure that is built with the purpose of integrating different transport options, such as rail, road, mass transit, bus, inland waterways, auto-rickshaws and taxis. The idea is to make it possible for people to move from one mode of transportation to another seamlessly, and with the minimum use of private vehicles.

The concept of integrated transport

There was a time when different transportation modes existed entirely independently. They were disparate and hence unconnected. However, with the passage of time and the emergence of Urban Studies as a discipline, the need to integrate these transportation networks is better understood now.

The intermodal concept of transport supports the integration of related transportation modes. It is a movement that aims to effectively connect railways with other transportation modes with rail stations functioning as transport interchanges.

Intermodal Stations are being planned around rail link through the development of the road network. New connecting roads, bridges and flyovers are built to connect road transport to intercity rail networks. Such planned development makes transport linkages appear more attractive for commuters in comparison with other private transportation options, thus expanding the reach of public transport.

Intermodal Stations in practice

These stations are designed to fulfil the needs of commuters for the next few decades. Depending on the needs of the individual station, the design of these spaces may also include add-on functions such as FOBs with travellators, pedestrian subways, common waiting rooms, clean toilets, integrated public information, modern emergency response services, convenience stores, lifts and escalators and commercial establishments. New developments should also make provisions for disabled passengers.

After conducting a detailed pre-feasibility study for setting up IMS, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) selected fifteen cities across the country for the development of IMS hubs. Currently, construction is going on in Nagpur and Varanasi, which have been selected as pilot projects. The method by which these cities were selected has not been disclosed. It would seem that both cities were chosen mainly because they are bastions of support for the party in power at the Centre, as otherwise, the selection appears to be random.

Why are such projects important?

Intermodal Stations are more useful for further than development than standalone terminals. The amenities are better operated due to the group effort of several bodies and, also, IMS economises the time and money spent by passengers going from terminal to terminal. Commercial developments also receive a boost from the higher passenger traffic, which in turn boosts economic activity in cities. An IMS can significantly alter the socio-economic landscape of a region.

Moreover, IMS is also expected to dissipate the pressure that arises from other standalone transport hubs, like bus terminals and railway stations. Promoting the use of public transportation through the efficient use of ring roads and National Highways will also help the effort to decongest India’s transport networks.

According to a senior Road Transport Ministry official, “In most cities today, transport hubs like bus terminals, railway stations and others are located far from each other, so inter-modal transfers create pressure on the already congested roads. By bringing the different transport modes at one point, IMS will reduce congestion on roads and also vehicular pollution.”

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