Surat, India inaugurates Sitilink bus rapid transit (BRT) system
On January 26, 2014 — as the country celebrated its Republic Day — Surat, India began trial operations of its Sitilink BRT system. Out of the proposed 30 kilometer (19 mile) corridor, 10 kilometers (6 miles) have opened for trial operations. The system connects the city of Surat, with its population of 4.5 million people, with the edge city of Navsari. The Sitilink BRT network will provide vital services to a rapidly growing city that was previously without any public transport system. This project has been both incredibly challenging as well as rewarding for the EMBARQ India team, which has been pivotal in building the Organizational and Management Information System that stands as the foundation for Sitilink.
During trial operations, nine BRT buses will run for four hours in the mornings and four hours in the evenings for a period of one month. Passengers will not be charged any fee for using the service during this trial period. City officials are initially offering this service for free both to establish demand and to help alleviate possible complaints against a system that will likely take time to be fully implemented.
Sitilink to provide vital services to urban residents
Before the inauguration of the Sitilink network, Surat had no formal system of public transport. Previously, one private company owned a fleet of 70 buses, hardly enough to meet the transport demand of India’s fastest growing city. Surat’s informal public transport network is comprised of 30,000 rickshaws, with little regulation and inconsistent quality of service. Formalizing one area of public transport in Surat and offering high-quality service through BRT will reduce time spent traveling and expand sustainable mobility options for residents throughtout the city.
EMBARQ India recognizes the importance of Sitilink’s success, and since 2010 has helped Surat’s city government develop an Organizational and Management Information System (MIS) structure to build capacity for operating and maintaining the system. The MIS is a network-wide reporting system where analysts can collect data on the BRT buses on the ground and then make necessary adjustments to smooth the operations of the system as a whole. EMBARQ India is also assisting Surat with road safety analyses along the BRT corridor, helping to make Surat’s BRT system safer for passengers, drivers, and pedestrians alike.
Progress for bus rapid transit in India
Surat's BRT system is the third full BRT transport system in India, after Ahmedabad’s Janmarg and Indore’s iBus. The introduction of Sitilink indicates that Surat, already the eighth largest city in India, is taking action towards regional leadership in sustainable transport. The remainder of the Sitilink plan is ambitious, with the next 20 kilometers (12 miles) running along a canal that passes through the heart of the city. The next step will demand large infrastructure investments and collaborative political will.