India needs good multimodal infrastructure to handle major transport modes -- air, rail and road, and in some places, waterways, too -- at the same place, said Shantanu Bhadkamkar, Immediate Past President of the Association of Multimodal Transport Operators of India. Multimodal involves the end-to-end movement of international goods by more than one mode of transport, using a single document.

“We don’t have multimodal infrastructure on par with some of the global hubs, including Basel, Singapore and Dubai,” he told businesseline.

Let’s take the example of the world’s pharma capital Basel in Switzerland. It is a hinterland, and the trade needs to use Antwerp or Rotterdam port to move cargo to and from Basel. If the cargo lands at Antwerp port, there are at least three options from the same terminal -- barge, road, or rail -- to transport the goods to Basel. All these modes terminate at the same place in Basel. Interestingly, the same gantry crane can move across all the modes, and even in the internal storage area, he said.

Listen: Unlocking India’s Economic Potential: The crucial role of seamless multimodal transport infrastructure

Seamless multimodal transport is possible due to exchange of messages and data among the terminals, he added..

In India, Nhava Sheva or Panvel in Mumbai has the potential to become a major multimodal terminal . Similarly, the Chennai-Bengaluru corridor could be a multimodal hub, he said.

Also read: Connecting people. Hopping on to multimodal urban transport 

It is a similar situation on the passenger front, with a lack of multimodal options. In Mumbai or Chennai, the railway station is normally at a distance of 45 minutes to one hour from the airport. However, if one lands at Frankfurt from Chennai, the same air ticket can be used to board a train to Stuttgart. The moment one exits the airport, the local railway station can be reached within five minutes, he said.

The size of the multimodal infrastructure in India is very small. If Tamil Nadu has to be compared, it has to be with a country in Europe, not with another Indian state. “We need to compare ourselves with countries like Vietnam, Dubai or Singapore on the size of their infrastructure,” he said. States need to focus on developing multimodal transport infrastructure, he added.

India’s spending on multimodal infrastructure should increase multi-fold to achieve the country’s vision of being a $10-trillion economy by 2030, he said.