Meeting the Urban Transport Challenges
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has envisaged growth of urban transport along with a low carbon footprint through seamless implementation of a New Metro Rail Policy, announced last year. According to the Ministry, the policy aims at ascertaining and enhancing the feasibility of metro rail projects from an economic, social and environmental perspective. Most importantly, it also aims at promoting an ecosystem for rapid development of Metro Rails in major and small cities under different models, including PPP, and pave the way for
Make in India products in the country.
The new policy states that various agencies implementing metro projects should take adequate measures to progressively indigenize systems and encourage local development and manufacturing of metro products and components, which are being imported at present.
Status of Metro projects in the country
Today, there are 537 km of the metro rail system in operation in 13 cities, with another 630 km under construction, and about 700 km of metro rail and 381 km of Rapid Rail Transit System (RRTS) in planning stages in various cities. Overall, the government has invested over ₹51,183 crore in metro projects.
Projects in operation
Currently, metro projects with a total length of 370 km are operating in various cities namely Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Lucknow, Jaipur, Kochi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad. Recently, Delhi Metro made its third foray into Haryana, having extended its operation to Noida, Ghaziabad in UP and in Faridabad and Gurugram in Haryana. It aims to link various public transport systems in all cities and in the NCR within the next year or so to ensure last mile connectivity
In the past 20 years, Delhi Metro has reached a size of over 250 km and has emerged as the finest metro in the world with its unique work culture, and is seen as a model for other upcoming metro rails in the country.
Growth of metro rail system under the new urban transport plan is expected to boost the order book of construction companies by up to ₹90,000 crore over the next three to five year, says a report. Development of the metro system is being planned in 30 cities. In addition, a new network is to be developed in 15-20 cities. This is expected to boost the construction business of companies engaged in providing products and services to the metro rail system. The report states that the metro rail system is likely to see a strong traction given the number of projects lined up for approval or in the planning stage.
“I Metro,” an association of all Indian Metro Rail companies, was launched recently; it will act as a forum for exchange of ideas, technical knowledge, best practices, and innovations amongst the companies. To fine tune to current metro business ecosystem, the Government has announced that all metro systems will have to be standardized. To implement this, a committee under former Delhi Metro chief has been set up to lay down standardized norms for metro products, services and components, cut down construction costs, promote indigenization in product development and designing of components, and, above all, reduce dependence on imported products and components. This development will generate employment and skill development, apart from helping the local industry.
The Government’s approval of metros in more cities viz. Indore, Bhopal, Kanpur, and Agra, worth ₹1.07 crore, the Metro business will get a further boost. Also, a total outlay of ₹32,000 crore in the DelhiMeerut corridor of the proposed RRTS will open new business opportunities.
The connectivity challenge
Though the metro system has brought a positive impact in the lives of commuters, experts say that having an efficient metro network is not enough. First and last mile connectivity are most important to get the economic and social benefits. Unfortunately, we have failed on this count. The reasons range from poor quality of urban transport governance to poor infrastructure facilities that are under cutting the economic, social, energy and environmental benefits.
First and last mile connectivity to stations remains crucial for the success of India’s mass rapid transit system, as proposed in the recent urban transport plan. Feeder bus service to Metro stations, pedestrian and cycle routes and adequate parking are aspects that will determine the success of any transport plan, which needs to be integrated with the overall urban transport plan of the Government.
We are on the verge of an urban transportation revolution that could reshape our options. According to the experts, “we can leap frog from CNG to hydrogen or electric run transport systems. They are cost effective as their running cost is very low.” Tata Motors and IOC are already working on this urban transport system. With the population bursting at the seams in cities, we need to explore other systems besides the metro rail so as to have alternate options of transportation. Andhra Pradesh, for instance, is exploring the Hyperloop System that will connect Amravati and Vijayawada, and extend to other cities at a later stage. Pre-feasibility of this project has indicated that it could be cheaper than the RRTS.
Given India’s 1.3 billion population and expansive landscape, mobility will remain a problem. The country‘s vehicular population is set to see a dramatic surge from the current 160 million units to over 550 million by 2020. With the country heavily dependent on oil imports, it enjoins upon all of us to ensure that our cities are able to sustain an efficient, cleaner, costeffective, emission-free and safer transport system that combines the good features of CNG, hybrids of hydrogen, and electric transport models.