Meet­ing the Ur­ban Trans­port Chal­lenges

NBM&CW - - CONTENTS - By S.K Khanna

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.

Busi­ness prospects

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.

Way For­ward

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.

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