The Metro-Rail segment in India is growing at a frantic pace with positive long-term prospects, supported by the impetus provided by the government by way of business-friendly policies and financial support. Use of advanced technology and digitisation will be the game changers as they will usher in a highly modernized and efficient Metro-Rail transport system in India.
The Metro Rail Mass Rapid Transportation Systems (MRTS) has been widely accepted as an alternative to mass transport in urban India due to the increasing population, heightened vehicular traffic, and environmental pollution. MRTS and Metro rail construction activities are being undertaken across the country, towards which the government has allocated ₹23,500 crore from this year’s Budget.
Around 702-km of conventional metro is operational and another 1,016-km of metro and RRTS projects are under construction in 27 cities. Before the year 2014, only 225 km of metro network became operational in 10-12 years. However, with the frantic pace of metro construction in India during the last six years, over 450 km of metro network has become operational.
There has been a growing realization that India’s post-pandemic economic recovery will be taken forward by huge infrastructure expends. And with many big-ticket projects of metro rail in the pipeline, the infrastructure sector is expected to get a big push. In view of the current scenario, the Government has allocated a hefty amount to the Metro rail sector.
The Budget allocations mentioned that central counterpart funding would be provided to Kochi Metro Railway Phase 2- of 11.5 kms at a cost of ₹1,957.05 crores, and Chennai Metro Railway Phase 2 of 118.9 kms at an investment of ₹63,246 crores. The Bengaluru Metro Project- Phase 2A and 2B of 58.19 kms will be provided funding of ₹14,788 crores, while the Nagpur Metro Project Phase 2 and the Nashik Metro Project would be provided amounts of ₹5,976 crores and ₹2,092 crores, respectively.
There has been a shift in focus towards Tier 2 cities with new metro rail constructions having started in cities like Surat, Indore, Kanpur, Bhopal, Patna, etc. While some are greenfield projects, others are expanding their existing railway network with new lines. Two new innovative transport systems - MetroLite and MetroNeo are also in line to provide a metro rail network at a much lesser cost in Tier 2 cities and in the peripheral areas of Tier 1 cities.
Despite the ongoing pandemic in the country, metro rail construction activities across many Indian cities are developing at a frantic pace as tenders continue to float for numerous metro projects alongside the awarding of contracts and soft loan aids from multilateral agencies, with contributions from the central and state governments. Delhi Metro Phase-4 is under construction. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has given approval for a soft loan of ₹8,390 crores and ₹3,717 crores for Phase-2 of Bangalore Metro.
Mumbai Metro Line-2A and Line-7 will begin operating this year. For other under-construction lines that are progressing at a rapid pace, MMRDA continues to invite tenders and award contracts. Recently, MMRC completed the 37th breakthrough at CSMT Metro Station, out of the total 41 breakthroughs planned for the 33.5-km long Colaba-Bandra-Seepz underground line (Line-3) of Mumbai metro. With this breakthrough, 52 km of tunneling has been completed out of the total length of 54.5 km, which is around 95% of the entire project.
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In Uttar Pradesh, construction activities for a metro network in Agra and Kanpur are moving at a fast pace. Half of the piling work for the Agra Metro Rail Project has been completed in record time.
It is estimated that within the next decade, more than 600 million Indians will be living in cities and they will be contributing to three fourth towards India’s GDP. Clean, non-polluting urban transport will be vital and more and more cities will need to create efficient Metro-Rail networks with reduced construction cost, optimised 0&M cost, and maximum revenue generation.
Innovations like Metro-Neo will be significant for the country, as it is a promising example of a cost- and energy-efficient system in Tier 2 & 3 cities, reducing the requirement for costlier metro rail systems. The Metro-Neo articulated buses would have rubber tyres and would run on a dedicated pathway on roads, and even on steeper gradients and sharper curves – all of which makes them a good option over the conventional metro rail. They even weigh much less than metro trains and eliminate the need for a viaduct.
Government initiatives like Atma-Nirbhar Bharat and Make in India have significant implications for Metro Rail Projects. A huge number of cities in India are developing metro rail projects with indigenization in the shortest time possible. Maha Metro has made sure to utilise overall project domestic content at more than 70%. In the civil portion, indigenisation is 95% instead of 80% in the policy mandate, with the sole exception of import of Head Hardened Rail and Fasteners, which are not manufactured in India. This has been applied to both Nagpur and Pune Metro Rail projects.
In a leap towards Make in India initiative, DMRC took a major step by developing an indigenously built CBTC (Communication Based Train Control) based signalling technology for Metro railway, with the launch of i-ATS, an essential sub-system of the signalling system.