MRT System in India

MRT System in India

India is well on its way to create a world-class MRT system as an integral part of community infrastructure development in the country, reports Ar. Apurva Bose Dutta.

MRT System in India
Growing cities, growing population and growing traffic has invariably called for a shift from private modes of conveyance to public transport. A glance at the world's developing nations indicates that well planned Mass Rapid Transit Systems (MRTS) exist successfully. India (like many other developing countries) however has lagged behind though its first metro, the Kolkata Metro, started working almost 25 years ago. The reasons could be attributed to lack of funds planning as is known that such projects require huge capital investments, a long gestation period and complex technology. Other reasons could include the lack of integration between various systems of mass transportation and the absence of comprehensive traffic and transportation planning. While researches show that the ideal modal share of public transport should be around 70%, however it is in tune to only 35%–40% in India's metro cities. India is looking to create a world class infrastructure with its existent Kolkata and Delhi Metros with the addition of Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Jaipur, and Kochi metros in the next few years while proposals for MRTS for Pune, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Ludhiana, Bhopal, Indore and Faridabad are being chalked out.

Key Considerations for MRTS

A metro model for a county would have to depend on its logistics, financial resources and should avoid aping a western modern blindly, rather should concentrate on learning from its shortcomings.

Ar. Jit Kumar Gupta, renowned urban planner states that the planning, construction, designing and management of metros require extensive data, detailed surveys, study of economic structure, profile of settlement topography, travel preference, major traffic corridors etc. He recommends the use of technology that is available within the country or that can be developed since ultimately the system needs to be made self-reliant and self-contained to minimise O&M (operations & maintenance) cost. He advises that technology with low initial cost but with high O & M cost should be avoided. M Vishnu Vardhan Reddy, General Manager, Hyderabad Metro Rail adds that during construction time technicalities like proper hoarding, guided traffic signs and safety barriers are also kept in mind.

Cost Factors

Metro projects are meant to cater to cities with more than four million population and the costs in these cases are related to areas which are proposed to serve underground, elevated or at grade alignment. Larger the underground and elevated proposal, larger shall be the cost involved.

Funding process is done through the PPP model (Public-Private Partnership) as in Hyderabad and Mumbaior byDMRC model by the state or the central government as in Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. Mr Reddy is of the opinion that the correct funding process is the PPP model since otherwise if the government has to take up the funding, it would involve additional taxes on people and a lot of subsidies from other organisations which would become a huge burden on the government. He adds, "Generally PPP model is also not financially viable because we can't get all the money from fair box collection. Hence in 1991, the concept of LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation) was introduced which is an encouragement for private investors like infrastructure developers. Under this, the viability gap funding scheme caters to 60% cost borne by the private investor and upto 40% borne by the government in terms of grants. The Hyderabad Metro is the first metro to be on PPP mode. Though Mumbai is also on the PPP mode but they haven't taken the viability gap fund."

Ar Gupta feels that the high cost justification of metros has its genesis in its very high carrying capacity of passengers at a very high speed with minimum pollution. He states, "Metros are known to serve the old, congested and thickly built up areas where normal traffic poses greatest challenges due to location of major commercial markets, traffic nodes and residential areas. They are known to provide travel at a very affordable cost." He also recommends the need of a SPV to realise the project due to the huge capital costs involved and adds, "Government could participate through equity or meeting one time viability gap financing after detailed evaluation. For funding metros the government should provide infrastructure but the operating cost and cost of rolling stock must be met by users and beneficiaries. Where private players of repute are involved, the project could be sealed with private participation based on detailed conditions and period of concession specified. Land will be a major issue in realising the project for which the involvement of parastatal agencies will be critical. Sale of air space, advertisement rights, contribution of major commercial whole sale markets which generate huge volume of traffic, levying of external development charges on builders and promoters and a dedicated fund for MRTS can aid in the funding."

The Advantages And Disadvantages

A cheap mode of transport, the MRTS helps in low energy consumption, is eco-friendly (runs on electricity, thus minimising air and sound pollution), averts the number of accidents, is efficient in terms of space occupancy and provides comfort with ultra modern coaches and modern systems like automatic ticketing, advanced signalling systems, automatic train protection system and integrated security systems. Services like ATMs, food outlets, cafés and convenience stores at these stations make the journey more fruitful. Also such stations lead to nearby economic development.

The international standard for MRTS with a maximum speed of 80kmph and average speed of around 34kmph helps in saving of time. Adds Ar Gupta, "With proper designing, the peak hour capacity could be rated at 3-4 lakhs passengers per hour."

Mr Reddy points out that the only disadvantage of metros is the slight congestion on roads at the time of construction which has to be taken care of while Ar Gupta indicates the cost factor as the disadvantage, the solution for which is to integrate metros with others systems considering the volume, structure, availability of space and resources for traffic and transportation.

MRTS in the Country

Kolkata Metro

MRT System in India

The only metro service in the country functioning directly under the Indian Railways, the foundation for this was laid as early as 1972. Delays due to non-availability of sufficient funds, shifting of underground utilities, court injunctions and irregular supply of vital materials led to the commencement of services being pushed to 1984, after which progressive construction followed leading to the completion of the services of the entire stretch in 2005.

Kolkata faced a transport problem with only 8% of the land being available for road transport (negligible as compared to the 25%–30% available in other cities) thus diminishing scope for increasing the existing road area. Thus an underground route was envisaged with five rapid transit lines comprising a route length of 97.5 km. While the phase 1 of the North South (NS) axis commenced its services in 1995, Phase 2 and Phase 3 were recently opened in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

The metro has been quite a hit with the residents in Kolkata considering the number of passengers which has expansively increased in the past years.

Large scale expansion projects (covering 87 kms) have now been planned and in its modernisation programme, the existing metro stations would undergo renovation and introduce State-of-the-Art Automatic Fare Collection, Passenger Control system with Radio Frequency Identification based Flap Gates, Integrated Security System, new air-conditioned rakes and Automatic Signalling system.

Delhi Metro

MRT System in India

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was established to build a metro in two phases serving Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad. While the first phase covering 65.11km was opened in 2002 the second phase of 125km was recently completed. The first railway project in the world to be registered for carbon credits by the United Nations, the Delhi Metro achieved this by saving power by using regenerative brakes in the trains, and reduced carbon emissions. The Metro has been designed such that it can be integrated with other public transport. DMRC has also partnered with Google India (through Google Transit) to provide train schedule and route information to mobile devices with Google Maps.

MRT System in India

The Rapid Metro Rail Gurgaon (to be completed by 2013) is an under–construction rapid transit system in Gurgaon, linked with the Delhi Metro. As part of phase 2, subway facilities in all the underground metro stations and bicycle rentals in some are being provided.

The popular Delhi Airport Metro Express rail from the Indira Gandhi International Airport to the city centre takes less than 20 minutes as opposed to one hour by road. Its LCD screens equipped coaches imported from Spain are entirely different from the trains on this line and have in-built noise reduction features, padded fabric seats and provide flight information for convenience of air travellers. The trains are fitted with an event recorder which can withstand high levels of temperature and impact.The metro has been promoted as an integral part of community infrastructure, and community artwork depicting the local way of life at the stations in the form of decorative murals, panels and a gallery showcasing artwork and handicrafts from across India.

MRT System in India

The Delhi Metro though plagued by controversies in the form of technical snags, overcrowding and accidents at the construction sites has proved as a model for the other metros in the country to follow. Phases 3 and 4 will expand the total journey to 413.8km and are scheduled to open in 2016 and 2020 respectively. With such a great pace of work, the Delhi metro will soon become one of the fastest expanding metro networks in the world.

Mumbai Metro

Mumbai's existing Suburban Railway and BEST bus system have not been able to compete with the rapid population growth. The Mumbai MRTS is going to see a completion of the first phase {a partnership between Mumbai Metro politan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and Reliance Infrastructure and Veolia Transport (France)} in 2012 and will entail a 12 km elevated metro with 12 stations enroute. Mumbai Metro One Private Limited is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to implement this corridor.

While the Suburban Railways provide a NS connect, this corridor will provide the relief in the East West (EW) connectivity, covering the journey in 21 minutes. Phase 2 and Phase 3 would be totalling to a length of 146 km. Plans are on for a nine-line network by 2021 in its three phases of development costing Rs.36,000 crore.

MRT System in India

Skywalks have also been provided to connect the metro and suburban railways stations. The air conditioned coaches that are being imported from China with a 1500 accommodation capacity each, will feature an advanced passenger-driver communication system.

Right from the construction stage, initiatives have been on to make the Mumbai Metro Asia's first green metro. In order to get the best hands on experience, a number of executives were recently sent to China and South Korea to gain some hands-on experience in managing a metro system.

Bengaluru Metro

Though a MRTS has been in consideration for long in the Garden City, the foundation stone was finally laid in 2006. Being operated by the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL), a detailed project report of two double line corridors with a total length of 33 km (elevated and underground) with 32 stations has been prepared by DMRC and RITES, the general consultants for the project: EW and NS corridors as part of Phase I of the project which is estimated to complete by 2013. The travel time from end to end on the EW corridor will be 33 minutes, and on the NS corridor will be 28 minutes. The second phase comprising 51km would involve the extension of both the first two lines and the construction of an additional line.

MRT System in India

While the stations are contemporary keeping in mind Bengaluru's erstwhile architecture and materials, there have been competitions floated for developing communication concepts for the interior space of some stations too.

Though at present 43 stations are being constructed which would get completed by 2015 but the DBR (Design Basis report) issued by BMRCL shows an approval for 162 stations which means that in future, there would be tributaries on the NS and EW corridors. The only complaint that could possibly be related to this metro is the lack of transparency and the shirking of public involvement in the project.

Chennai Metro

MRT System in India

Chennai has already a well established suburban railway network; however with no connectivity to Central and South Chennai, a MRTS was planned. The Chennai MRTS being an elevated line of the urban mass transit system was completed in 2007 and was designed as an elevated extension of the Suburban Network. It was not exactly a Metro System since the trains were normal EMU's (Electric Multiple Units) without automatic doors. Phase 2 and Phase 3 are presently under construction. Due to poor maintenance, lack of security and no connectivity options with other transit systems, the MRTS has been quite unpopular leading to a lower ridership.

MRT System in India
To overcome this lapse in MRTS, the Metro was conceptualised and hence the Chennai Metro is being constructed simultaneously. With the physical works in process, the phase 1 is going to be completed by 2014–2015. Two corridors with a total of 45km and 32 stations have been planned in which 19 would be underground and 12 would be elevated. The developers, Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) have appointed DMRC as the Prime Consultant for Phase 1 of the project. The Chennai Metro seems the most expensive considering the rising and dropping costs over the years.

The MRTS operated by the Southern Railway is proposed to be taken over by CMRL so as to bring all the elevated and underground tracks under one organisation.

Hyderabad Metro

MRT System in India

Spanning over 71km, the phase 1 would include three traffic corridors covering a total of 72 km and 66 stations. A completely elevated system, the detailed project reports and traffic survey reports are being prepared by DMRC. Designed to cater to 50,000 people in one hour in one direction for Corridors I and III and 35,000 for Corridor II, the cost of the project is Rs.12,132 crores. Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMR) is the SPV set to look after the project which has been allotted to L&T in PPP mode.

Sadly, the Hyderabad MRTS which is the country's first two-track elevated city transit system, has been much delayed since 2008 when the contract was awarded to Maytas Metro Ltd after which fresh bids had to be invited. Also, more recently questions on the feasibility of the Secunderabad-Hi-Tec City Corridor from an engineering point of view have risen. Discussions are umpteen about the metro rail set to throw the traffic and city life out of gear by acquiring thousands of private properties. With the pre- project activities in full swing, the physical work is going to start in October 2011 and the HMR is confident that by 2015 the entire project would finish.

MRT System in India

The travel time for the metro rail is 45 minutes for Corridor I, 22 minutes for Corridor II and 39 minutes for Corridor III. The metro stations are being designed keeping the local architecture in mind. The Metro that will rest on massive concrete pillars along the central median of the roads will prove a boon for the city's MMTS (Multi-modal Transport System) which is collapsing under the burgeoning population and has slower speed. It is also being hoped that the enormous material requirement of the metro will result in establishment of many ancillary industries and machinery manufacturing and servicing units.

The Future

MRTS is the best way to decongest traffic. However, a number of considerations should be kept in mind in order to run a successful MRTS. "Viability of metro projects depend upon correct defining of traffic corridors, technology adapted, availability of land, volume of traffic carried, capacity utilisation and acceptance of the mode by the commuters," Ar Gupta maintains.

Conclusively, transport needs to be made an integral part of urban design/master plan of the city as it cannot be delineated to a separate entity. A multi-modal transportation system would ensure the use of MRTS to its best potential.

MRT System in India

The uncertainty about MRTS, which has plagued the importance of such systems in India seems to be resolving. Though the Kolkata metro was designed without a rule book and the Delhi Metro was designed on international norms but now India has a set of rules being adopted for metro constructions. The National Mass Transit and Training Research Institute (NMTTRI) in Mumbai (established by MMRDA), is one of its kinds in Asia imparting training and research on mass transit systems. The annual training courses cater to key issues like Public Transport Security, Safety and Emergency/Disaster Management, Noise Pollution & Abatement Measures for Urban Transportation, Integrated Ticketing, seamless Travel across Modes and Intelligent Transportation System.

The MetroRail Asia – Asia's premier rail event (with a special focus on India) proves to be a high-value networking and knowledge-sharing of key metro authorities and operators with discussions over India's extensive metro growth. In its third year now, this year it is being organised in Delhi from 8-10 November.
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