First Indian Monorail starts operations in Mumbai

Monorails Redraw Travel Lines

Mumbai Monorail

Monorail with its shiny and swanky look has redrawn the Mumbai's travel lines and now has set the stage for long awaited ride. The trend is traversing in other parts of the country as well enabling people to move around economically, quickly, safely, and moreover sustainably, reports Maria R.

In keeping with the advancement and development in the transport technology, cities in the country are witnessing metamorphic changes in the way people travel from hand rickshaws, trams, double decker buses, trailer buses, CNG buses and present metro rails to more efficient mass rail based system of the future as envisages by monorail system.

If all goes well as per plans, India will soon see monorails functioning as the arteries and veins of cities. This light rail transport system has impressed almost all the major cities with its low cost, eco–friendly nature and also for easing traffic congestion, reducing pollution and ensuring pedestrian safety. It's gaining traction as a solution in areas where mass-transit needs are surging. Currently, when Mumbai is rolling from the beginning of this year, the other major cities are busy to streamline the process for their monorail projects too. Delhi, Bangalore and Kerala have already submitted their Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) and got approval for the same whereas Chennai has floated the technical and financial bids for its phase I to cover 57km at an estimated cost of Rs.8,500 crore. While Chennai's initial plan was to cover 111km of the city's periphery in the first phase, the government later dropped the plan of including the Vandalur-Puzhal (54 km) corridor. This would have been the longest monorail corridor in the world if it had been implemented along with the Vandalur-Velachery, Poonamallee - Kathipara and Poonamallee - Vadapalani sections. Moreover, the works on all the proposed monorail projects in India are likely to begin in few months.

Scaling Up Sustainable Transport Solution for Moving People

"You and I come by road or rail, but economists travel on infrastructure" - Margaret Thatcher

Indeed, the presence of a reliable and efficient transportation system plays a pivotal role in the sustained economic growth of a country. Currently, transport system of India comprises several modes including rail, road, coastal shipping, air transport, etc. which have recorded a substantial growth over the years both in spread of network and in output of the system. But growing population and traffic congestions have again become a matter of concern and create a dire need to come up with an alternate transport solution which occupies less space, provides lower capital and operating costs, should be environment–friendly and most importantly reduce traffic congestion.

Smart Monorails

The percentage of Indians living in urban areas has increased from 27.8% in 2001 to 31.16% in 2011. It is projected that the country will add another 497 million to its urban population between 2010 and 2050. This unprecedented increase in urban population would however, pose new challenges of providing job, housing and infrastructure etc for the migrating masses. This will put stress on an already-pressured urban infrastructure system, especially with regard to transportation which has become synonymous with congestion, noise, and air pollution.

Improving road transportation is not the only solution as there is scarcity of land. Now, the time has come to evolve with an idea of scaling up sustainable transport solution and simultaneously ensuring that it is integrated with land development. It is the need of the hour to improve public transport by starting various innovative and technologically advanced rapid transit systems with best suited approach that offers reliable and quality services.

Both states' government and urban planners' concern is to redevelop the Indian cities as modern urban centers by improving the quality of transportation for the region's economic growth. For this, authorities in different cities are trying to put together a comprehensive infrastructure makeover plan to include monorail as an integrated and diverse commuting system. Today when most of the cities in India are implementing various modes of MRTS along with expansion of conventional modes of transport to serve the huge influx from rural areas, monorails finds a way as the multimodal transport system that promises to shape up the infrastructure in an organized manner like never before sidelining the daily transport woes of the public. Though the Delhi Metro rail has caught the fancy of many state governments but that's a project most cities find difficult to afford.

Smart Monorails

"As the avenues and streets of a city are nothing less than its arteries and veins, we may well ask what doctor would venture to promise bodily health if he knew that the blood circulation was steadily growing more congested!" ― Hugh Ferriss, The Metropolis of Tomorrow

Thus considering the increase in population, increased travel demand and narrow road networks running through the congested areas which is also not possible to widen due to structures on either sides, there is a need of a system which will occupy less space as well as reduce travel time. With the objective, to support public rapid transit system Mono Rail system is proposed to be implemented.

A monorail is defined as a rail-based transportation system based on a single rail, which acts as its sole support and its guideway. The term is also used variously to describe the beam of the system, or the vehicles traveling on such a beam or track. This transit system is a technologically innovative entailing many advantages for optimum flow of passengers. It provides a smooth ride quality, higher passenger capacity, energy efficiency, lower capital and operating costs and environment–friendly transport needs.

The concept of monorail was introduced in India way back but final nod for country's first monorail in Mumbai was given in 2008. According to Mr Kanesan Velupillai, Chief Executive Officer - Scomi Engineering Bhd, there are several factors that make monorail a 'must have transport' in Indian urban cities. For instance, it is estimated that in Mumbai over 11 million people travel by public transport daily of which over 60% commute by the suburban railway networks. Besides, a huge chunk of masses travel by the state buses, across long routes from one comer to another. Similarly in New Delhi, though metro rail serve as an efficient commuting platform for bulks, considering the amount of people who migrate to these places, there is a crying need for better mobility.

Our urban development minister Kamal Nath and Transport expert Anil Chhikara who are the admirers of monorail believe that it's cheaper, requires less land and can take a sharper turn. They opine that a seamless integration of monorail with the Metro was the need of the hour and monorail was a must for last-mile connectivity for passengers. Mr. Chhikara stated that as Metro disgorges hundreds of passengers onto the roads and buses find it difficult to ferry them to their destinations but Monorail is best suited to carry them on elevated tracks without crowding the roads.

Metro Vs Mono

Urban Transit System
When we talk about mass rapid transit systems, metro and monorail are the two names which are always a topic of a debate to know which of the mass transit system is better. The promoters of mono argue that it is comparatively cheaper and takes up less space since the track is narrower than the train itself. However, when it comes to carrying capacity, metro beats the mono hands down. Monorail runs on a single track while the metro has a double track and its carrying capacity is estimated at four times more than the monorail per hour. The monorail can carry between 500 and 600 people at a time whereas Metro Rail can carry thousands of people.

From construction point of view, it is easier and cheaper to lay Monorail lines than Metro lines. Monorail costs around 140 crore per km while Metrorail costs 170 crore per km (according to 2012 survey).

The Monorail can also take sharp curves which the Metro cannot and can thus run in densely populated localities as it takes lesser area to operate. When both systems exist, the monorail has been the feeder system.

Projects in Progress and in the Pipeline

• Mumbai Monorail

After four years of labour, India's first monorail in Mumbai commenced its operation providing a much needed relief to those travelling in local trains. The commercial operations of 8.8 km long first phase of the 19.54 km long Chembur-Wadala-Jacob Circle monorail project has started in the beginning of February 2014.

The monorail has been commissioned under the Indian Tramways Act and will flaunt three colours i.e green, pink and sky blue. The Mumbai Monorail is being implemented by MMRDA while a consortium of Larsen & Toubro and Malaysia's infrastructure firm Scomi Engineering is executing the mega project which is being constructed at a cost of around Rs.3,000 crores. It is reported that the monorail will run at a maximum speed of 80 km per hour, average speed of 65 km per hour and the ticket fares will range between Rs.8 and Rs.20.

The MMRDA's effort is to ensure that the Mumbai monorail will be at its innovative best, fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and features like advanced passenger-driver communication, CCTV cameras etc. On the operational front, the monorail would use regenerative braking system, which would enable about 25% saving in power consumption.

The Mumbai Monorail master plan proposed the development of 8 lines (135 km) from year 2011 to 2031 in phases at the total cost of Rs.202.96 billion (US$3.7 billion). The notification for construction of India's first monorail project got its clearance in 2008 and work on this was started in 2009. The MMRDA decided to put all plans for the expansion of the monorail on hold till the first route was commissioned.

Delhi Monorail

• Delhi Monorail

Delhi will soon roll in a light rail system as work on city's first monorail project is set to start within two-three months, bringing in the new-age public transport system for the congested areas of East Delhi. The rail system will be integrated with the Delhi Metro and the DTC bus network. Operational corridors for this mono rail system have been identified and the responsibility of implementing this light rail plan lies with the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) Ltd. The project is expected to be completed by 2017 at a cost of Rs.2,235 crore.

The detailed project report for the project was reviewed by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and submitted to the Delhi government for implementation. RITES Ltd had carried out the techno-economic feasibility study for the project and drawn up the detailed project report.

The proposed 11-kilometre corridor from Shastri Park metro station to Trilokpuri will have 12 stations with three inter-change points to integrate it with three different Metro lines. The integration of monorail and Metro would be smooth and seamless and there will be a common payment counter for both (monorail and Metro) at the interchange stations.

It is reported that three-coach monorail trains will run at a frequency of 4.5 minutes in the initial stage. The frequency will be increased to 2.5 minutes later. The expected daily ridership on the corridor is around 1.5 lakh passengers.

Besides above mentioned lines, there are other lines too in the pipeline for the monorail such as: Badarpur to Mehrauli, Qutub Minar to Dwarka (via Vasant Kunj and IGI airport) and Saket to IG Stadium, via Siri Fort, South Extension, JLN Stadium and New Delhi Railway Station.

• Chennai Monorail

The first phase of Chennai monorail project is likely to begin soon and state government has floated the technical and financial bids (final request for proposal) for the same which is estimated to cost Rs.8,500 crore and cover 57km, of the project. While the initial plan was to cover 111km of the city's periphery in the first phase, the government later dropped the plan of including the Vandalur-Puzhal (54 km) corridor.

The monorail system is proposed on three corridors between Vandalur-Velachery (23 km); Poonamallee-Kathipara Junction (16 km); and Poonamallee-Vadapalani, (18 km). The detailed alignment survey, ridership forecast study and geotechnical studies have been completed; the manual of specifications and standard, which dictates the safety and service standards and functional requirements to be met by the developer, has also been prepared.

The stations have been identified for the project, keeping in mind their access to terminals of other modes of transport, including bus stops, MRTS and metro rail stations. The monorail infrastructure will augment the road-based and rail-based — Mass Rapid Transit System and the ongoing Metro Rail public transport infrastructure in the city.

The State Government has constituted a Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority to co-ordinate the various transport systems and the agencies including the Traffic Police, local bodies and the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority.

Chennai Monorail

• Kerala monorail

Kerala is coming up with monorail projects in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode at a cost of Rs.5,581 crore - Rs.3,590 crore for Thiruvananthapuram and Rs.1,991 crore for Kozhikode. The State government had set up Kerala Monorail Corporation Limited (KMCL), the special purpose vehicle to execute the project.

The DMRC, the general consultant for the projects, has prepared the Detailed Project Report for the projects in the two cities, and suggested a turn-key contractor for operation and maintenance of the project in the initial five years after commissioning. It is also responsible for the design, preparation of the bid document, short listing and selecting contractors, supervision of the work, and quality certification.

The monorail for the capital will run for 22.2 km from Technocity to Karamana while Kozhikode will have a 14.2-km project starting from Government Medical College hostel area to Meenchantha.

Now the herculean task before the authorities is only to identify the funding agency for the ambitious project and acquiring land. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has already evinced 'keen interest' to fund the project.

While the Thiruvananthapuram project has been temporarily shelved with the monorail director board meeting observed that the basic infrastructure facilities will have to be improved before executing the project in the city. In the case of Kozhikode, the meeting decided not to delay this project as all preparatory works had begun and the feasibility and detailed project report has been completed. Its first phase will cover a distance of 14.2 km with 15 stations and work on the project could be completed by September 2015. The project will be extended from Meenchantha to Ramanattukara (10 km) in the second phase.

• Odisha Monorail

Odisha government has also decided to explore the possibility of monorail in the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar after E Sreedharan, principal adviser of DMRC stated that it is difficult to run metro rails in Bhubaneswar given its small 1 million population as metro is expensive. Nevertheless, he mentioned that Metro rails are viable for the cities where the population is at least 2 million.

After this probe, Engineering Projects India Limited (EPI) has made presentation on monorail technology before chief secretary for efficient intra-city transportation. Delighted with the technology of light rail system, Chief Secretary has asked the Housing and Urban development department to have a pre-feasibility study of the proposed project. The department has also been asked to work out the viability of the projects, running expenditure per kilometre, the likely tariff that the passenger will have to pay and other related factors.

Odisha Monorail

It has been said that monorail option will be considered for areas where bus rapid transit (BRT) can't be undertaken due to space crunch and the old town areas of Bhubaneswar and major parts of Cuttack comes under this category.

Monorail is a good option for congested places as it occupies very little space. Not only aforementioned projects, discussions are going on with many other states also to come up with the monorails in their region which are economical, aesthetical, and most importantly, sustainable. Developing innovative and sustainable transportation will benefit not just the riders and environment, but can escalate economic growth too.

NBMCW February 2014

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