In its year-ending ‘Christmas Double’ issue dated 23 December 2023, The Economist, has misconstrued that “India’s massive metro build-out is failing to attract enough passengers” in an article on India’s metro rail systems, says the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry.
The article, while containing factual inaccuracies, also does not provide the necessary context against which India’s growing metro rail network must be studied, maintains the Ministry.
The central claim of the article that none of India’s metro rail systems have achieved even half of their projected ridership pays no heed to the fact that more than three-fourths of India’s current metro rail network was conceived, constructed and operationalised less than ten years ago — in some cases, metro rail systems are only a couple of years old.
Yet, daily ridership across metro systems in the country has already crossed the 10 million mark, and is expected to exceed 12.5 million in a year or two.
India is witnessing a steep rise in its metro ridership and will continue to do so as our metro systems evolve. It must also be noted that nearly all metro rail systems in country presently generate operational profits.
In a mature metro system as seen in the example of Delhi Metro, daily ridership has exceeded seven million already, a figure which is well beyond the projected number for Delhi Metro by the end of 2023.
In fact, analysis shows that the Delhi Metro has helped to ease the pressure on congested corridors of the city that cannot be solved by public bus systems alone.
This is seen in some corridors of the city where Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) services more than 50,000 people in very high peak-hour and peak-direction traffic.
To meet such high traffic demand through public buses alone, 715 buses would be required to travel in one direction within an hour in those corridors, roughly translating to a headway of around five seconds between buses — an impossible scenario! One dreads to imagine the condition of road traffic in Delhi without the Delhi Metro.
In a nation as diverse as India, every mode of public transport system is important, both in isolation and as an integrated offering to commuters.
The government is committed to providing comfortable, reliable and energy-efficient mobility solutions that will offer a combination of multi-modal transport options for the long term in a sustainable manner.
The government recently launched the PM e-Bus Sewa scheme for the promotion of bus transport systems, wherein 10,000 e-buses will be deployed in cities with population between 500,000 and four million.
Bus transport solutions for cities with more than four million population are already included in the government’s FAME scheme.
While e-buses and metro systems are both electrically powered, metro systems are far ahead in terms of specific energy consumption and efficiency.
With the continual expansion of our cities, and the realisation of greater first-mile and last-mile connectivity, India’s metro systems will witness higher ridership.
The article also suggests that many commuters who undertake short trips prefer to use other modes of transport, thus insinuating that “a slew of expensive transport infrastructure” is not serving all strata of society.
This again lacks context, as it fails to explain that Indian cities are expanding. The DMRC metro system which is more than 20 years old has an average trip length of 18 km.
India’s metro systems, most of which are less than five or ten years old, have been planned and operationalised to service the traffic requirement of India’s urban areas for the next 100 years.
Evidence already suggests that such a transition is happening — metro rail systems are the most preferred mode of commuting for women and the city’s young population, the Ministry maintained.
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