How Metro Transit Systems Need To Be Integrated In The Planning Of Emerging Urban India

Ankit Saxena

Jan 09, 2023, 11:59 AM | Updated 11:59 AM IST

Chennai Metro Rail. (Representative Image)
Chennai Metro Rail. (Representative Image)
  • Metro, as a mass transport system, has been enhancing the socio-economic functioning of cities while becoming a timeless infrastructural element for the urban milieu.
  • Considering the rapid urban growth for smaller cities, the future depends on integrating Metro rail systems as part of the transport masterplans.
  • Public mobility systems occupy a core position in the functioning of all cities. Metro Rail Transit System (MRTS), as the name suggests, has been supporting the transport needs of dense metropolitan cities.

    With the growth of Indian cities positioned as urban engines, the role of Metro in enhancing the urban transport ecosystems, has been enormous in providing multiple benefits in catering to the transportation challenges.

    The model runs on an independent network of infrastructure, from the Right of Way (ROW) to the public structures of stations and platforms. This independent mode has resulted in successful efficiency in timing, pace and comfort to handle high mass transit demands for cities with dense populations.

    However, the transit system has also received backlash concerning the extensive cost of its execution, while drawing comparison to other road based public transport systems.

    The Metro systems have displayed success stories across global cities. In India, its response for the public and the administration can be explored and experienced through executed examples.

    The 20 Years Of The Delhi Metro

    The Delhi Metro completed its 20 years of serving the city population on 25 December 2022.

    This has been an emerging process that gradually transformed the city’s mobility patterns. The Metro serves as the ideal and sustainable mode for long distance travel in the city. It came up as an alternative to bus transport, countering major challenges of traffic, increased pollution, safety and city’s extreme weather conditions.

    Delhi currently stands with the highest length of road network. This increase in road length is still not good to handle the phenomenal growth in the number of vehicles, resulting in congestion.

    The Delhi Metro advanced to cater to this issue. In 2021, an estimated 516,000 vehicles were reduced from the roads of Delhi because of the Metro.

    It allowed freeing up roads and brought in relief from the potential increase in traffic with the rapid rise in travel demand. The emergence of Metro gave new ways of travelling within the city and regenerated the physical landscape.

    The infrastructure focused on developing spaces that were safe, convenient and mindful for all — class, gender, disability, age groups. It interlinked multiple modes of mobility. This includes walking at interconnections for users who prefer, and last mile connectivity with feeder buses, electric rickshaws and autos.

    Additionally, it allowed arrangements for various mobility startups to kickstart their innovations.

    The increase in the network of multiple lines provided a mapped imagery of the city to the public and directed accessibility to larger population groups. The Yellow Line still accounts for the largest share of ridership at 28.13 per cent, followed by the Blue Line at 22 per cent, according to data shared by officials of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

    Many stations have been planned with arrangements for multiple activities and public spaces such as shopping malls, eating spots, stores, offices. Examples can be seen at numerous stations of the network — to name a few — Dwarka Sector 21, Haus Khas, Rajiv Chowk, Akshardham, Dhaula Kuan, Kashmere Gate, HUDA City Centre.

    Too Costly For Urban Transport Needs

    As per a survey conducted, a kilometre of Metro rail requires an investment of around Rs 200 crore, which has been considered expensive compared with bus transport systems.

    Delhi Metro, being the largest network in India, was constructed in three phases and bears a total cost of around Rs 70,000 crore. It is responsible for carrying 2.76 million passengers per day. This expenditure creates an unmatchable comparison with the input cost for introducing more buses to serve similar numbers of population.

    However, this number is not the only expense that validates the comparison between the two transit systems. As for buses, it requires space for roads for movement. The internal roads in Indian cities remain in shorter supply, flooded with multiple uses, other than just acting as the carriageway for public buses.

    Moreover, to handle the overall public transportation needs, the increased number of buses will only add on to the existing congestion, traffic and pollution brought in by the vehicular traffic on city roads.

    But What Can Be The Future Of The Metro Transit In Growing Indian Cities?

    As per the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) data, Metro rail systems witnessed fast growth, from a network length of 222 km in three cities in 2011 to 810 km in 15 cities by 2022.

    The government earlier proposed lighter urban rail systems such as Metro Lite and Metro Neo, which will be executed at lesser costs, compared to the conventional MRTS systems in metropolitan cities. These are being conceptualised and developed for many small and medium-sized cities.

    Metro Lite will be constructed with cost reduction to 40 per cent of the conventional metro built in busy cities. It will be a three-coach train capable of carrying 300 passengers. Metro Neo is proposed for the smaller cities where the ridership currently is less. It will be executed at a cost reduction to around 25 per cent of the current infrastructure expenses.

    The low cost and efficient Metro rail systems are under consideration for smaller cities such as Thane, Gorakhpur, Nashik, Coimbatore, Warangal along with other potential cities. The projects for Gorakhpur and Nashik are in progress based on the feasibility reports submitted for the proposal of low-cost metro systems.

    Nashik submitted the proposal for Metro Neo lines, having a length of 32 km with an estimated cost of Rs 2,000 crore. It is aimed to be completed by year 2025.

    The proposal for Gorakhpur was passed in October 2020 with an estimated cost of Rs 4,672 crore. It is intended to cover 27.41 km and be completed by 2024.

    With the estimates, it is stated that where it costed around Rs 200 crore per kilometre for the conventional metro system, the Metro Lite would reduce it to Rs 140 crore. Whereas, Metro Neo, suitable for lower ridership demand will be built at Rs 71 crore per kilometre.

    The earlier projects encountered numerous hurdles and delays leading to higher expenses and loss of capital resources. Being a later focus with a large infrastructural demand, one main reason for the high cost involved was acquiring the necessary land and transforming the existing areas to be made feasible for Metro infrastructure.

    Acquiring land in metropolitans becomes a costly affair, considering the land value and demand. While for the mid-sized cities, establishing acquisition and dedicating required land resources at initial stages of growth reduces the overall cost of this process.

    The perspective for preparing the city infrastructure needs to be adaptive and resilient to the growth envisioned for urban India, and not selectively plan corresponding to the present estimated needs of the cities.

    Considering the rapid urban growth for smaller cities, the future depends on integrating Metro rail systems as part of the transport plans and masterplans, including policies, regulations and land zoning at the initial stages of city development process.

    The approach will prevent the numerous socio-economic issues, along with the challenges for land acquisition and changing regulations. Escalations in costs occur with delays in projects due to such issues.

    In times when travelling within the city on roads has become an emerging issue in all growing cities, Metro as a mass public transit with its dedicated infrastructure provides a convenient and smoother movement for public- intracity on high traffic routes and longer distances.

    The mode is seen as preferred by not just passengers dependent on bus or other public transport, but also attracts people using private vehicles, with an opportunity to avoid the busy roads and use the Metro for their daily transit.

    It has been enhancing the socio-economic functioning of cities while becoming a timeless infrastructural element for the urban milieu. The Metro in itself showcases as the driver for urban development and growth for Indian cities.

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