Tracks Beyond India: How Delhi Metro Is Shaping Urban Transport From Bahrain To Bangladesh

Amit Mishra

Dec 27, 2023, 04:24 PM | Updated Dec 28, 2023, 05:03 PM IST

Delhi Metro spans nearly 393 kilometres.
Delhi Metro spans nearly 393 kilometres.

Delhi Metro celebrated its 21st anniversary on 23 December, marking a transformative journey since its inception in 2002.

On this day in 2002, the Delhi Metro commenced operations with the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurating its first train on the 8.4-km-long corridor between Shahdara and Tis Hazari stations on the Red line.

Two decades later, the rapid transit system spans nearly 393 kilometres, encompassing 288 stations across 12 corridors in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR). Furthermore, an additional 65 kilometres of new lines are under construction in the national capital, which will take the network length beyond 400 kilometres in the days to come.

The ascent of the Delhi Metro and its evolution into a monumental force within India's urban infrastructure is a compelling story of growth and transformation. This transit system has not only reshaped commute but also how millions connect and navigate the dynamic rhythm of life in the National Capital Region.

To provide a sense of scale, consider this: the Delhi Metro facilitates over six million passenger journeys each day, making it one of the largest mass transit systems globally.

However, despite these accomplishments, the international odyssey of the Delhi Metro has yet to receive due recognition in public discourse.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which operates the Delhi Metro, has embarked on a global journey, actively seeking opportunities to construct and operate metros worldwide.

Bahrain To Bangladesh

DMRC's first overseas advisory contract came in 2012, when it was awarded the management consulting services for the first phase of the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) in Indonesia, covering 15.7 kilometres.

The DMRC executed the project in an international joint venture with eight other international companies, including Padeco and Oriental Consultant of Japan, and Seneca Group from the US.

After a significant hiatus, in February of this year, DMRC was shortlisted for constructing the Bahrain Metro Rail Project Phase-1. DMRC is bidding for this project, which involves construction of around 30 kilometres of network with 20 stations.

"The Delhi Metro has qualified for the pre-qualification tender process for an international consultancy project to construct the Phase-1 Project of Bahrain Metro," the urban transporter said in a statement.

Heading north along the Mediterranean coast, the Delhi Metro is also involved in the Tel Aviv metro project in Israel. In July 2022, the transporter, as part of a consortium of reputed international firms, qualified in the pre-bid process for the construction of the Tel Aviv metro project.

The consortium, consisting of two Israeli partners, namely Poran Shrem and Hasson Yerushalmi Consultant, along with Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES), a railway PSU, has tendered their proposals for the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Region Metro. Winners of the bidding process to plan and oversee the full metro project are expected to be announced soon.

The Tel Aviv metro project, scheduled to partially open in 2034, is planned to have three lines running for 150 kilometres, with 109 stations, including connections to light rail and intercity rail lines.

In addition, three more metro networks — Alexandria in Egypt, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Mauritius — are also on its radar.

Closer to its home base, the Delhi Metro Rail is contributing its expertise to the Dhaka Metro project, serving as a General Consultant for three lines, in collaboration with Nippon Koei (Japanese) and Mott Macdonald (UK) companies.

Why Go Global

The transporter, equally owned by the Centre and the government of Delhi, has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and a loss of revenue. This situation underscores the rationale behind Delhi Metro's pursuit of global projects and its active involvement in lucrative ventures worldwide.

Speaking to ET, Vikas Kumar, the managing director of the DMRC, said, "We want to increase our share of revenue from consultancy business, in particular. So we decided we must expand our business outside India by using our core competence. That will fetch us some extra revenue."

The extent of Delhi Metro's commitment to establishing a global presence for its business is evident in its call to augment the share of consultancy business to 30 per cent of the total revenue, a detail not publicly verifiable.

As per the information disclosed in its annual report for 2021-22, the mass transit company generated a total revenue of Rs 4,677.01 crore for the year, including income from traffic operations, real estate, external projects, and consultancy.

It is noteworthy that mass transit systems, like the Delhi Metro, inherently cannot function as profit-making enterprises and are constrained in raising fares beyond a certain limit. Even though the Delhi Metro has recovered its pre-Covid ridership levels, the company is actively exploring alternative revenue sources outside of fares, allowing it to provide transportation at an affordable cost.

The Concern

Having made a success of a mass transit project in a sprawling and populous city, Delhi Metro is well-placed to guide others. Nevertheless, the global ride will not be easy and faces formidable competition from both local and international heavyweights.

In Israel, for instance, a total of seven consortia, each with Israeli and international companies, have submitted bids for the tender published by NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System, to plan and manage the three lines of Tel Aviv Metro.

Similarly, three Chinese companies — China Harbour Engineering Company, China Railway Construction Corporation, China Railway Group, along with Concession Infrastructure Investments Manager from the UK and Larsen and Toubro have qualified to bid for the contract to develop the first phase of Bahrain metro rail.

Nevertheless, the Delhi Metro is in a strong position to compete with these giants, as demonstrated by its successful bid for the operation and maintenance contract of Mumbai Metro Line-3.

Delhi Metro emerged as the lowest bidder to operate and maintain the 33.5-km Line-3 of the Mumbai Metro, outbidding Keolis, a reputable public transport operator from France with experience operating in various cities worldwide.

It isn’t often that India provides examples of successful infrastructure development on a global scale. Delhi Metro may well reshape that narrative.

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