Modern Mass Transit: Several new systems being explored for urban transportation

Several new systems being explored for urban transportation

Over the past few years, the government has begun to focus on modern transportation systems such as personal rapid transit (PRT), trams, hyperloop, skyways, regional rapid transport systems (RRTSs), etc. A total of 18 such projects, spanning over 856.6 km are planned to be developed in the country at an estimated investment of over Rs 984.2 billion. Once operational, these systems are expected to not only improve the mobility experience, but also reduce travel time and cost.

Personal rapid transit projects

A total of seven PRT projects spanning 175.9 km are planned to be developed at a total investment of over Rs 40.65 billion. These are the Bengaluru PRT (28.9 km, Rs 14.45 billion), the Delhi/Haryana border-Sohna Road PRT (12.3 km, Rs 8.5 billion), the Huda City Centre-Gurgaon Old City PRT (18 km, Rs 14.4 billion), the Jaipur PRT (3 km, Rs 1.26 billion), the Noida PRT (4 km, Rs 2.04 billion), the Ajmer PRT (4.7 km) and the Gurgaon PRT (105 km).

In 2016, the central government approved the development of the first PRT system in Delhi and Haryana. The Delhi/Haryana border-Sohna Road PRT will cover 16 stations. Each PRT pod (small automated vehicle) will have the capacity to carry up to five passengers and operate at a speed of 60 km per hour. It will be fully financed by the private company which develops the system. Initially, UK-based Ultra Global PRT, US-based skyTran and New Zealand-based Metrino PRT were the three shortlisted to build the PRT system. Each firm was required to form a joint venture (JV) with an Indian company and develop the system on a pilot stretch of about 1 km. The bidders are required to execute the pilot project utilising their own resources. While skyTran announced that it would develop the PRT at its own cost, Metrino PRT withdrew and called off the JV with the Indian firm citing lack of funds. Thus, it is yet to be seen how the development of the first PRT system takes place. The other six PRT systems are at the initial planning stage.

Regional rapid transport systems

A total of eight RRTS projects are planned to be developed in the country. The National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) formed in 2013 to develop the RRTS in the National Capital Region had announced plans to develop the eight RRTS projects. Currently, three RRTS (Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut, Delhi-Gurgaon-Rewari-Alwar, Delhi-Sonepat-Panipat) projects are being undertaken on a priority basis. The remaining projects – Delhi-Faridabad-Ballabgarh-Palwal (60 km), Delhi-Bahadurgarh-Rohtak (70 km), Delhi-Shahdra-Baraut (56 km), Ghaziabad-Khurja (83 km) and Ghaziabad-Hapur (57 km) are currently in the planning stage.

Trams

Currently, the Kolkata tram is the only operational tram system in the country. It spans 57.17 km and operates a fleet of 125 trams. Further, plans have been announced to develop five tram projects spanning a total length of 88.5 km at an investment of Rs 129.54 billion. This includes tram projects for Noida-Greater Noida (10.5 km, Rs 2.1 billion), Pimpri Chinchwad (12 km), Mathura (21 km, Rs 8.99 billion), Kochi (20 km, Rs 19.45 billion) and Hyderabad (25 km, Rs 10.5 billion). Further developments on the projects are yet to take place.

Hyperloop systems

Two hyperloop projects, spanning over 193.45 km are planned to be developed at an estimated investment of Rs 26.35 billion. The 43 km Vijayawada-Amaravati hyperloop, announced in October 2017, will be developed at an estimated investment of Rs 12.85 billion. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), the company responsible for developing the system, will conduct a six-month feasibility study to determine the best possible route. The system will be funded on a public-private partnership basis, where most of the funding will come from the private sector. The second project, the Jharkhand Hyperloop Corridor Project, spanning over 150 km, is planned to be developed at an estimated investment of Rs 13.5 billion. Plans for project development were announced in February 2017. However, no further update is available.

Skyway

In May 2017, the Himachal Pradesh government announced plans to develop the world’s first skyway, spanning 15 km, at an estimated investment of Rs 5.7 billion. The government plans to complete all the formalities in the next few months to commence construction as soon as possible and complete it within three years.

Conclusion

Over the years, the role of modern transport systems has assumed greater importance. Systems such as PRT, hyperloop, skyway and RRTS, supported by government initiatives, have picked up pace recently. In a rapidly urbanising economy, the network of such systems is expected to grow manyfold over the next few years, offering business opportunities across different segments.