A well-planned integrated urban transport system is of utmost relevance for Indian cities that are experiencing ever-increasing volumes of traffic. Today, these cities are characterised by increasing levels of traffic congestion, overcrowded and inconvenient buses and trains, and limited coverage and frequency of public transport. Many cities do not even have a basic public bus transport system. Further, the increased use of private modes of transport has resulted in greater air pollution and congestion on city roads.
At present, the urban transportation landscape in the country is undergoing a change. Provision of efficient urban transport has become a focus area of governments at both the central and state levels. This is primarily driven by growing demand, a steady increase in urban population, growing dependence on private modes of transport, and increasing congestion.
In the past few years, a number of metro rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) projects have been promoted, conceptualised and implemented in many cities. Major reforms were introduced to encourage firms to make forays into the sector. The biggest development was the government’s approval of the Metro Rail Policy, 2017. The new policy, the first of its kind in India, primarily aims to rekindle private sector participation, facilitate innovative financing and improve project ap-
praisal procedures. In another major move, all metro rail corporations have been mandated to procure a minimum 75 per cent of train cars and 25 per cent of critical equipment domestically. Further, metro rail and BRT authorities are adopting advanced digital technologies in the areas of fare payment systems, vehicle tracking, passenger information systems, signalling and train control, etc., to reduce their operations and maintenance costs.
These initiatives are a significant departure from the past and bode well for the development of new urban mass transit (UMT) projects in the country.
- The country’s current operational network of urban rail systems is over 377 km. At present, metro projects are operational in
- Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Gurugram, Jaipur, Chennai, Lucknow, Kochi and Mumbai. Further, BRT systems have been operationalised in 10 cities covering a total length of over 250 km. These are Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bhopal, Indore, Jaipur, Naya Raipur, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune, Rajkot and Surat.
- Over the past few years, progress in the two principal modes of urban transportation – bus- and rail-based systems – has been quite encouraging. The metro rail segment has witnessed an increase in project uptake and approval, with over 75 km of length added and 212 km approved between April 2016 and October 2017. The highest addition of 18.35 km was on account of the commissioning of three stretches under Chennai Metro, Phase I – the Thirumangalam-Nehru Park section (9.09 km), the Ashok Nagar-St Thomas Mount section (5.27 km) and the Officers’ Training Academy-Chennai Airport section (3.99 km). Further, the 5.17 km Heritage Line (ITO-Kashmere Gate) of Delhi Metro, Phase III, was operationalised in May 2017. In June 2017, the 13.16 km Aluva-Palarivattom stretch of Kochi Metro, Phase I, was operationalised. Recently, in October 2017, another 5.03 km of the Palarivattom-Maharaja College section of the Kochi metro was operationalised. In addition, two metro rail projects – the Hyderabad metro and the Mumbai monorail – witnessed the completion of construction works on over 41 km.
- In the urban bus segment too, over 80 km of BRT network was added between April 2016 and October 2017. Some of the key BRT corridors inaugurated during the period were the Amritsar BRT project (21 km), Phase I of the Naya Raipur BRT project (6.59 km), the Yerawada-Wagholi corridor of the Pune BRT (9 km), and the Vepagunta-Simhachalam corridor (21.7 km) and Pendurthi-NAD Junction-Dwarka Nagar corridor (22.6 km) under Phase I of the Visakhapatnam BRT project.
- Advanced technologies and solutions are being adopted for fare collection, signalling and telecommunications. The under-construction Nagpur metro rail project is developing a common mobility card for enabling seamless travel by various modes of transport. New-generation ticket gates that allow passengers to travel using quick response (QR) codes on their mobile phones have been installed at two stations of the Delhi Metro Heritage Line – Red Fort and Jama Masjid. As part of this pilot project, passengers can buy journey passes through e-wallets. Once the payment is validated, they receive the QR code that can be used to gain access to the stations. Further, the Janakpuri West-Botanical Garden stretch of the Delhi metro is deploying the advanced communication-based train control (CBTC) system which will allow driverless train operations. A similar system has been deployed for the Hyderabad metro rail project. In the rolling stock segment too, coaches are equipped with several im-proved features such as automatic doors, microprocessor-controlled disc brakes, secondary air suspension, power supply connections inside coaches to charge mobiles and laptops, and CCTV cameras.
- In the BRT segment too, new technologies are being deployed for streamlining operations. The Bhopal BRT has deployed an automatic vehicle location system which is equipped with a global positioning system for tracking the movement of city buses on a real-time basis. Besides, a management information system has been introduced to record, archive and generate reports. An automatic fleet monitoring system has also been deployed by the Amritsar BRT project, which has also deployed surveillance systems including infrared cameras with video backup facility in buses to ensure commuter safety.
- Further, initiatives are also being undertaken to develop modern transportation systems such as personal rapid transit (PRT) systems, trams, hyperloop, skyways, etc. About 472 km of such transportation systems have been either approved or announced for development in the future. Maximum network length will be added by PRT systems at 175 km, followed by hyperloop (150 km), trams (132 km) and skyways (15 km).
- With regard to financing, the bulk of the funding requirements for a metro project are still met through funds provided by the centre and state governments as well as by multilateral agencies. The public-private partnership (PPP) model for funding metro projects has witnessed limited success as recouping the entire project cost through farebox revenues is not possible. Project bankability and structuring are key issues that inhibit private participation in the UMT sector. The challenges are further amplified given the huge investment requirement and the long lock-in periods.
- As per the High Powered Expert Committee Report on Urban Infrastructure and Services (March 2011), the long-term investment requirements (until 2031) for the urban transport sector are estimated at Rs 7.5 trillion. The bulk of the investments are expected to come through budgetary resources, government-sponsored programmes/schemes and aid from multilateral agencies.
- Operational UMT systems are currently being expanded and new systems are coming up too. The sector offers a lucrative pipeline of over 84 corridors/stretches (3,180 km) entailing an investment of over Rs 7 trillion. After the completion of all metro rail projects in the pipeline, 48 cities in India will have a total operational metro rail network of over 2,561 km. In addition, about 108 km and 153 km of monorail and light rail networks will be operationalised by 2026-27. The BRT segment will have a total operational network of 375 km in 12 cities in the next three-four years.
- Engineering, procurement and construction will continue to be the dominant mode of project implementation, at least in the short to medium term. Property development, including advertising and rentals, remains an underexploited source of funds. With projects like the Delhi and Gurgaon metro systems setting an example, other cities are planning to tap this source for increasing their non-fare revenue.
- To make PPP in UMT projects feasible, it is imperative to prepare realistic traffic projections in order to project accurate cost and returns on investments. Promoting a hybrid revenue basket for metro projects will greatly help in driving investments. There is also an urgent need to diversify investment sources with a robust mix of long- and short-term financing sources, wherein non-banking financial institutions should play a key role. Besides, risks pertaining to traffic and revenue should be shared between the stakeholders involved.
- Going forward, the focus will be on developing modern integrated urban transportation systems. New technologies and systems such as near field communication, common mobility cards, CBTC, platform screen doors, etc., will gain prominence. In the next two to three years, expansion and uptake of UMT projects will offer multiple business opportunities across different segments – contractors, consultants, rolling stock providers, bus manufacturers, signalling and telecommunication solution providers, fare system providers, traction system providers, and other ancillary market segments.