Making Headway: Recent developments in urban transport

Recent developments in urban transport

Activity in the urban transport sector has gained momentum, especially since 2014. The operational metro network has increased from 200 plus km in 2014 to 721 km in 2021 across 18 cities. Further, a network of 1,058 km is under construction across 27 more cities. As per the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the operational urban rail network is expected to cross 1,700 km in the next five years. The government aims to expand metro services to 50 cities in the next few years.

Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the recent developments in the urban transport sector…

Budget announcements

  • The Union Budget 2020-21 had set aside Rs 200 billion for mass rapid transit systems and metro projects, an almost 6 per cent jump from the Rs 189 billion apportioned in 2019. However, the revised estimate dropped to Rs 90 billion in 2020-21. The Budget 2021-22 has laid significant emphasis on the infrastructure sector to revive the economy, which was severely hit by the pandemic. Thus, the year 2021-22 saw the highest outlay of Rs 235 billion for metro projects during 2015-22. The budget has allocated funds for four metro projects: The Kochi Metro Rail Phase II spanning  11.5 km with an investment of Rs 19.57 billion, the Chennai Metro Rail Phase II spanning 118.9 km with an investment of Rs 632.46 billion, the 58.19 km Bengaluru Metro Rail Project Phase 2A and 2B for Rs 147.88 billion, the Nagpur Metro Rail Project Phase II for Rs 59.76 billion and the Nashik Metro for Rs 20.92 billion. Further, Rs 180 billion has been allocated to a scheme aimed at augmenting public transport in urban areas.

Progress of project execution

  • The outbreak of Covid-19 disrupted metro services across the country. It impacted revenue generation and the pace of project implementation. Despite the hurdles, many metro projects were completed and new projects were announced in the past one year.
  • In August 2021, the Delhi Metro’s Grey Line Najafgarh-Dhansa Bus Stand extension and a 289 metre section between Mayur Vihar Pocket 1 and Trilokpuri Sanjay Lake station on the Pink Line were inaugurated. The opening of the Trilokpuri section will fully link the entire 59 km Pink Line and will connect important landmarks of the city.
  • In July 2021, with the opening of the Kumbharia-Kadodora bus rapid transit system (BRTS) corridor, Surat became the city with the longest BRTS network of 108 km. At present, there are 157 buses running on 12 dedicated BRTS corridors and 575 city buses on the roads. As Covid-19 cases continue to decline, people have started using BRTS and city buses. The city is also set to get a modern metro rail that will integrate all public transport systems.
  • In July 2021, the Delhi Metro’s Aerocity-Tughlakabad corridor, under which four stations will be built in the ridge and morphological ridge areas and 1,072 trees will be cut, received approval from the Ridge Management Board. The corridor being built as part of the Phase IV project has been christened as “Silver Line” by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
  • In October 2020, the first phase of the project, a 4.88 km stretch connecting Sector V and the Salt Lake Stadium, under the Kolkata East-West Metro Project, was completed. The entire stretch is expected to be completed by December 2021. Meanwhile, in September 2020, the Thykoodam-Petta stretch was completed under the Kochi Metro Rail Project Phase I. Phase IB (Chandpole to Badi Chaupar) of the Jaipur Metro Rail Project was also completed in the same month.
  • Many metro rail projects have been approved in the past one year. These include the Gorakhpur light rail project, the Ahmedabad-Dholera special investment region light rail project, Nagpur Metro Phase II, Nashik MetroNeo and Kochi Metro Phase II.

Technological thrust

  • Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited has announced its plan to launch the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) to enable citizens to travel on Namma Metro and Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses using a single card. In January 2021, a 6 km stretch of Bangalore Metro Phase II from Yelachenahalli to Silk Institute was inaugurated. The five stations have been developed to support the open-loop NCMC.
  • There is an increased focus on the indigenisation of metro projects. In October 2020, the Delhi metro received the 800th indigenously manufactured metro car from Bombardier for its network. In September 2020, DMRC took a major step towards the development of an indigenously built communication-based train control (CBTC) signalling technology with the launch of i-ATS. It is an important subsystem of the signalling system.
  • In January, the government launched the first driverless coach for the Mumbai metro manufactured by BEML under the Make in India initiative. The indigenously developed metro cars will be delivered to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority till January 2024.
  • Many technological trends including unattended train operations, CBTC, open-loop ticketing, environment safety solutions, mechanisation and remote monitoring in project implementation are being witnessed. Metro systems are also using building information models and data analytics for integrated project management to achieve cost effectiveness. In July 2021, DMRC implemented a custom-made integrated project monitoring software (IPMS) for monitoring the progress of work on its Phase IV corridors and the Patna metro. With the help of the IPMS, all the stages of project planning and implementation, right from the tender stage to the revenue operation of each corridor, will be monitored.
  • The success of metro rail projects in Tier I cities has led to a growing demand for similar systems in Tier II and Tier III cities. To provide urban transport in Tier II cities and the peripheral areas of Tier I cities, the government plans to deploy two new technologies – MetroLite and MetroNeo. They will help provide metro rail systems at a much lower cost with the same experience, convenience and safety.
  • In order to enhance customer convenience and simplify the fare collection system, several metro rail corporations have introduced or are planning to introduce innovative fare collection mechanisms, including the use of bank cards and mobile wallets for payment, along with QR code-based ticketing. In December 2020, India’s first indigenous automatic fare collection system, the NCMC, was launched for the Delhi metro’s Airport Express Line and is expected to cover the entire Delhi metro network by 2022.
  • In May 2021, the Ahmedabad BRTS added 50 electric buses to its fleet. The Eco-Life buses are powered by fast charging lithium-ion batteries and can run for up to 250 km. They have features such as real-time passenger information systems, panic buttons for emergency, automatic bus vehicle location systems, CCTV cameras, public address systems and stop-request buttons. The buses are expected to help save 1,000 tonne-equivalent of carbon dioxide and 350,000 litres of diesel over a 10-year period of operation.
  • In December 2020, the government flagged off the country’s first-ever fully automated driverless train service on the Magenta Line of the Delhi metro. The newly launched driverless train is centrally controlled from the operations control centre. The automated service is also expected to become a reality in Bengaluru (Electronics City Line) by 2022. In January 2021, BEML launched the driverless metro car for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). BEML has also started the delivery of trains to the MMRDA for Mumbai metro Lines 2A and 7.
  • In November 2020, DMRC and Central Electronics Limited signed an MoU under the Make in India initiative for developing indigenous rail engineering and system technologies like the broken rail detection system, theft intrusion detection system, concrete health monitoring system, remote health monitoring of point machines, multi-section digital axle counter (MSDAC), and MSDAC with automatic train protection (ATP) to replace older technologies.
  • In July 2020, trial runs were conducted on Kolkata East-West Metro for running its rakes in the automatic train operation (ATO) mode. Prior to this, trains were being operated in the ATP mode. Switching to ATO will increase the frequency between two trains from the present five-to-six minutes to four minutes.

Despite facing hurdles due to the ongoing pandemic, the sector has made considerable progress in the past year with the commissioning of a number of projects. Construction activity has also picked up pace and various projects are expected to be completed within the next two to three years. In order to recover completely from the effects of the pandemic, the government needs to provide monetary stimulus to the sector by attracting funds and grants from multilateral agencies and extending sovereign-guaranteed funds to revive the interest of the private sector.