The network of metro rail-based urban transportation systems has been developing rapidly. The Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities have received a lot of attention in recent times, with significant metro rail projects underway in Patna, Surat, Bhopal, Indore, Kanpur, Agra, etc. A lot of projects are greenfield in nature, that is, they are in the initial phase of construction, while others involve expanding the current rail network by adding new phases and corridors. As of September 2021, approximately 740 km of metro lines are currently operational in multiple cities throughout India, with the total network length gradually expected to widen to 900 km by 2022. Another 1,000 km of metro lines are being constructed across the country, which would bring the total length to around 2,000 km in the coming future.
Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the key operational metro rail projects in the country…
Delhi Metro Rail Project
The Delhi Metro Rail is India’s largest metro rail network, with 10 metro lines, covering 254 stations and a total length of 348.12 km. The metro rail is a mix of underground and elevated stations, which involves the usage of both broad-gauge and standard-gauge. The Delhi Metro has been developed and is operated by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited (DMRC), a company with equal equity participation from the Government of India and the Delhi state government. The construction of the entire rail network has been segmented into phases. Phase I includes 58 stations with a total route length of 65 km, of which a 13 km stretch is underground and the remaining stretch of 52.1 km is elevated. Phase I marked its completion in October 2006, with the opening of the Dwarka–Barakhamba Road route on the Blue Line. Phase II of the network is completely developed, with the first section opening in June 2008 and the last line opening in August 2011. It consists of 85 stations with a total route length of 124.93 km. Phase III consists of two new lines with 28 underground stations and 11 extended routes, totalling 167.27 km at a cost of Rs 350 billion. The project’s initial completion date was set for mid-2019. However, the construction work was significantly delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the latest statistics, the project has achieved 99.77 per cent physical progress as of July 2021.
The DMRC is developing three priority corridors with a total length of 65 km under Phase IV of the Delhi Metro. The metro corridor connecting Tughlakabad and Aerocity is the Silver Line, the metro corridor connecting Majlis Park and Maujpur is the Pink Line extension, while the metro corridor connecting Janakpuri West and R.K. Ashram is the Magenta Line extension. As of August 2021, the DMRC has invited bids for an underground tunnel work contract costing Rs 13.65 billion. The corridors are scheduled to be constructed by 2025; however, the project is expected to be delayed owing to Covid-19 constraints.
Hyderabad Metro Rail Project
The Hyderabad Metro Rail Project is India’s second longest operating metro network. It is financed through a public-private partnership, with the state government holding a minority equity stake. L&T Limited established L&T Metro Rail Hyderabad Limited, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to develop the Hyderabad Metro Rail project. Phase I involves Line 1 – Red Line (Miyapur–LB Nagar) with 27 stations, Line 2 – Green Line (JBS–Falaknuma) with 15 stations and Line 3 – Blue Line (Nagole–Raidurg) with 24 stations, spanning a length of approximately 72 km. The original estimated cost of the metro project was Rs 141.32 billion. The construction work, which was planned to commence in March 2011, began in 2012 and as a result, the project’s cost was revised to Rs 159.57 billion in March 2012. It was further raised upwards to Rs 188 billion in November 2017.
The Hyderabad Metro Rail Phase II expansion proposal is for an approximately 58 km stretch, which includes a link to Shamshabad Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. The construction of Phase II will be undertaken completely by the state government, as opposed to the public-private participation model in the case of Phase I. The DMRC was tasked with the preparation of the detailed project report for Phase II, which has been successfully submitted to the state government.
Bengaluru Metro Rail Project
The Bengaluru Metro Rail Project (BMRP) is India’s third longest metro system after the Delhi Metro and the Hyderabad Metro. It includes combinations of underground, at-grade and elevated stops. The metro rail system operates on standard-gauge tracks. Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL), a joint venture of the Government of India and the Karnataka state government, is an SPV entrusted with the responsibility of construction, operation and expansion of the metro rail project. The Phase I network is divided into east-west and north-south corridors. The east-west corridor is known as the Purple Line, whereas the northernmost segment is known as the Green Line. The Pur-ple Line runs east to west, connecting Baiyyapanahalli in the east to Kengeri station in the southwest. The line is 25.7-km long and contains 22 stations. It is elevated on both eastern and western sides and contains a 4.8 km underground segment in the middle. The Green Line runs from the north to the south, connecting Nagasandra in the north-west to the Silk Institute in the south-west, spanning a distance of 30.4 km and covering 30 stations. It is elevated on both the northern and southern sides and comprises a 4 km underground segment in the middle. These two corridors connect at Kempe Gowda Station, which is a two-phase interchange station.
The union government has approved Phase II of the BMRP, which includes Phase IIA from the Central Silk Board Junction to K.R. Puram and Phase IIB from K.R. Puram to the airport, for a total length of 58 km. In order to fund construction, BMRCL has obtained a $318 million loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in March 2021, as well as a $500 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in August 2021.
Chennai Metro Rail Project
The Tamil Nadu state government established Chennai Metro Rail Limited as an SPV to build and operate the Chennai Metro Rail Project. Phase I of the Chennai Metro Rail Project network spans 45.046 km and includes Corridor-I from Washermenpet to the airport (23.085 km) and Corridor-2 from the Chennai Central to St. Thomas Mount (21.961 km). The system uses a standard gauge and contains a variety of underground and elevated stations. In Phase I, about 55 per cent of the corridors are underground and the remaining is elevated. The 9.05 km-long Phase I extension from Washermenpet to Wimco Nagar, which contains six elevated stations and two underground stations, was commissioned and operationalised on February 14, 2021. This expanded the overall length of the metro system to 54.15 km.
The Tamil Nadu government approved the Chennai Metro Phase II project, which has three corridors, totalling 118.9 km at an estimated cost of Rs 618.43 billion. The project is yet to receive the central government’s approval. The project is expected to be finished by the end of 2026, with Chennai’s metro network expanding to around 173 km in length. Phase II would be partially funded by the JICA, the ADB, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank.
The way forward
The Covid-19 outbreak has delayed most of the ongoing projects. Labour migration, limited liquidity and the social distancing mandate will impede the sector’s growth. This is expected to impact project delivery in the near-to-medium term. Further, a majority of India’s metro systems face a number of challenges such as system complexity, increasing passenger traffic volumes, limited space, lack of power supply, and so on. Going forward, metro authorities need to devise solutions to address these issues for the metro to continue to remain the preferred mode of commutation.