Moving Apace: Hyderabad metro ridership set to improve post-Covid

Hyderabad metro ridership set to improve post-Covid

The Hyderabad Metro is the world’s largest metro project in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode. Built at a cost of Rs 194.64 billion, the project brings together best-in-class resources and technology in all aspects. Sudh­ir Chiplunkar, chief operating officer, L&T Metro Rail (Hy­de­ra­bad) Limited, highlights the key features of the Hy­de­rabad Metro project, and also talks about some of the major challenges faced and steps taken amidst the Covid-19 pandemic…

Project snapshot

The Hyderabad metro covers 69.2 km across three elevated corridors, with 57 stations. The project was partially commissioned in November 2017 and full commercial operations began in February 2020. The ultimate capacity on Line 1 (Miyapur-LB Nagar) and Line 3 (Nagole-Rai­durg) is 50,000 peak hour peak direction trips (PHPDT) and on Line 2 (JBS Parade Ground-MG bus station) is 35,000 PHPDT.

Key stakeholders

Works related to stations, depots, tracks, via­ducts and power supply were undertaken by L&T. Rolling stock (three-car trains) was provided by Hyundai Rotem and Thales was the signalling and telecom provider. The automatic fare collection (AFC) contract was awarded to Samsung, while Otis bagged the lift and escalator contract. L&T enga­ged various consultants for Hyderabad Metro – Halcrow for independent safety assessment, Keolis for op­e­ra­tions and maintenance (O&M), and AECOM and Feed­back Infra as concessionaire’s engineers.

Challenges faced

Land acquisition continues to pose a key challenge for metro projects. Approval of the traffic management plan from various authorities and unmapped utilities caused last-minute diversions and changes in design. Currency fluctuations had an implication on the direct and indirect cost of the project. The interest rate went up by almost 2 per cent during the project execution phase.

During the O&M phase, Samsung, the project’s AFC system provider, closed its AFC business worldwide, due to which L&T had to identify another technology provider. Pollution from a factory near the depot is another challenge affecting equipment life.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on operations. The pandemic led to a nationwide lockdown, due to which metro operations were suspended from March 22 to September 6, 2020. In the wake of the second wave, there was a partial lockdown in Telangana from April 21, 2020 to June 20, 2021, and the metro’s ope­rations had to be curtailed. This had a severe effect on the operating ratio.

Train capacity has reduced to 25 per cent due to Covid-19 restrictions. Thus, pre-Covid-19 ridership cannot be attained with restrictions in place. However, with the vaccine roll-out and pe­ople regaining confidence in using public transport, it is expected that these restrictions will be gradually relaxed to pave the way for restoration of ridership to pre-Covid levels.

Initiatives for operational improvement

L&T has conducted customer surveys to identify the pain points and, based on these, it will take the necessary steps to encourage customers to use the metro. Some of the pain po­in­ts are related to parking, last-mile connectivity and ease of access. The metro operator is thus providing free/paid parking, free shuttle services, sky walks and electric vehicle charging points. It has also tied up with Ola, Uber and Zoom Car.

For passenger convenience, the TSavaari app, an integrated transportation solution, provides information on all modes of transport for better journey planning. There are health che­cks and medical assistance at stations with high footfalls. Passengers have access to free water, newspapers, Wi-Fi, etc.

L&T is generating revenue from non-fare sources such as station retail and advertising, transit-oriented development (four malls), rental space for telecom towers, dark fibre leasing and O&M services. It has procured a rail grinding machine, which is available on rent to other metros.

Best practices

Hyderabad metro is the first metro in India to implement communications-based train control technology. It is also the first to have a three-car train on 25 kV AC. Precast segments have been used for viaducts. The spine and wing construction technique has been used for station designing. L&T has implemented an asset management system, Maximo. QR code-based ticketing has been adopted to avoid physical contact in times of Covid-19. Also, 20 stations are Indian Green Building Council certified.