India has emerged as one of the fastest growing markets for urban rail-based transit systems. In 2020, the coverage of the ur-ban rail network in India was over 700 km across 13 cities. By 2025, it is expected to increase to 1,700 km across 50 cities. At a recent conference on “Urban Rail in India”, Anjum Parwez, managing director, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL), discussed the progress of projects being implemented by BMRCL, upcoming opportunities, the impact of Covid-19 on operations and the key challenges being faced…
Update on projects
Bangalore metro (Namma Metro) was commissioned in phases and the entire route was fully commissioned in June 2017. It covers 40 stations with a length of 42.3 km. Phase 1 operates via two corridors, the East-West corridor of length 18.1 km and 17 stations and the North-South corridor of length 24.2 km and 23 stations. The entire cost of the project was Rs 138.45 billion.
One of the ongoing projects of BMRCL is Phase 2, which entails the construction of 61 stations with an aggregate length of 75.1 km at an estimated cost of Rs 306.95 billion. The elevated section is 61.3 km while the underground section is 13.8 km. R2 and R4 extensions of Phase 2 have already been commissioned.
Phases 2A and 2B, which connect the heart of Bengaluru to the airport, were recently sanctioned by the government. Phase 2A entails the construction of 13 elevated stations, from the Central Silk Board to K.R. Puram, with a length of 19.75 km at an estimated cost of Rs 52.05 billion. The civil contracts have already been awarded. Phase 2B involves the construction of 17 elevated stations, from K.R. Puram to the Kempegowda International Airport via Hebbal, with a length of 38.44 km at a cost of Rs 95.84 billion. Technical bids for the project are currently being evaluated. Once Phases 2, 2A and 2B are completed, the total network coverage will be 175.6 km. These projects are targeted to be completed by December 2025.
Phase 3, consisting of two routes, is an upcoming project. One line will cover the western side of the Outer Ring Road from Kempapura to J.P. Nagar spanning over 32.16 km. The other line will be towards Magadi Road starting from the Hosahalli metro station to Kadabagere covering 12.82 km. Currently, a detailed project report of the Phase 3 lines is being prepared.
Impact of Covid-19 on operations
During the pre-Covid-19 period, 148 trips on Line 1 and 137 trips on Line 2 were completed on a daily basis, totaling 285 trips. BMRCL operations were suspended from March 22, 2020 to September 6, 2020 and again from April 27, 2021 to June 20, 2021.
Passenger boarding per day reduced by 68.5 per cent from 0.39 million in March 2020 to 0.12 million in April 2021 due to Covid-19. Average fare box revenue per day reduced by 59 per cent from Rs 8.95 million to Rs 2.89 million during the same period. Average non-fare box revenue per day also decreased. The only parameter which increased was the usage of smart cards (from 60 per cent in March 2020 to 100 per cent in April 2021).
The way forward
BMRCL is undertaking several initiatives to improve operations, such as “One Nation One Card”, electric vehicle charging facilities and air-conditioned bus feeder services. The National Common Mobility Card system will be launched in all 53 metro stations by December 2021. The corporate sector is also being actively involved for fund generation.
A key challenge pertains to the metro rail, wherein projected ridership levels have not been achieved despite metro journeys being relatively faster and cheaper. This is due to unreliable and expensive last-mile modes. Currently, capacity utilisation in the Bangalore metro is only 50 per cent. Therefore, improving first- and last-mile connectivity is critical. City bus services should be organised in such a way that bus services and metro services complement each other. BMRCL is making efforts to integrate public transport with on-demand autorickshaw services. Another key aspect is the alignment of metro lines through major job clusters.
The Comprehensive Mobility Plan for Bengaluru envisages a total metro rail network of 317 km by 2031. Indigenous manufacturing of rolling stock and signalling systems have emerged as key focus areas. Hence, the current pipeline of urban rail projects presents tremendous opportunities for domestic players.