Seamless Connectivity

Making urban transport systems more accessible and sustainable

Growing urbanisation has necessitated urban mobility solutions to prevent pollution and traffic-related problems. India’s urban transport sector has seen significant growth in the past few years owing to key initiatives such as the metro rail policy, increased financial assistance to metro rail projects, and promotion of indigenous technologies and capabilities. New modes of transit, MetroNeo and Metrolite, are emerging as potential and viable transit systems for Tier II and III cities. The sector is witnessing rapid adoption of technologies such as contactless ticketing, advanced signalling systems, driverless operations, and building information modelling. Metro operators are also actively looking at augmenting non-fare revenues and improving first- and last-mile connectivity. Industry experts comment on the recent progress, key challenges and future outlook for the sector…

What has been the progress in the urban transport sector over the past one year?

Brijesh Dixit, Managing Director, Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited

Brijesh Dixit

The year 2021-22 saw the Nagpur Metro achieving various milestones, including the inauguration of the 2.1 km Sitabuldi-Kastur­chand Park stret­ch, comprising two stations, and the Zero Mile Freedom Park on August 15, 2022, commemorating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. Moreover, three additional elevated stations – Chhatra­pati Square, Congress Nagar and Ujjwal Nagar – were opened for commercial operations. The ba­lance cantilever over Indian Railways’ tracks and the four-layer mass transit system were also built. At present, approximately 27 km, with an equal number of stations, along with two receiving substations, two traction substations and one operation control centre, is fully operational, catering to an average daily commute of 60,000, with 10 trains and 250 trips per day and an average headway of 13 minutes. The Nagpur Metro has also contributed to the aesthetic development of the city through collateral projects such as the Futala Lake and underpasses. It is also creating a green footprint by implementing solar energy systems, double plumbing and biodigesters. The organisation has also as­sis­ted in the preparation of the de­tail­ed project report (DPR) for the Nasik MetroNeo project and the Thane integral ring metro project. Similarly, Maha Metro has prepared the DPR for Warangal and has been asked to draft the same for Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

“The key initiatives taken by the government have helped in not just speedy implementation of the    Nagpur Metro project but also in the betterment of the city.” Brijesh Dixit

Sushil Kumar, Managing Director, Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation Limited

Sushil Kumar

The urban transport sector in India has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, with metro projects emerging in different parts of the country. Currently, Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of operational and under-construction metro projects. The Uttar Pradesh Me­tro Rail Corporation’s (UPMRC) Kanpur Metro Rail project was inaugurated on Decem­ber 28, 2021. The length of the project is 32.5 km and it is being built at a cost of over Rs 110 billion. Its 9 km-long priority corridor is the most quickly built metro project in the country, completed in two years and 1.5 mon­ths, way ahead of the stipulated deadline. UPMRC is also developing the Agra Metro. Co­n­struction work on the first 6 km-long priority section of Phase I (Taj East Gate-Jama Mas­jid) is under way. Two corridors of the Agra Metro will connect major tourist attractions such as the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Sikandra with the city’s railway stations and bus stands.

 

 

“Metro operations are undergoing a digital revolution with the internet of things enabling on-board sensors to deliver real-time analysis and monitoring.” Sushil Kumar

Anjum Parwez, IAS, Managing Director, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited

Anjum Parwez

Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has been working round the clock to provide seamless first- and last-mile connectivity to commuters, with the city bus services operating feeder services covering 33 metro stations of the operational network, spanning 63 routes, with 506 buses and 4,976 trips. That said, a change in the travel pattern has been observed among commuters’ during Covid and post-Covid periods. There is a preference for travelling on private vehicles for personal safety, rather than in public transport, be it metro rail or city bus services. During 2021, BMRCL added 13.5 km of operations to its 42.3 km network under Phase I, bringing the total to 55.8 km. An additional 120 km is under construction. Under Pha­se III, the DPR is under fi­nalisation for two corridors of about 45 km len­gth. To improve ease of connectivity to metro stations, BMRCL has been building infrastructure such as footpaths, cycle tracks, provisions for parking of private vehicles at major interchange stations, foot over bridges for integration with other modes of transport, service roads for pick-up and drop-off facilities and bus bays, for both the operational and un­der-construction metro networks. The Indian In­s­­ti­tu­tion of Science has prepared a concept plan for seven stations under Phase 2A and Phase 2B to achieve seamless integration with different mo­des of transport. As a part of its green initiative, BMRCL has created electric char­ging points at a few metro stations. As part of property development, the IKEA Group started commercial operations on the land leased by BMRCL adjacent to the Nagasandra metro station, which has helped increase footfalls at the station considerably.

“There is a need for creating a single agency for all road-based transport for effective coordination,   similar to the Unified Metropolitan Transportation Authority.” Anjum Parwez

K.V.B. Reddy, Managing Director and CEO, L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Limited

K.V.B. Reddy

With increasing government focus, the urban transport sector has witnessed rapid growth in recent times. As part of its commitment to ur­ban transportation, the Government of India has introduced the ambitious PM Gati Shakti-National Master Plan for a Multi-modal Conn­ectivity mega project, which would lead to massive government spending on roads, railways, highways, ports and public transport. With a cle­ar focus on infrastructural reforms, this is going to be the key driver in accelerating Ind­ia’s economy. The mass rapid transit system (MRTS) in India has taken a substantial leap with 791 km of operational metro rail network. Vision 2025 for urban public transport envisages MRTS be­ing made available in more than 50 ci­ties in India by 2025. The government has ta­ken up metro rail feasibility studies across cities with over 2 million population. With over 1,000 km of metro and regional rapid transit system projects currently under various phases of development, very soon, 27 Indian cities will have operational metro services.

On the policy front, the Metro Rail Policy, 2017 advises cities to develop a compre­hensive mobility plan under a statutory body, Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA). The set­ting up of UMTAs is currently at various stag­es in 12 states where the metro rail network has either commenced or is under construction.

“India is undergoing a rapid transformation in the urban transportation sector thanks to the consistent focus of the government and the efforts to bring in private participation through the PPP model.” K.V.B. Reddy

Karun Raj Singh Sareen, Partner, Major Projects Advisory, KPMG

Karun Raj Singh Sareen

The urban transport sector has been growing at a faster pace in India in recent times, with about 750 km of metro rail line under operation across 19 cities, with 70 per cent of the network having become operational after 2014. Over the past few years, approximately 40 per cent of the total budget of the Ministry of Hou­sing and Urban Affairs has been allocated consistently for the implementation of metro rail projects across the country. In line with Vision 2025 for urban public transport, there is a continued push to make MRTS and bus connectivity available within 800 metres of homes in more than 50 cities, for which Rs 5,733.66 billion is planned to be invested under the Natio­nal Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). The urban tra­ns­port sector has also been identified as one of the seven engines of growth under the PM Gati Shakti programme to achieve nation-wide integrated infrastructure development as per the central government’s vision.

 

“The urban transport sector will continue to evolve, with an emphasis on adopting cost-effective mass transit solutions such as MetroLite and MetroNeo in smaller cities.” Karun Raj Singh Sareen

What has been the impact of the key initiatives taken by the government?

Brijesh Dixit

The key initiatives taken by government have helped in not just speedy implementation of the Nagpur Metro project but also in the betterment of the city. Maha Metro was able to execute the project in a speedier way. The organisation has also executed other wor­ks under the Central Work Fund, such as beautification of Futala lake, a major lake in the city that is visited by hundreds of Nagpurians daily, where it has constructed a viewing gallery and is executing a parking plaza project. Maha Metro is also executing the Jais­tambh junction improvement project (near Nagpur railway station).

Sushil Kumar

Government support is very necessary for projects such as the UPMRC, in both financial and non-financial activities. These are heavy, cost-intensive projects, which require proper plann­ing and implementation. With the governme­nt’s support, UPMRC has been able to comple­te the Lucknow and Kanpur Metro projects within the stipulated timelines. Right from land acquisition to providing administrative support, to creating a conducive environment for the smooth a conduct of metro operations, the ce­n­­tral and state governments have been the most reliable support system for UPMRC. Apart from this, UPMRC has adopted the Make in India initiative. Metro trains for Kanpur and Agra are being manufactured at the Savli plant of Alstom under the Make in India initiative. Different systems such as signalling, electrical instruments, etc. are being procured under the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.

Anjum Parwez

Key initiatives to address issues of traffic congestion on city roads and promote the use of public transport, through the urban tra­nsport policy and financial assistance to metro rail projects and city bus services, have encouraged states. With an aim to encourage transit-oriented development and to ensure that commuters reach metro stations safely and easily, BMRCL has developed a well-paved, unencumbered and continuous footpath all along the existing metro stations of Phase 1 and Phase 2 to a distance of 250 metres on either side of the metro stations. Further, in order to encourage non-motorised transport (NMT) users, BMRCL has demarcated parking spaces for cycles at all metro stations of Pha­se 1 and operational stations of Phase 2 and proposes the same for upcoming stations. BMRCL has also allocated parking spa­ce for Yulu bicycles, in an attempt to increase acc­e­ssibility through NMT modes for access to/ egress from the station and to improve accessibility to public transport. In association with the Department of Urban Transport, BMRCL has given space at some stations for providing prepaid taxi services to achieve first- and last-mile connectivity. The Karna­ta­ka government has approved the Parking Policy 2.0, according to which passengers can park and ride at a metro station, thereby im­proving public transport usage.

K.V.B. Reddy

India is undergoing rapid transformation in the urban transportation sector thanks to the consistent focus of the government and its efforts on bringing in private participation through the public-private partnership (PPP) model. With the entry of private players, there has been a lot of focus on technology adoption and upgradation, making the urban transportation sector cleaner, faster and greener.

We saw rapid growth in metro operations with some key metro projects being Kochi, Jai­pur, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahme­da­bad, Pune, Nagpur and Lucknow, while metro rou­tes in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata got further expanded. The government is putting a lot of fo­cus on indigenisation through the Atmanirbhar Bh­arat, Make in India and Vocal for Local progra­mmes to push indigenous technologies and ca­pabilities. This has led to many companies such as Bharat Earth Movers Limited and Als­tom, among others, manufacturing met­ro coaches in India. There are several compani­es such as ABB and Mitsubishi Electric, which are manufacturing various metro components in India. Ample domestic capacity is also being de­ve­loped for the construction of civil structures.

Karun Raj Singh Sareen

In August 2017, the government approved a new metro rail policy, which basically provides guidelines for the development of urban transport systems across the cities in a responsible manner, considering multimodal integration, last-mile connectivity, selection of the most suited urban transit system, creation of the UMTA and financing aspects. The policy has not only accelerated metro rail implementation but has also helped in creating an ecosystem for improving the urban mobility scenario in the country. Currently, over half a dozen cities where metro projects are operational have set up UMTAs, notified transit-oriented development policy and have a comprehensive mobility plan in place for overall improvement in urban mobility. Iden­tifi­cation of urban transport projects under the NIP, development of standard specifications for MetroNeo, MetroLite and watermetro, standardisation and the local content stipulation under the Make in India programme are some of the other initiatives that are helping stren­g­then the development of the ur­ban transport sector in the country.

What are the emerging digitalisation and other technology trends?

Brijesh Dixit

As part of the digitalisation initiatives, 5D building information modelling (BIM), along with a system analysis program, is being incorporated on a .NET platform for a seamless management information system experience. The automatic fare collection (AFC) gates at the metro stations are another example of how technology can facilitate commuter movement. Besid­es, the mobile application caters to ticketless co­mmuting. The Nagpur Metro will also be in­cor­porating digital kiosks and incident management systems soon. It is further looking to implement the .NET platform and form a board of stakeholders from the railways, metro railway organisations and other urban transport bodies in order to provide uniformity across In­dia and ensure faster decision-making to help speed up execution works.

Sushil Kumar

The Lucknow Metro rail network is one of the best examples of technology and advancement. Project monitoring is being done with the best tools available. The entire team works on one plat­form and interface, otherwise it would have been impossible to complete these projects. UPMRC has also brought in BIM technology. We have used 3D BIM and may move on to 5D depending on the cost and time factors in the future.

This is bringing in a lot of improvement in project design, building an inte­rface between different systems and cable ro­utings. Signalling is advanced and we have us­ed a communication-based train control system. In addition, we have opted for an AFC system with smart cards and quick response codes.

In general, metro operations are undergoing a digital revolution with internet of thin­gs enabling onboard sensors to deliver real-ti­me analysis and monitoring, automating maintenance and ensuring that a trains’ location is always 100 per cent accurate. Dro­n­es are al­ready in use for identifying problems, assisting maintenance workers and providing additional security by offering a view of trespassers or other threats.

To overcome the challenges of cost and time, virtual reality is being used to create a 3D model of a product, test its efficiency virtually and then bring it to market. The concept of driverless trains is gaining traction. A driver-free network can be more predictable, maximise capacity and remove the ele­ment of human error.

Anjum Parwez

Implementation of the emerging technology for common ticketing through a national common mobility card will make transport systems more accessible, sustainable and seamless. Other trends include:

  • Equipping ticket counters with a unified payment interface with static quick response (QR) codes for digital payments.
  •  Developing mobile applications to facilitate smart card recharges and enabling QR code ticket at metros.
  • Equipping ticket counters with point-of-sale machines at stations to enable credit and debit card payments.
  • Collaborating with Google Maps for providing train schedules and train frequency to save travel time.
  • Collaborating with popular mobile applications for smart card recharges and QR code tickets.
    BMRCL is in the process of interacting with various other modes of transport to promote the concept of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS).

K.V.B. Reddy

The Indian metro system today is at par with any other metro system in the world in terms of digitalisation and technology adoption. Whe­th­er it is the signalling system (CBTC system), mo­­­­dern lightweight aluminium built rolling sto­ck, IoT-based asset management system, or the adaptation of BIM. Digitalised passenger in­­formation systems and fare collection systems including proximity smart card/QR-based ticketing systems enhance passenger convenience. The adoption of intelligent transportati­on systems is the need of the hour to improve traffic congestion and help reduce carbon em­i­ssions. We have also noticed that the govern­me­nt is leaning towards future-forward te­ch­nology tools which include artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, 5G internet connectivity and cloud engineering. All these technological capabilities and their adoption have the potential to turn around the entire landscape of ur­ban transportation.

Karun Raj Singh Sareen

Over the years, we have witnessed a shortening of the construction period of metro rail pro­jects, in some cases to even under three years. One of the main reasons for quicker exe­cution is the advancement in construction technology. Most of the metro rail construction work is now occurring off-site, using ex­ten­sive mechanisation and digital tools for monitoring and control. An Integrated project management system comprising 5D BIM solutions, AI/machine learning-based digital dash­boar­ds, drone-based solutions and IoT/sensors are being deployed effectively in most of the metro rail projects which are under construction.  For operations and maintenance (O&M) as well, new technologies such as ad­vanced analytics for predictive maintenance, IoT-based devices for condition-based maintenance and a digital asset management system are being ex­plor­ed.  Technologies such as the national com­mon mobility card, journey plan­ners and MaaS are helping in integrating va­rious modes of transport and providing seam­less connectivity to passengers.

What are the key challenges that remain unaddressed?

Anjum Parwez

In an area already developed without a sustainable planning approach, retrofitting infrastructure becomes a tedious task, involving a huge cost for land acquisition, resettlement and re­habilitation. Governments have to offer attractive incentives to property owners and developers to come forward for land pooling along the development area and promote the concept of transfer of development rights. The­re are multiple agencies involved in land development in or around the transit-oriented development corridor; therefore, capacity building of persons involved in the implementation of TOD and multimodal integration plans need to be taken care of, to bring them on the same platform. Further, multiple agencies are involved in road-based transport, lea­ding to delays in implementation. Hence, there is a need for creating a single agency for all ro­ad-based transport for effective coordination, similar to the UMTA.

 K.V.B. Reddy

Urban transportation in India is still facing pe­rennial financing troubles and revenue shortfall, which has been further amplified by the unprecedented Covid-19 outbreak. While the situation is normalising post the mass vaccination across the globe, financial stability for operators is still some way away. Fare box collections are nowhere adequate to recover project costs. Another issue affecting the sector is de­layed land acquisition, whi­ch continues to be a spanner to project implementation. The sector is also facing first- and last-mile connectivity issues, which dissuade people from availing of MRTSs. An integrated body of UMTA is the need of the hour. India needs to devote much of its efforts towards setting up empowered UMTAs at the state and city levels to give its urban residents a better quality of life.

Karun Raj Singh Sareen

There are financial concerns as these projects require heavy capital investments and significant O&M costs. Most of the metro rail projects in the country do not even make operational profits. That said, the financial sustainability challenges can be overcome through alternative technological options, project structuring to bring private investments, regulatory measures, emphasis on micro mobility, improving last-mile connectivity, focus on transit-oriented development, land value capture mechanisms and adopting measures that disincentivise private motorised transport

What is the sector outlook for the next one to two years?

Brijesh Dixit

Over the next few years, the organisation ex­pects to venture into new projects such as Pha­se II of the Nagpur Metro, followed by Pune and Thane. It is also eagerly waiting for the flagship MetroNeo Nashik project, the first of its kind in India. Two sections of the Nagpur Metro project – Kasturchand Park to Automo­tive Square Met­ro Station and Sitabuldi Interchange to Praja­pati Nagar Metro Station – are set to be open­ed for passenger services soon. The Nagpur Metro has recorded a daily ridership of 60,000 and the opening of these two lines would take the figure to over 0.2 million.

Sushil Kumar

In Uttar Pradesh, the metro is emerging as the future of the transportation industry. The state will have metro projects in about 10 cities in the near future. Recently, the state government allocated Rs 1 billion for the Gorakhpur and Va­ranasi metro projects. The Gorakhpur Metro is ex­pected to be the first MetroLite project to be approved in India. Phase I of the project will cost Rs 26.7 billion and will have 14 elevated stati­ons on a 15.14 km stretch. Me­an­while, Phase II of the Lucknow Metro is also at the approval stage.

Anjum Parwez

In accordance with the comprehensive mobility plan of Bengaluru city, an additional 141 km of me­tro rail network is required to be built by 2031, so that 317 km of the metro rail network is op­e­ra­tionalised by that time. DPRs for the other lines are at various stages of preparation.

K.V.B. Reddy

India’s urban transport sector is steadily taking the shape of a system rather than loosely connected modes. The advent of two new technologies – MetroLite and MetroNeo – to provi­de metro rail systems at a much lower cost with the same experience, convenience and sa­fety in Tier II cities and peripheral areas of Tier I ci­ties, will provide a fillip to the urban transportation system across the country.

Another revolution in rail connectivity in the offing is the regional rapid transport system (RRTS). This modern transit facility would en­hance connectivity and boost economic development along the corridors and adjacent regions. Being a high-priority programme of the government, the future outlook of the urban transportation sector in India remains bright.

Karun Raj Singh Sareen

The urban transport sector will continue to evolve, with an emphasis on adopting cost-effe­ctive mass transit solutions such as MetroLite and MetroNeo in smaller cities or as feeders to the main metro systems in large cities. There will also be increasing consideration for comprehensive and seamless mobility, transit-oriented development and joint physical asset creation of multiple transport projects with urban transport being the focal point.

Recently, comprehensive O&M of the RRTS line from Delhi to Mee­rut has been han­ded over to a private concessionaire. It is ex­pected that O&M of a greater number of me­tro rail systems will be completely outsourced to the private sector in the immediate future. This is expected to improve the service quality and efficiency and bring down the overall O&M cost.

GET ACCESS TO OUR ARTICLES

Enter your email address