The fast-paced development of the metro network, the emergence of new transit systems and the adoption of advanced technologies have brought about a paradigm shift in the urban transportation landscape. Providing a cleaner mode of transit, these systems also align with the country’s sustainable development goals. Industry experts from leading metro corporations talk about the progress in the sector, the key challenges and future expansion plans…
How are metro rail systems contributing to the urban transportation landscape? What have been some of the key achievements of such projects?
Metros, as a mass transport system, have been enhancing the socio-economic functioning of cities while becoming a timeless infrastructural element for the urban milieu. A rail- based mass rapid transit system (MRTS) was conceptualised in Nagpur in the early 2010 to facilitate fast, affordable and safe public transportation.
Phase I of the project, covering 40 km and 38 stations in two corridors, was taken up in 2016 and was inaugurated on December 11, 2022 by the Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At the same time, Bhoomi Pujan for Phase II of the project, spanning 43.8 km and 32 stations, was done.
The priority stretch of Pune Metro, the North-South Corridor (PCMC to Phugewadi, spanning 7 km with five stations) and the East-West Corridor (Vanaz to Garware, spanning 5 km with five stations), was inaugurated in March 2022. The section from Phugewadi Station to Civil Court Station (6.91 km with four stations) and Garware College Station to Ruby Hall Clinic Station (7.75 km with seven stations) was inaugurated by the Honourable Prime Minister on August 1, 2023.
There have been several noteworthy achievements. For instance, for Nagpur Metro, on a single row of pillars, four to six lanes of national highway were planned on the first elevated level, with the metro rail at a higher level for about 9 km of length, while space on the ground level was for road vehicles. Of this, 3.14 km of national highway has been completed and commissioned, and has won the Guinness World Records title for being the longest such double-decker system. Additionally, in order to avoid affecting Indian Railways traffic, a long span of 100 metres (balanced cantilever technique) was installed across existing Indian Railways’ tracks.
Similarly, at another location, an 80-metre steel girder weighing about 1,700 mt was installed, with the national highway at the lower level and the metro rail at the higher level.
It has thus become a four-level transportation system, a one-of-its-kind in India. Multimodal integration has been prioritised, property development spaces have been established to boost non-fare box revenue, and the communications-based train control and 6D building information modelling IT platform have been adopted.
In Pune Metro, the railway crossing for the elevated metro viaduct is in the form of an open web through truss girder with a span length of 79 metre and weight of 603 mt. The launch was completed in a record-breaking 4 hours and 50 minutes. Additionally, the Civil Court Station, among the deepest in the country, is built at a depth of 108 ft.
The construction of the double-decker flyover, along with the metro portion on the top deck and bottom deck as a 2×2 lane road flyover at Nal Stop Junction, is another achievement for Pune Metro.
Metro projects are the foundation of urbanisation, ensuring economic development and heralding the social transformation of a city. In Lucknow, people are travelling by the metro in large numbers, especially in congested areas such as Charbagh, Singar Nagar, Krishna Nagar, Munshipulia and Hazratganj. The best part of the metro is its multi-modal connectivity, which offers seamless and direct connectivity to the airport, major railway stations and bus terminals.
Once operational, Phase 1-B of the East-West corridor of Lucknow Metro will further bolster connectivity by covering densely populated areas in old Lucknow.
Meanwhile, for Kanpur Metro, construction work on Corridor I is progressing in full swing. Fourteen train sets have been delivered to the Kanpur depot for the corridor. In April 2023, Kanpur Metro became the first metro service to launch an NCMC card in Uttar Pradesh. This is an interoperable transport card, which can be used at other metros, buses, parking lots and retail outlets.
Agra Metro is being developed as a 29.4 km long network spanning two corridors. Construction work at the 14 km long first corridor, between Taj East Gate and Sikandra, is moving at a fast pace. A world-class metro depot has been prepared for this corridor in the PAC premises. Construction of the 16 km long stretch between Agra Cantt and Kalindi Vihar will commence soon. A priority corridor is being constructed within the city with a total of six stations. Of these, three elevated stations are ready and are undergoing testing of trains.
India was way behind the rest of the world in terms of urban transport infrastructure, but with the advent of Delhi Metro, a paradigm shift occurred. Today, Delhi Metro is an exemplary model not only in India but world over, known for its construction and O&M key performance indices.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Delhi Metro has indeed transformed the urban transportation landscape of the National Capital Region. On the one hand, the connectivity provided by DMRC revived the age-old markets of Chandini Chowk, Chawri Bazar and Karol Bagh, while on the other, it has helped in propelling the development of newer townships such as Dwarka, Noida, Ghaziabad, Bahadurgarh, Faridabad and Gurugram.
The metro stations have become vibrant hubs of activity, encouraging urban development in their vicinity. It has opened up new avenues of work, enabling women whose families were reluctant to let them travel to join the workforce, and has also facilitated late night commuting. As per a study conducted in 2021, Delhi Metro helped remove more than 500,000 vehicles off the city streets, and saved about 270 million hours of passenger travel time.
The greatest achievement has been the sheer pace at which we have been able to develop this world-class infrastructure. In a little over two decades, a 400 km long system has been constructed and operationalised.
Currently, the system handles about 6 million passenger journeys every day, connecting Delhi and satellite cities of NCR, making Delhi Metro one of the busiest systems in the world.
The modal shift towards metro has contributed to a greener and safer environment. As the city moves toward a more sustainable and connected future, DMRC will play a pivotal role in shaping Delhi’s urban landscape and improving the residents’ quality of life.
The Hyderabad Metro network caters to approximately 500,000 commuters daily, covering a total distance of 69.2 km across three corridors. It is the largest metro rail project in the world to be developed on the public-private partnership model. The project has been implemented on the urban redesign concept, which includes 18.5 million square feet of transit-oriented development. The Hyderabad Metro plays a very important role in the city’s economy by bringing lifestyle changes and generating employment opportunities, thus serving its commuters and the society at large.
As a major milestone, L&T Metro Rail Hyderabad Limited (LTMRHL) achieved financial closure within 180 days of signing the concessionaire agreement, despite several challenges.
What steps and technology initiatives have been taken to improve safety, operational efficiency and passenger experience?
Nagpur Metro has implemented cutting-edge fire and safety systems that adhere to global standards. On the operations front, we have equipped our operational control centre with state-of-the-art gadgets for monitoring train operations and detecting any snags. The communication-based train control signalling system ensures smooth traffic flow as well as safety of train operations. CCTV systems have been set up to monitor commuter safety and security.
We are also setting up an Urban Metro Transportation Authority, which will undertake route rationalisation along with other public transport facilities to enhance the overall experience of public commuting.
The installation of ballastless tracks with continuous welded head-hardened rails and the adoption of automatic train protection and automatic train supervision signalling systems have been proposed for Pune metro to improve track safety. Besides this, automatic train operation will be added in the future.
The rolling stock is provided with emergency evacuation facilities and the stations are provided with building management systems. The network monitoring and management system will help diagnose faults immediately, thus reducing the need for maintenance. Passenger amenities such as ticketing counters/automatic ticket-vending machines and ticketing gates are provided in the concourse.
“During the implementation and execution phase, cost reduction can be achieved through design optimisation. Contractors should employ state-of-the-art machinery for faster, safer and smoother execution.” Shravan Hardikar
With the aim of ensuring the safety and security of passengers, more than 50 CCTV cameras have been installed at the metro stations of Lucknow and Kanpur. Additionally, 24 CCTV cameras have been installed inside the metro trains of both projects. Further, two passenger emergency intercom systems have been installed inside each coach of the trains.
Meanwhile, special facilities and provisions are in place for disabled passengers, including ramps at stations, lifts, wheelchair facilities, wide AFC Gates, specially designed separate washrooms, tactile paths, braille stickers, designated spaces for wheelchairs in the first and last coaches, and a “long stop” button that keeps train doors open for longer for easy de-boarding.
To ensure operational efficiency, features such as regenerative braking systems, a sleep mode in escalators, sensor lighting in washrooms and LED lighting at stations have also been implemented.
“Metro projects are the foundation of urbanisation, ensuring economic development and heralding the social transformation of a city
Since the inception of DMRC, a conscious decision has been taken to adopt the latest technologies to enhance passenger experience and safety. Back in 2002, we were pioneers in introducing contactless smart tokens/cards in ticketing. We have also deployed a QR code-based mobile ticketing system. Our automatic fare collection infrastructure supports the National Common Mobility Card-enabled RuPay Bank Debit cards and UPI payments.
As for safety, we have been using the ATP system right from day one. The Pink and Magenta lines use a communication-based train control (CBTC) signalling system. Now, we are also developing our own CBTC technology to reduce our dependence on foreign companies for procurement. We have already developed our indigenous i-ATS (automatic train supervision), which is a key component of CBTC, bringing us in the league of five countries in the world that possess this expertise.
In 2020, DMRC introduced India’s first driverless train services on the Magenta Line, resulting in greater reliability, punctuality and overall efficiency.
In our O&M practices, we are using an in-house developed integrated data management system. Moreover, IoT, AI and 3D printing are being used in predictive maintenance of rolling stock, signalling and E&M. We plan to use drones and on-train external cameras for identifying issues related to track and overhead equipment.
We have been using rolling stock equipped with regenerative braking. LEDs with features like motion sensing and time-of-day adaptation are being used for lighting.
In the construction space too, we have introduced several innovations. These include India’s first extra dosed bridge over operational railways lines, a state-of-the-art 553 metre long continuous single pre-stressed box girder for the track across Yamuna using incremental launching, and a ballastless track to minimise the maintenance requirement and reduce running dimensions on structures.
For better project management, we use 5D BIM, ERP/SAP, Prima Vera, etc., while the work progress is monitored through indigenously developed software called STAMP.
For a better passenger experience, we have provided charging and Wi-Fi facilities in trains, LED display panels, platform screen doors, lifts and escalators, ticket vending machines, customer care centres, etc. We have developed a state-of-the-art website and mobile app for commuters, and have turned certain stations into multi-service hubs, featuring book shops, cultural showcases, retail and food offerings.
“Delhi Metro has transformed the urban transportation landscape of the National Capital Region.” Vikas Kumar
At Hyderabad Metro, our focus is on incorporating technologies that are pragmatic and easy to integrate to ultimately make the urban mass mobility efficient. We have adopted advanced signalling and train control technology and CBTC to manage the trains and achieve operational efficiency. The entire mainline has a ballastless track, which reduces the maintenance requirement and suits our time constraints (non-revenue hours available for maintenance work). The tracks in depots are ballasted and special tracks. Further, with a few soft upgrades, our trains are capable of going driverless.
A contactless automatic fare collection (AFC) system is being deployed to improve the efficiency of fare box collection and enhance passenger convenience. Passengers can avail of QR-based ticket booking through our own mobile app “T Savari” and other e-payment apps like Paytm, PhonePe and WhatsApp e-ticketing. We will also soon roll out an account-based ticketing system, which will be the next step towards ticketless journey, allowing people to travel using a secure token linked to their account.
“Hyderabad Metro Rail is one of the cleanest and greenest modes of transport.” K.V.B. Reddy
What are the biggest challenges that the sector faces today?
Executing projects of such dimensions is fraught with challenges. The trials are many and have to be dealt with deftly. Projects of such stature require huge land to meet their multiple requirements. Land acquisition is one such process, which is not just time -consuming, but gets dragged for years if it enters the litigation stage. Executing projects in cities like Nagpur and Pune, for example, requires traffic management. The roads are often narrow and the traffic is high. Executing project in such conditions is a huge challenge. Metro projects are labour-intensive and demand unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers in huge numbers. The absence of skilled manpower in such conditions could hamper and even delay a project. Proper coordination with other concerned agencies or stakeholders is a major challenge. At times, this warrants making alterations. Maintaining proper coordination with the local traffic police department for day-to-day project-related activities is one such task. The biggest challenge that a metro or any transport-related services faces is of ridership. Despite reasonably low fares, commuter traffic was initially low.
A lot of persuasion was undertaken (through Metro Samvaad/Mahiti Kendra) at various institutions and industries to encourage significant use of the metro. Rebates like students concessions, weekend discounts, daily passes, and Gazetted holidays were offered to commuters, which has helped in increasing ridership.
A metro service cannot function properly without providing last and first-mile connectivity. It is essential to ensure that commuters can be ferried from the station to the home/office and vice versa easily.
A metro system in a Tier II city in India with a 25-35 km long network needs about Rs 1.25 billion-Rs 1.5 billion per year for day-to-day operations after commissioning. Most metros are able to generate the necessary revenue from fare and non-fare sources. Therefore, such smaller metros do not generally suffer losses or run on a cash-in cash-out basis. However, according to norms, additional revenue is expected to adjust for the deprecation of assets (about Rs 3 billion per year) and repay loans to funding institutions. The Government of India had an ambitious plan for metros to be self-sufficient even with respect to repayment of loans (about Rs 3 billion-Rs 4 billion per year), unlike most other government institutions. To this end, provisions have been made in the detailed project reports for the procurement of sufficiently large parcels of land (about 150 hectares) for metro projects under state governments for the generation of sufficient non-fare revenue, mainly to repay loans. Uttar Pradesh has become the first state to give about 86 hectares of land to UPMRC, for which consultants are already in place. Uttar Pradesh is also one of the first states to issue guidelines for transit-oriented development policies and the creation of a “Special Amenities Development Fund” to increase non-fare box revenue.
Acquiring land for construction is a key challenge. Our projects are located in urban areas where land is hard to find and expensive. Other issues include getting environmental, forest and Archeological Survey of India clearances, and acquiring right of way. Once the metro in operation, crowd management becomes a big challenge especially during peak hours. Moreover, with the escalating demand to increase operational hours, the window available for maintenance is very small.
Further, with the adoption of new technologies for signalling, rolling stock and construction, the limited skill set and expertise of the human resource becomes a challenge. Finally, metro systems are highly cost intensive to construct, maintain and operate, and thus, keeping the fares reasonable in a price-sensitive country like ours is a continuous challenge. We are always on a lookout to generate more non-fare revenue.
In the pre-construction stage, there are several difficulties owing to the lack of a comprehensive map of underground utilities. Land-related obstacles, such as acquiring continuous right of way and acquisition of private land are also responsible for delays in project execution. The lack of standardisation of technical specifications is another challenge.
On the financing front, funding such long gestation infrastructure projects is challenging for private companies. Securing special funding with low interest rates and long durations, or funding tied with international agencies to provide low interest rates, is not available to private entities. The accuracy of traffic demand forecasts and ridership estimates are crucial for ensuring the financial viability of any metro rail project.
Finally, a good and sustainable urban transport must be inherently multimodal. Transport demand varies from corridor to corridor and so does the capacity of various modes. For an economic public transport network, the mode for a corridor should suit the demand level on that corridor.
With a growing emphasis on sustainable development, what are the measures being adopted for project implementation and operations?
Maha Metro has adopted the IGBC Green Mass Rapid Transit System Rating to ensure environmental sustainability, while also enhancing the commuter experience. During the implementation and execution phase, cost reduction can be achieved through design optimisation. Further, documentation hassles, funding issues and socio-political liaisons can be addressed by a dedicated cell. Contractors should employ state-of-the-art machinery for faster, safer and smoother execution. The approach to construction should be green, including the use of fly ash/ground granulated blast-furnace slag along with cement to generate carbon credits.
In the operations phase, key measures include the adoption of solar power, as was done in Nagpur metro, traction power regeneration through breaking technology, bio-digesters for reuse of disposable water in washrooms, low power-consuming equipment and lighting accessories, building management systems at stations for automated lighting control, rainwater harvesting, and e-vehicles for first and last-mile connectivity.
Since its inception in 2018, Nagpur metro has produced around 1 million kWh of renewable energy. Nagpur metro has also come up with the concept of “Little Wood”, an artificial forest, with over 15,000 medicinal, ornamental, flowering, fruit-bearing trees of different varieties being planted there.
All UPMRC metro projects are sustainable and have adopted multiple green Initiatives, such as:
- Harnessing solar energy: A solar plant with 1.28 MW of capacity has been installed at the administrative building premises of the Lucknow Metro, along with a solar plant of 1.1 MW capacity at the Transport Nagar Metro Depot. These solar plants have generated 3 million units of electricity till date.
- Rainwater harvesting: Along the 23 km-long North-South stretch, over 300 rainwater harvesting pits have been created with the capacity to harvest 2 million litres of water. A similar arrangement has been planned for Kanpur and Agra. Upon completion, these projects will create an additional 1.5 million to 2 million litres of rainwater harvesting capacity in those cities.
- Regenerative energy in trains and lifts: The rolling stock has an efficiency of 40 per cent in the Lucknow Metro and 45 per cent in the Kanpur and Agra Metros, due to regenerative braking technology. Regenerative braking is also used in the lifts of all UPMRC projects. Lifts in various metro premises have recorded nearly 37 per cent energy efficiency. Moreover, the Kanpur Metro trains have carbon-dioxide sensor-based air-conditioning systems, which operate according to the number of passengers present on the train, thus saving energy.
- Relocation and transplantation of trees: For the Lucknow Metro, over 400 trees have been transplanted with a survival rate of over 95 per cent. A similar model has been followed in Kanpur. In Agra, UPMRC is working with the forest department to plant 10 trees for every single tree that is cut. UPMRC has also identified a land parcel for compensatory afforestation in the city.
- Water usage: UPMRC has installed water fixtures at stations and depots, which are 30-40 per cent more efficient than conventional fixtures. Further, to minimise water wastage, sewage treatment plants have been installed at various metro stations and depots. Wastewater is being recycled for horticultural purposes. The Lucknow Metro depot is also functioning as a “zero discharge facility”.
Lastly, Lucknow Metro has become the first metro in India to have 100 per cent LED lighting in trains and stations.
Sustainability is at the very core of all our functions. Currently, we are contributing to an emission reduction of about 2.2 million tonnes of CO2 annually. About 35 per cent of our power requirements are now being met from renewable sources. We generate about 50 MW of solar power ourselves, through rooftop plants at our depots, stations and residential colonies. In addition, we procure 99 MW solar power from an offsite plant in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh.
We focus strongly on recycling of construction waste. A state-of-art recycling plant has been set up which supplies recycled materials to our sites. For every tree cut, we make a provision for the plantation of ten trees. So far, DMRC has planted over 500,000 tress as a compensatory plantation under Phase-I, II and III, while 9,026 trees have been successfully transplanted.
We have also established rainwater harvesting infrastructure at 233 locations, effluent treatment plants at 13 locations and sewage treatment plants at 86 locations with capacities of 18,038.99 cubic metres, 916 kilo litres per day (kld) and 3,498 kld respectively.
Hyderabad Metro Rail is one of the cleanest and greenest modes of transport, which contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint in Hyderabad. Our metro stations are generally located on elevated platforms, which reduce the power requirements for train acceleration and deceleration, resulting in energy conservation.
Further, LTMRHL has 8.35 MW of captive solar capacity installed across its premises, catering to the energy requirements of metro stations and depots. Over 28,000 solar panels are mounted on the ground or on station rooftops to harness over 1 million units of energy per month. Harnessing solar energy has reduced our dependency on conventional energy sources by almost 14 per cent.
Besides the use of green energy, several other environmental sustainability measures are being taken. These include the use of regenerative trains (with around 40 per cent energy regeneration), integration of over 50 EV charging points across 17 stations, deployment of LED lights with dimmer effects, 100 per cent daylight and cross ventilation at platform and concourse levels, adoption of water-saving measures such as rainwater harvesting pits at all stations and depots, low water closets and faucets in toilets, and incorporation of dedicated parking spaces integrated into station designs wherever space is available.
Meanwhile, both Uppal and Miyapur depots are zero discharge, water- and energy-surplus premises. We have also already initiated the “Clean Development Mechanism – CDM” registration process with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change along with the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
What will be the key focus areas in the coming years? What are the plans for network expansion?
Maha Metro has major expansion plans for the coming years for the three cities of Nagpur, Pune and Navi Mumbai. The Bhoomi Pujan for Phase II of Nagpur Metro was done in December 2022. Currently, preliminary activities such as soil and geotechnical investigations, tender documents preparation and calling of tenders are under way. Physical execution is expected to commence in the next few months and commissioning is targeted in four years.
The completion of the remaining stretches from Bund Garden to Ramwadi section (including four stations) and Civil Court to Swargate section (including three stations) is a priority for Pune Metro, which is expected to be completed by December 2023. Another focus is obtaining approval from the centre for the extension of new lines in Phase 1 (9.87 km with six stations) and Phase II (105.92 km with 97 stations).
Work on Navi Mumbai Metro (Line 1 – 11 km with 11 elevated stations), previously being executed by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), has been handed over to Maha Metro along with its operations and maintenance due to the technical and contractual issues that had delayed the project. The project is now ready for inauguration. Maha Metro is in talks with CIDCO for awarding work on Navi Mumbai Metro Line 2 on a deposit basis.
Uttar Pradesh, being the most populous state in India and the fourth largest in terms of land area, will see an expansion of its metro rail network across all major cities. A comprehensive mobility plan has been prepared for Prayagraj, Bareilly, Jhansi, Ayodhya, Varanasi, etc. The following metro projects are in the planning stage:
- Gorakhpur Metro: The project will likely operate as a Metro lite system. The DPR covers two corridors – Shyam Nagar to MMM Engineering College, and BRD Medical College to Nausad Chauraha.
- Prayagraj Metro: The latest DPR is being prepared by RITES and is under the authorities’ consideration. It will include two corridors – Bamrauli to City Lake Forest (22.30 km long, with 16 elevated and two underground stations), and Shantipuram to Cheoki (20.11 km long, with 16 elevated stations).
The Bareilly, Ayodhya and Jhansi Metro Systems are also at the planning stage, and will soon seek approval.
Sustainability, indigenisation and enhanced passenger experience will be our key focus areas. We are also working on increasing our solar power generation capacity, designing stations with better green building rating, increasing the use of recyclable products, and deploying efficient technology in construction and O&M.
As for expansion, we are currently engaged in developing 65 km under Phase IV. While two lines will be added to the operational Magenta and Pink Lines, a new corridor (Silver Line) will connect Tughalkabad with Delhi Aerocity. These sections are likely to be operationalised by 2026. Meanwhile, three more corridors constituting 47 km are under active consideration covering sections of Lajpat Nagar-Saket G Block, Inderlok–Indraprastha and Rithala-Bawana– Kundli.
In a bid to open new revenue streams, we will be providing O&M for a 33.5 km section of Mumbai Metro’s Line-3. Meanwhile, given our expertise in constructing and operating one of the largest and busiest metro systems in the world, we are also poised to enter the international market, both for consultancy and operations of MRTS. We are already working as general consultants for the Dhaka Metro and are hopeful of securing projects in countries like Bahrain and Israel.
Population and economic growth have driven urbanisation in India. We have witnessed a consistent increase in the number of urban towns and cities. This growth is expected to continue in the years to come, resulting in a continued demand for a new network of pollution-free urban mass transportation. This makes the prospects for metro rail sector very optimistic.
As for L&TMRHL’s future plans, the Government of Telangana is taking charge of the second phase, and has initiated the expansion of the metro network in the city. The foundation for the Hyderabad Airport Express Metro was laid in December 2022. Recently, the Telangana cabinet has approved an expansion of 309 km, which includes 278 km across eight metro extension corridors and four corridors along the Outer Ring Road, Phase II of the BHEL-Lakdi-ka-Pul to Miyapur corridor (26 km), and 5 km of Nagole-to-LB Nagar.