In recent years, technology has played a critical role in various infrastructure sectors, particularly metro projects. Driven by advancements in technologies and the increasing preference for metro systems as a primary mode of public transportation, the market for automated fare collection (AFC) systems, rolling stock, ticketing, civil construction, and station track and tunnel (STT) systems has witnessed significant growth.
Metro systems are increasingly shifting their focus towards advanced technologies such as driverless operations. These technologies help in reducing human error, improving operational efficiency and increasing safety. Recently, driverless train operations have been commissioned on 37 km of the Delhi metro’s Magenta Line. Driverless operations on the Delhi metro’s Pink Line (Line 7) started in November 2021.
The DMRC also signed a contract with Alstom India to procure 312 coaches (52 trains) for its Phase IV priority corridors. The three priority corridors are Majlis Park to Maujpur, Janakpuri West to RK Ashram Marg and Tughlakabad to Delhi Aerocity. These trains will be compatible with driverless operations, aligning with DMRC’s efforts to provide world-class services.
In a recent development, the Chennai Metro is currently preparing for the implementation of driverless operations by actively pursuing training in Dubai, prior to commissioning driverless trains on Phase II of the metro in the near future. Around 138 three-car driverless trains will be operational over the next three years across three corridors spanning over 118 km.
Further, as of October 2023, successful metro trial runs have been conducted in Bhopal and Indore. After two years of operations, the implementing agencies will introduce driverless operations on these lines.
In recent times, the growth in the ticketing market has led to the introduction of innovative solutions for fare collection, driving “cashless” transactions through mobile wallets and quick response (QR) codes.
Open-loop cards based on Europay, Mastercard or Visa (EMV) contactless technology are emerging as an alternative medium of ticketing to ensure seamless travel. The Kochi metro was the first to deploy EMV cards. It launched the Kochi1 Card, a prepaid card attached to a single wallet, for purchasing tickets or making payments at retail counters. The card was developed by Axis Bank in partnership with the National Payments Corporation of India. Meanwhile, Maha Metro, in partnership with the State Bank of India (SBI), has introduced an all-in-one MAHA Card.
Noida Metro Rail Corporation Limited (NMRCL) has launched the RuPay contactless smart card on the Aqua Line, which can be utilised not only for ticketing but also for making various kinds of purchases. The card has been issued by SBI in association with SC Soft/Aurionpro and NMRCL.
QR codes are also rapidly replacing single journey smart tokens, leading to significant operational cost savings for transport operators. Third-party digital wallets/payment platforms such as Paytm, Amazon Pay, MobiKwik, Google Pay, PhonePe, etc. have started offering top-up and payment facilities to commuters.
In July 2023, the DMRC launched a dedicated mobile app called “DMRC TRAVEL” for generating convenient and hassle-free mobile QR tickets for travel across its network. The app supports multiple payment methods, including UPI, credit/debit cards and wallets. Following this, in August 2023, DMRC signed an MoU with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to introduce QR code-based ticketing for DMRC services via the IRCTC platform, as a part of the One India-One Ticket initiative. In line with the Indian Railways’ Advance Reservation Period, this integration enables travellers to effortlessly plan their entire journey in one go. Additionally, DMRC has initiated the process of upgrading all its existing AFC systems to ensure compliance with National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) services.
India’s first regional rapid transit system (RRTS) corridor, between Delhi and Meerut, will adopt a modern AFC system, which will be developed and implemented by Paytm Payments Bank Limited and the Datamatics-AEP consortium. The AFC system conforms to the government’s plan to implement NCMC across all modes of public transportation. Paytm will be responsible for the payment gateway portion of the system, while the Datamatics-AEP consortium will focus on the AFC system’s technology. The AFC system will integrate mobile apps, dynamic websites, closed and open-loop payment solutions, and public information kiosks-cum-transaction terminals with modern digital mobility requirements.
The Mumbai metro is the first mass rapid transit system to offer e-ticketing via WhatsApp. As of May 2023, DMRC has launched e-ticketing in its Airport Express Line. In April 2023, Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) invited a digitally signed open e-tender for the design, manufacture, supply and installation of the AFC system for CMRL Phase II, Corridor 4. Following this, CMRL also introduced the option of pre-booking metro tickets, allowing corporates to pre-book for employees, with the aim of increasing footfall at stations. In a trial run conducted by Zifo Technologies, around 5,000 tickets were pre-booked.
Advancements in STT systems
- Communication-based train control: With advancements in telecommunications and information technology, communication-based train control (CBTC) has emerged as the preferred solution globally. The latest technologies used in metro rail systems include driverless and unattended train operation using CBTC signalling with moving block technology instead of fixed block technology.
- Automatic train control systems: Various automation technologies used in metro rail signalling systems have been combined into a single system called the automatic train control (ATC) system. The major components of a modern ATC system are automatic train protection (ATP), which has been used in the Bengaluru Metro Rail Project Phase I, the Mumbai Monorail Project Line 1 and the Pune Metro Rail Project; automatic train operation (ATO), which has been implemented in the Bengaluru Metro Rail Project Phase I and the Chennai Metro Rail Project; and automatic train supervision (ATS), for which the first-ever indigenously developed train control and supervision system was launched on the Red Line of the Delhi metro in February 2023. A continuous ATC system is proposed to be used for signalling and train control on the Delhi-Gurugram-Shahjahanpur-Neemrana-Behror-Alwar RRTS. It will comprise ATP, ATO and ATS systems. The key features of the Delhi-Meerut RRTS include European train control system L2 signalling on the long-term evolution backbone. Further, the Kolkata Metro Railway is continuously modernising its operational facilities to provide commuters with safer and more enjoyable travel experiences. KMRC has signed a new deal to purchase more rakes from Bengaluru-based PSU Bharat Earth Movers Limited. The rakes are fitted with ATC and CBTC software. Meanwhile, Hitachi Rail has secured an order worth $200 million for the deployment of autonomous digital signalling in Phase II of the Chennai Metro project.
- Ensuring safety and sustainability: Over the years, technology has played a key role in enhancing the security of Indian metros. ATC, collision avoidance systems, and remote monitoring have reduced the likelihood of accidents. In addition, real-time traffic monitoring, adaptive traffic signals, and predictive analytics have improved traffic flow and safety.
Contactless smart cards will continue to be the most preferred method of fare payment across the country despite the introduction of advanced modes of fare payment such as mobile ticketing and contactless bank cards. However, mobile ticketing is expected to increase due to the growing number of smartphone users in the country. As biometrics-based ticketing becomes a reality, substantial costs will be saved as the demand for smart cards, paper tickets, etc. will reduce significantly.
While project execution has improved over the years, the increased level of activity in construction has highlighted the need for more efficient contracting practices, adoption of new and innovative materials and deployment of cost-effective construction techniques and state-of-the-art equipment.
Overall, technology has helped improve safety, promote sustainable practices, enhance efficiency and drive economic growth. A continued focus on technology will enable India to maintain its growth momentum and successfully navigate metro sector challenges.