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Sreedharan for metro rail in all cities with 3 mln people

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Mar 26 (UNI) Delhi Metro Rail Corp Managing Director E Sreedharan has advocated metro rail for all cities in the country which have a population of more than three million population.

The country had realised the need for metros in all the major cities and accordingly the 10th Plan Document envisaged metros for all cities with more than five million population to start with, he said, adding that thereafter, metros should be extended to cities with more than three million populations.

The practice in all developed countries was to start planning for a metro when the population of the city neared one million mark and by the time the population level reached two million mark a metro network was in place, he said.

The world average for every one million population of a city was 18.85 km of metro line, he added.

There were 135 metros now in operation world-over, covering a total kilometrage of 6700. The oldest metro undoubtedly was London which had 11 lines covering 408 km and the latest metro was Delhi consisting of three lines covering 65 km.

Hectic activity on the metro front was now taking place in China where plans had been drawn up to build between 1200 km to 1500 km of new metro systems within the next ten years targeting 43 cities that had a population of more than one million. Already 18 metro lines were now under construction in China totalling 352 km and all were expected to be completed between 2006 and 2008.

''Against this standard India's standing is indeed very low with only four km per million population. Today only Kolkata and Delhi have metros in this country.'' It had been the experience world-over that in case of metro, for operation and maintenance, heavy subsidies were needed from the government/city, the only exception being London Underground, MRT Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong and Delhi, Dr Sreedharan said.

''Though Delhi Metro is funded through debt to the extent of more than 65 per cent, today, it is making good operational profit. If the present trend continues Delhi Metro will have no difficulty to service and pay back the loans in time.''

As the capital cost for metros was very high, the only way to popularise metro systems in this country was to standardise technical parameters and specifications and work towards maximum indigenisation, he said. Again, being highly capital intensive and due to the need for the fares to be kept competitive and affordable to the common man, private participation in metros did not hold much hope in this country, Mr Sreedharan added.

''My own assessment is, the Built Operate Transfer route or a concessionaire route is unlikely to succeed in this country although DMRC had suggested BOT route to be followed for Hyderabad, Cochin and Ahmedabad Metros. Till sufficient experience is gained in this country in metro construction and operation and we are able to bring down the unit cost of construction, the best course of action for the country is to get our metros executed on DMRC pattern -- with the government directly funding the projects with a mixture of equity and borrowings.'' Delhi Metro was the only organisation in the country today which had got experience and expertise to plan, design, construct and operate metro system, the DMRC MD offered.

A metro could be either underground or elevated and in the outskirts of a city on the ground level even. Based on carrying capacity, which was generally reckoned in Peak Hour Peak Direction Traffic metros could be brought under three categories -- heavy capacity (60 to 90,000 PHPDT as in Delhi), medium capacity (40 to 50,000 PHPDT as proposed for Bangalore and Chennai) and light capacity (25 to 30,000 PHPDT as proposed for Cochin), he said.

''When the traffic volume exceeds ten to 12,000 PHPDT it can be conveniently handled only by a rail-based metro system. Metros can again be either with pneumatic wheels or steel wheels on steel rails. In either case the traction is with electric energy.'' Metros were highly capital intensive. Based on Delhi's experience the cost of an underground metro per km was Rs 275 crore. If the metro was elevated its cost will be Rs 110 crore per km. These costs covered every thing including land, civil works, track, electrical and mechanical works, rolling stock and depots, he added.

Defending the high costs, Dr Sreedharan said in the case of a metro, the operator had to bear the entire cost of infrastructure such as civil costs, E&M costs and rolling stock and in addition the entire operating and maintenance costs as well.

However, on the other hand, for a bus system, the operator had to bear only the cost of transport vehicles and their operating and maintenance costs.

The infrastructure cost of building roads, maintenance of roads and lighting were borne by the city/government. Therefore, a direct comparison of costs between the two systems did not convey the actual cost to the society, he added.

''In DMRC we have made some calculations and come to the conclusion that if the transport volume to be handled is more than 18,000 PHPDT then a metro system is financially a better option apart from the fact that Indian cities cannot create road widths to carry more than 10,000 to 12,000 PHPDT.'' That meant for any volume of traffic beyond this level metro was the obvious choice, he said.

Our studies also showed that if social costs were also taken, for a PHPDT of more than 8,000, it was economically cheaper to have a metro to the society, he added.

UNI

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