Namma metro: a slow decade
Hailed as the ultimate panacea for Bangalore’s infamous road traffic problems, the Namma metro had shown great promise on October 20, 2011. Ten years later, with only two lines and 56.1 km operational, the transportation option glitzy mass is now trying to pass quickly. a maze of missed deadlines and escalating costs, as other Indian cities rush in. Before the pandemic hit, the Namma metro had a total of 46 km, completed after 13 years of construction. Did that qualify it to be one of India’s slowest metro projects? “There is no truth in this,” says Anjum Parvez, managing director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL). “The only delay that has occurred is due to Covid while the workers are gone,” he said. Part of phase 2 of the project will be completed by December 2022. “The entire phase will be completed by December 2024. So it’s on track and there is absolutely no problem,” says Anjum.
Daily ridership in the metro had reached six lakh before the pandemic. “Over a length of 46 km, we had one of the best pre-Covid crowds, comparable to Delhi. The ridership will increase again with more lines. The Kengeri and Silk Institute lines were opened. The major leap will come when the Whitefield line begins, ”he explains. But ridership also depends on other critical factors. Huge gaps in last mile connectivity, intermodal links and station design during the first phase prevented commuters from switching from their personal vehicles to the metro along several corridors. This has been a challenge for metro systems across India.
“Multimodal integration should be part of the planning phase itself. The location of the station, the access to the power buses, the way passengers are picked up and dropped off, the ease of access on foot, all of this was completely neglected in the first phase ”, notes the Professor Ashish Verma, Transportation Engineering Expert at the Indian Institute of Science. Many phase 1 stations do not have adequate bus bays. This design compromise was also a feature of many Phase 2 stations. “Even the integration between metro and rail stations was not considered, Yeswanthpura and Cantonment stations being examples. These integration differences can lead to a loss of goodwill, ”he warns.
But in a long-term perspective, Namma Metro and similar systems extending their networks to 12 other cities – large and small – across India could be a game-changer in urban mobility. The real estate sector has already sensed the enormous potential. Rising land values, land use change and densification along the corridor are fertile grounds for the sector to flourish. Industry watchers say land and rental values increase dramatically as the distance to a metro station decreases.
As Anjum notes, “At the time the airport line was announced, many builders and developers came forward to ask for direct pedestrian bridges between metro stations and their upcoming campuses. The real impact is visible along the corridor of the airport road, as there is plenty of land available there. Computer parks, offices and residential apartments all move there. Once connectivity improves, the metro tends to turn barren expanses into malls and raise land prices even on the outskirts of a city. This was especially noticed after the commissioning of the 30 km Noida-Greater Noida metro, which triggered a rise in house prices.
Rajendra Joshi, CEO of Brigade Group, Residential echoes this point of view: “While Whitefield, which is congested today and lacks public transport infrastructure, is connected by metro to a place like Kengeri, the people will head to Kengeri where the cost of living is much lower. . Obviously, Metro in any part of the city will stimulate real estate growth.
Also read: An integrated public transport system, not a metro, is the key
As part of the first phase, BMRCL had entered into a public-private partnership with Mantri Developers to build the Mantri Square Sampige Road station attached to a shopping center. This unique collaboration could be a model for future alignments if all financial and compliance conditions are met, believes Suresh Hari, president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Associations of India (CREDAI). “Many such proposals have been sent to BMRCL in the past.” he remembers.
In general, the properties around the subway corridors performed very well, Suresh notes. But landowners have enjoyed better returns than developers. “Developers in the intermediate and affordable housing categories, who anticipated the potential demand and invested intelligently, have also benefited. The big players are now looking to develop access areas.
Nationally, 13 metro systems are currently operational, with Delhi leading the pack by a huge margin. Serving 254 stations on 10 lines, the Delhi Metro is today the busiest and second oldest in India after Kolkata. Several other systems are now in preparation in Tier 2 cities. But it is only in recent years that the expansion of the metro network has accelerated. The Kolkata Metro opened in 1984, but it took another 18 years for the Delhi Metro to start blowing on December 25, 2002.
A single line, the 11.07 km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar section, is the torchbearer of the Mumbai metro. More than a dozen lines are expected to be commissioned in the coming years. Red line 7 and yellow line 2A will be operational in four months. Work on the Andheri East – Dahisar East and Dahisar West – DN Nagar lines began in 2016. Scheduled for launch in December 2019, the opening was delayed for a number of reasons. In the Mumbai Metropolitan Area (MMR), covering the city of Mumbai, the suburbs of Mumbai, Palghar, Thane and Raigad, more than 300 km of metro line has been planned.
Chennai got its first metro lane in June 2015 after a tumultuous journey. The project was approved in 2009 and construction began immediately. After a regime change in 2011, the then chief minister, J Jayalalithaa, wanted to suppress it but could not. Work on the project has resumed. The first phase connecting 45.06 km was fully operational in February 2019 with a nine km extension added earlier this year. But the total traffic is around 1.25 lakh, only 15% of the expected daily traffic of six lakh. High fares and lack of last mile connectivity are cited for low footfall.
Work on the ambitious Phase II of the Chennai metro has started. Planned to add 118.9 km to the network, this will link the northern part of the city (Madhavaram) to the southern part and the IT corridor. The second phase, connecting the suburbs of Poonamallee, is expected to further increase ridership.
Operationalized in 2017, the first 25 km phase of the Kochi metro currently runs between Aluva and Pettah, passing through the heart of the city. The services are operated in an interval of 8 to 20 minutes, connecting 22 stations. Average ridership had peaked at 70,000 before the lockdown. Based on a survey of commuters, Kochi Metro Rail Limited plans to cut fares to meet its target of two lakh of daily ridership by the end of the year. The Kochi Metro was unique in its integration with an aquatic metro service to enhance connectivity to 10 islands in and around the city. Its first phase was officially launched in February with environmentally friendly boats.
Unlike the developed world, Indian metro systems have largely used the elevated track with a few sections underground. Cost is a factor, but Anjum’s claim that an elevated line at Rs 280-300 crore / km is cheaper than the metro at Rs 550-600 crore / km is disputed.
Reasons Prof Ashish: “There may be some initial savings on investment costs, but the cost-benefit analysis shows that the basement becomes cheaper in the long run. The metro should be underground at least in central areas of the city, as is global practice. High structures, he recalls, also have an enormous social cost. “We are killing our open spaces and, as the MG Road section of the Namma metro shows, destroying our urban aesthetic. The emblematic boulevard has given way to the pillars of the metro. Going underground didn’t make any practical sense here either, since the intersection with the Gottigere-Nagawara line is now five levels apart.
(With contributions from Mrityunjay Bose, ETB Sivapriyan and Arjun Raghunath)
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