Why Metro projects are on slow track: A look at 5 cities; INFRACIRCLE, March 14, 2017

Metro-running-on-WEH-Bridge
 | March 14, 2017 | INFRACIRCLE
The urban development ministry is working on easier financing and faster implementation of Metro projects. The move comes after finance minister Arun Jaitley announced in his Budget speech that a new Metro policy will be announced this year.

While many cities want to opt for Metro link, transport experts say it may not be a viable option for smaller cities which are sparsely populated. Perhaps Tier II cities could augment existing public transport systems: buses, local trains, ferries etc.

Delays and escalation in costs are common features of most Metro projects in the country. While the Centre has set aside over Rs.17,810 crore for Metro projects in Budget 2017-18, about 14% more than last year, work is moving at a slow pace on the ground.

Land acquisition problems, alignment-related miscalculations and poor implementation are among the reasons for delays. “The new land acquisition laws have led to procedural complications. We have to live with the delays as they have been caused due to a resolution by Parliament,” said Anwarul Hoda, professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, a think tank.

Experts are also of the view that frequent changes in the top management at Metro corporations are also a major concern. “Delhi Metro was successful because only two people were posted as managing directors between 2002 and 2017. Even the management of Hyderabad Metro has seen consistency for the last five years. Other than these, all Metros have seen shuffling of officials. Also, the bureaucrats posted as managing director do not understand metro network, instead an expert should be the in charge,” said Akhileshwar Sahay, strategic adviser, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.

InfraCircle takes a look at key cities where projects have been delayed significantly

Mumbai

The Mumbai Metro link (33.5km), being built at a cost of Rs.23,136 crore, has faced several obstacles.

The initial deadline for the Navi Mumbai Metro Rail link (23.4km from Belapur to Navi Mumbai International Airport) was December 2014. After a third extension, the current deadline is December 2017. The delays have pushed up the cost from Rs.1,985 crore toRs.3,000 crore.

Work on the Colaba-Bandra-Santacruz Electronics Export Processing Zone (SEEPZ) corridor is also moving slowly. It has faced opposition from the green lobby as 2,500 trees have to be cut during construction. Many NGOs approached the Bombay High Court which has stayed the cutting of trees.

“The project has been facing delays due to some socio-economic issues. Some NGOs are opposing the proposed car shed at Parjapur near Aarey colony, while some residents are opposing the tree cutting near proposed stations which is necessary for the project,” said Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) in an email response.

“Civil work of Metro-3 has been divided in seven packages. Geo-technical investigations, utility trenching survey and secant piling work have been kicked off in all of them,” MMRC added.

Sudhir Badami, a transportation analyst, said there are dense utility service lines on the entire stretch and it takes time to reroute them and this fact was not unknown to all parties concerned.

“There was also an issue of land acquisition and PAP (project affected persons) matters in the slums of Asalpha between Saki Naka and Ghatkopar,” said Badami.

He said that despite the ambitious plans of MMRC and MMRDA of completing the proposed 172km in Metro Rail Master Plans (Revised), the physical issues get worse for the remaining portions.

Concessionaires claim that projects which are operational are also facing losses as the fare has not been increased.

Line 1 of the Mumbai Metro, the 11.4km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor, is operated by Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL). Reliance Infrastructure has a controlling stake in MMOPL which is a public–private partnership (PPP) with Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).

Reliance Infrastructure holds 69% of the equity share capital of MMOPL, while MMRDA holds 26% and remaining 5% is held by Veolia Transport RATP Asia, France, through a separate joint venture company. MMOPL will undertake operations & maintenance of the project for an initial period of 5 years.

Reliance Infrastructure had said that it was incurring a daily loss of Rs.1 crore as fares have not been revised. However, MMRDA was not in the favour of a fare hike and had filed a petition in court challenging the fare fixation committee’s (FFC) decision to allow a hike of Rs.5 on single journeys along with a revision of seasonal pass rates. The Bombay High Court has put a stay on the revision for now.

“There are difficulties in PPP projects because of the lack of revenue. If the government does not revise the fare, then the Metro services will close down ultimately,” said Hoda.

Bengaluru

Bangalore Metro’s Phase-I was supposed to be completed by 2011 but it hasn’t been completed till date. The delay has resulted in steep cost escalation. The Karnataka government revised the project cost for Phase-I from Rs.8,158 crore to Rs.11,609 crore, and then again to Rs.13,845 crore.

“The delay is a result of errors in planning, alignment miscalculations, failure to anticipate situations during construction and poor stakeholder consultations,” said Ashish Verma, professor, department of civil engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Queries emailed to Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited on 1 March remained unanswered.

Experts said besides fare box revenue and government subsidies, the corporations should exploit other innovative ways of financing and revenue generations.

“The present operation of 20km is too miniscule for Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) to generate any profit. It is only when the third phase is completed that BMRCL will meet the shortfall substantially,” Verma said.

Kochi

Kochi is also set to get a metro rail link built at a cost of Rs.5,181 crore. Phase-I of the project is proposed to be completed by November this year. The line will span 25 km from Aluva to Pettah across 22 stations.

D Dhanuraj, chairman of Centre for Public Policy Research, said that compared to other infrastructure projects in Kerala the implementation of Metro has been much easier as 9-10 km stretch will be ready in another 2-3 months.

However, he also said that Kochi does not require a metro project as it is a very small town. “Kochi has a population of around 6 lakh which is very less compared to metropolitan cities. There are many challenges for the Metro. Will the commuter use it for travelling 6-7 km or opt for other options? Also, Metro does not go into deep pockets and alternative mode of transport has to be used to go to the Metro stations,” he added.

Kochi Metro has faced a delay of around a year and is expected to be operational by April 2017.

“The new Land Acquisition Act in 2013 delayed the project to some extent. The first 11km of Phase -1 will be ready for commercial operations by April-May 2017 and 18 km will be ready by August-September,” said Kochi Metro Rail Corporation Limited in an email reply.

Chennai

The work on the 45.1km Chennai Metro link started in 2009 and original cost estimate was around Rs.14, 600 crore for the Phase-I, but it has reached Rs.20,000 crore.

Land acquisition delays and non-performance of a contractor, leading to re-tendering, means that this project with an original date of completion of 2015 is yet to see the light of the day.

Queries emailed to Chennai Metro Rail on 1 March remained unanswered.

 “Other state governments need to follow the example of the Delhi government which has empowered the Metro corporation. They must ensure that all the departments are on the table to discuss projects and give approval,” said Abhay Agarwal, partner (infrastructure and PPP advisory) at EY, a consultancy.

Hyderabad

The 71km elevated Hyderabad Metro faced several hurdles, including delay in railway safety clearance for the 18km Nagole to Mettuguda stretch and track alignment issues in old city.

This Metro link was supposed to be ready by July 2017, the present deadline is December 2018 for completion of all the three segments.

The government had signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with L&T in 2010, the execution work started in 2012.

Other than land acquisition woes, the project had to face more than 200 court cases which have led to delays.

Queries emailed to Hyderabad Metro Rail on 1 March remained unanswered.

“Better master planning, detailed project planning can minimise commuting woes. The traffic management during construction period has been a sorry state of affairs. Even the motorised traffic struggle to manoeuvre, so it is difficult to imagine the plight of pedestrians,” said Verma of IISc.

This news was published in the INFRACIRCLE on March 14, 2017. Click here to read the published news: Why Metro projects are on slow track: A look at 5 cities

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