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President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurates Bengaluru Metro Phase I

LiveMint logoLiveMint 17-06-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru: President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday flagged off the final 11.3km stretch of metro rail services between Sampige Road and Yelachenahalli—completing Phase I of the Bengaluru Metro rail network of 42.3km, making it one of the few cities in the country to have a full-fledged metro network.

The emphasis on metro networks in major cities across the country is part of efforts to adopt faster and environmentally-friendly public mobility solutions to help decongest rapidly growing cities.

But a growth in population and other challenges have outpaced adaptation and execution of newer mobility solutions.

Stating that the metro rail in London began in 1863, Mukherjee said that India was well behind in railways and transportation even though the first train in India was operational in 1853.

Metro rails have become the one of the preferred technologies to decongest cities across the world, including India in recent times. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday flagged off the Rs5,181 crore Kochi Metro.

With the opening of the last section of the Bengaluru Metro and the Kochi Metro on Saturday, the total metro length operational in the country is 370km, Venkaiah Naidu, union minister for urban development, said in Bengaluru on Saturday.

“Around 517 kilometers is under construction in various cities including Delhi and NCR, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Jaipur, Mumbai, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Lucknow and another around 522 kilometers is under consideration,” he said.

Naidu said that the green urban mobility scheme ( to promote public transport and non-motorized transport), new metro policy (to enable greater private participation and innovative financing through value capture financing) and national transit-oriented development policy (for providing a framework for sustainable urban growth and development based on livable, walkable and mixed use communities with shared open green and public spaces that enhance the use of transit facilities and minimize pollution) are some of the steps that are being considered by the centre in urban development.

Phase I of the Bengaluru metro—Namma Metro— was built with funds coming from Karnataka and the union government, the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) and Agence Francaise De Developement (AFD) France.

The Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BRMCL) has already begun work on new phases of the city’s metro network, including Phase II, which is expected to be completed by March 2020 and will take the combined cost (phases I& II) to around Rs40,000 crore and combined network length to 111.125km.

However, delays in completion of Phase I saw costs escalate from around Rs6,395 crore in 2006 to around Rs14,000 crore at the time of completion.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said that drilling tunnels through the hard rock, proximity to the water table and adopting modern technologies were some of the major challenges that the project faced.

Though the metro reduces travel time by almost half on existing routes, the ever-increasing volume of private vehicles and floating population of around 2 million continue to be the hurdles in decongesting the city.

Alternative transport solutions like commuter rail service (suburban rail) and increasing the number of buses in the city have not received the same attention as the metro.

Urban experts say that metro—which is expected to ferry 5 lakh people per day with Phase I—consumes most of the funds, leaving little else for other mass mobility solutions.

“A word of caution at this juncture may not be out of place. A metro system can only be as efficient as the feeder services,” Siddaramaiah acknowledged while adding that the state will look into improving last-mile connectivity.

Bengaluru is looking at more investments into the metro project,which includes adding another 17km on Outer Ring Road (ORR) from Central Silk Board to K.R.Puram, by raising innovative financing techniques.

“Under this system, the industrial houses located on the ORR have come forward to contribute for this project. In addition, resources would be mobilized through sale of premium floor space,” Naidu said.

Apart from this, the state government is conducting feasibility studies to connect Bengaluru International Airport to the metro network as well.

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