'Metro Rail will be a cheap mode of transportation'
The Delhi Metro Railway Project has redefined the way people look at and execute projects. And the man who has revolutionised the concept of mass rapid transport system in India is Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, the Managing Director of Delhi Metro Railway Corporation Ltd, speaks exclusively to Manojit Saha about his dream of a metro rail system in important Indian major cities. Excerpts from the interview:
According to the 2001 census, India requires Mass Rapid Transport System in 35 metropolitan cities with more than one million population. How many of these cities can actually have a metro rail system? How many of them have approached you?
India is a poor country though we are developing fast. It is too luxurious to have a metro system for all cities having a population of one million to start with. Our recommendation to the Planning Commission was that, all cities with more than 3 million population should have a metro system, initially. Now, there are eight such cities in the country out of which two cities, Kolkata and Delhi, already have metro systems. So the other six cities are to be covered. These are: Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune. The Planning Commission has accepted this as a policy and has included it in the 10th Plan document.
Out of the six cities, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Mumbai had approached us for preparing detailed project reports for metro systems. We have already submitted the DPRs for Bangalore and Hyderabad. Regarding Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the phase-I of the DPR has been submitted. They have also accepted it and have asked us for phase-II of the DPR. Chennai's DPR is still in the initial stages.
The Delhi Metro project will be completed in four phases by the year 2021 with phase-I currently underway. What is the status of the remaining three phases?
We have drawn up a master corridor plan consisting of 8 lines covering 245 km. The plan would be implemented in four phases by the year 2021. The cost of the 245-km long corridor is around Rs 33,000 crore as of April 2001 (at the time of the preparation of the master plan). When all the four phases are completed by 2021, it is expected to carry 10.8 million people per day.
As per the funding pattern for phase-I, which is under implementation now, about 28 per cent has been contributed by the Delhi state government and Central government as equity towards DMRC, about 64 per cent is coming from the Japan Bank for International Co-operation as a soft loan, the corporation itself is raising 3 per cent of the cost and another 4 per cent is coming again from the two governments as interest-free sub-ordinate loan. Phase-I will be over by September 2005.
The funding pattern for phase-II of the project has not been finalised yet. It could be the same pattern if the Japanese government comes forward. If not, then we have to raise the money from the local market. We are studying various options.
Regarding phases III and IV, it is too early to comment.
What is the breakeven point of the project (in terms of traffic)? And when is it likely to be achieved?
For phase-I, we have originally estimated a ridership (commuters) of 2.2 million people per day in year 2005. Due to some uncertainties we have cut down the ridership to 1.5 million. If we are able to get this number of ridership then the project is viable and subsidy from the two governments will not the required in the operational stage.
Do you think that level of ridership can be achieved in a city like Delhi where the concept of mass transport system is not popular?
I think so. In spite of having personal vehicles, people will use the Metro since it has tremendous advantages. First of all, the city dwellers do not have to bother about parking space. Every day we are adding about 600 vehicles in the city. Car parking is going to be a major problem in the next five years. The commuters will definitely enjoy the comfortable air-conditioned ride which will not only take them to the destination in half the time required in personal vehicles but it will also ensure their safety.
What kind of subsidy will the government have to provide to make Metro Rail affordable to the common man?
Metro Railway will definitely be a cheap mode of transportation, may not be as cheap as a bus but cheaper than an autorickshaw, four-wheeler or two-wheeler. We are working in such a way that the government subsidy is in the capital investment stage for funding the project. There government will not have any further liability for running the system.
Konkan Railway claims that its Sky Bus is far cheaper than Metro Railway. How do you justify the metro rail project as the only viable solution for our cities transportation problems?
Konkan Railway is making tall claims about its Sky Bus scheme with regard to cost and carrying capacity. The Government of India has appointed a committee under the chairmanship of a former director of IIT-Chennai. We have also studied the system. We feel that the claim made by KRC is not really very correct. The carrying capacity of the system cannot be more than about 10,000-12,000 passengers per hour. In addition, the cost is going to be more than that of a normal metro system. So, when the cost is more and the carrying capacity is one-fourth that of the metro, it certainly cannot compete with the metro system.
The other part is that, the Sky Bus system is hanging in the air. The idea is still in the mind, it has not been proved anywhere in the world. KRC is now trying to put up a model for a section of something like 1.5 km. For them, to set up this model, to run the system, get it certified by the commission of railway safety, prove the system, which, according to me, will take at least another three years. At the end of it they will find the cost high and the carrying capacity low. Hence, Sky Bus cannot be a substitute for Metro Railway. It can be used in places like tourist centres or hill resorts but not in a busy city where we have to carry a lot of traffic. Besides, there are so many technological issues to be resolved, which the above committee will look in.
What is the long-term vision of Delhi Metro Railway Corporation?
The long-term vision of DMRC is to cover the whole city of Delhi with a very modern and world-class type of Metro. The ideal situation will be, that, anybody should able to find a metro station in 15 minutes from anywhere in the city. The first priority is to implement what we have envisaged in our 2021 plan. The second is that, in the course of implementing phase-I, we have acquired a lot of expertise which is not available with any other organisation in the country. We want other cities to have metro rail too. We are willing to help these cities to conceive a proper project with technical guidance and help them to get government clearance. Once we prepare the DPRs, the governments will have a lot of confidence about the viability of such a project because of our experience in this field. Hence, they will not have any difficulty in clearing these projects. After the project is cleared, we can assist them, like a prime consultant, to oversee certain aspects like technical parameters and timeframe. But we will not get involved in execution since we are very busy with the Delhi Metro project.
Do you plan to expand operations beyond Indian shores?
Some of the developing countries like Sri Lanka have approached us and we are willing to help them. Indonesia too has approached us. There is some indication that Dhaka, Bangladesh, also wants to have a metro rail system.
'Metro Rail will be a cheap mode of transportation'