The Union Cabinet recently approved a new Metro Rail Policy that seeks to enable the realisation of the growing metro rail aspirations of a large number of cities, but in a responsible manner. 'The new policy is forward-looking and will help the extension of the metro or any other alternative metro to cities where it is not available right now but is required as per the National Urban Transport Policy,' says Brijesh Dixit, Managing Director, Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (Maha Metro). 'With the rise in urban population, it is necessary to plan transportation services.
So, the new Metro Policy not only includes the metro, but monorail and other alternatives. The DPRs of the new metros being proposed will undergo some modifications based on the New Metro Policy.'
Further, the policy opens a big window for private investment across a range of metro operations, making the PPP component mandatory to avail central assistance for new metro projects. Private investment and other innovative forms of financing of metro projects have been made compulsory to meet the huge resource demand for capital-intensive, high-capacity metro projects. The policy envisages private-sector participation in the O&M of metro services in different ways. These include cost-plus-fee contract, gross-cost contract, and net-cost contract. 'With metros either under construction or under consideration in 13 cities in the country, these are counting on the budget support of the Centre and state governments to such an extent that any further stretching of resources will be difficult,' reasons Dixit. 'And, because the resources are to be augmented, one option is private participation.'
Moreover, the new policy seeks to ensure focus on a catchment area of 5 km on either side of metro stations, requiring states to commit in their project reports to provide necessary last-mile connectivity through feeder services, non-motorised transport infrastructure like walking and cycling pathways, and the introduction of para-transport facilities. Further, the new policy mandates 'alternate analysis', requiring evaluation of other modes of mass transit such as bus rapid transit system, light rail transit, tramways, metro rail and regional rail in terms of demand, capacity, cost and ease of implementation. The establishment of an Urban Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) has been made mandatory, which will prepare comprehensive mobility plans for cities to ensure complete multi-modal integration for optimal utilisation of capacities.
The new policy also mandates transit-oriented development (TOD) to promote compact and dense urban development along metro corridors as TOD reduces travel distances, besides enabling efficient land use in urban areas. Further, Dixit says, 'Instead of the internal 8 per cent financial rate of returns, the policy has opted for the economic rate of returns for better evaluation of the project rather than only concentrating on the financial rate of returns.'
At present, metro projects with a total length of 370 km are operational in eight cities and metro projects with a total length of 537 km are in progress in 13 cities, including these eight.
- SERAPHINA D'SOUZA