India’s growing metro pie: 1016 km, 27 cities
RAILWAYS & METRO RAIL

India’s growing metro pie: 1016 km, 27 cities

From zero to 702 km since Kolkata’s first line was made operational in 1984, India’s metro-rail system has seen remarkable growth. While opportunities abound in the metro space, contractual and construction enhancements are vital for better outcomes.

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With 1,016 km of metro rail under construction in 27 cities and another 2,500 km likely to be constructed in the next decade to cater to the growing urban population, India has already emerged as the largest market for rail-based urban transport projects in the world outside China, observes Akhileshwar Sahay, Urban Transport Expert and Former Strategic Advisor, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and Maha Metro.

From zero to 702 km since Kolkata’s first line was made operational in 1984, India’s metro-rail system has seen remarkable growth. While opportunities abound in the metro space, contractual and construction enhancements are vital for better outcomes. --------------------------------------- With 1,016 km of metro rail under construction in 27 cities and another 2,500 km likely to be constructed in the next decade to cater to the growing urban population, India has already emerged as the largest market for rail-based urban transport projects in the world outside China, observes Akhileshwar Sahay, Urban Transport Expert and Former Strategic Advisor, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and Maha Metro. Construction aside, “under the Central Government’s mega billion-dollar asset monetisation plan, the operation of completed metro-rail projects is likely to emerge as a big opportunity for private players,” he notes. Let’s drill down to the emerging opportunities. In-demand construction equipment New metro lines will spur construction and, hence, demand for construction equipment, core building materials like cement and steel, allied materials, service industries and key rail components. “Typically, the construction of elevated viaducts necessitates precast plants/production lines while underground stations require more tunnel-boring machines and drilling and blasting machines,” observes Indranil Basu, Managing Director, Project Management (South India), Colliers. “Among regular construction equipment, concrete boom pumps and cranes will see higher demand.” “Equipment for excavation, earthmoving, hoisting and hauling, compaction operations, bar-bending, transportation, lifting (gantry cranes) and piling and tunnel-boring machines will see a boost from metro projects,” says Raghavendra B, Vice-President (Business Development), Aarvee Associates. “We will see exponential rise in demand for heavy machinery like piling rigs, earthmovers and large-scale equipment including cranes and gantries, which can handle precast segments,” says KVB Reddy, Managing Director & CEO, L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad). Tunnel-boring machines for underground sections and hydra, tyre-mounted cranes and gravel mountain cranes for elevated sections of metros, launching girders and ground launching systems, concreting machines, excavators and transportation machines will grow manifold, adds Sahay. In days to come, Reddy sees a shift towards mechanisation on a greater scale. Essentially, as construction companies become more focused on productivity, the uptake of new equipment will increase. “Interesting trends and improvements involve the adoption of robotics and the use of autonomous construction vehicles, robotic tractors, mining equipment and specialised non-road vehicles,” shares Basu. Sahay sees scope for the adoption of robotics in construction, the use of automatic construction vehicles, telematics and technology to monitor the cost, time and quality of execution of projects, such as the use of 5D BIM by Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation. Building opportunities For an idea of the building opportunities emanating from metro projects, consider this: Godrej Interio recently bagged contracts worth Rs 250 crore to carry out civil finishes, cladding, blockworks, facade glazing, metal ceiling, aluminium louvers, structural steel works, plumbing, railing and horticulture for metro projects in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Kochi, according to Sameer Joshi, Associate Vice-President, Marketing (B2B) Godrej Interio. Many metro projects offer scope for the innovative use of materials. For example, Godrej Interio is using porotherm blocks for the exterior walls of the Bengaluru metro to cancel outdoor traffic noise, improve thermal insulation, speed up construction (as porotherm needs no curing) and cut energy costs, shares Joshi. “It is using AAC blocks for the interior walls to reduce the dead weight and cost, improve thermal efficiency and ventilation, reduce indoor humidity, reduce solid waste by at least 30 per cent versus traditional concrete and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent.” In the service sector, Basu enumerates the following major beneficiaries: vertical transportation (lifts and escalators), air-conditioning (chillers, pumps, etc), high side electrical (for substations and power supply), uninterruptible power supply, ventilation systems, extra low voltage systems (communication / signalling, CCTV, access control, etc), automatic door systems, etc. Customised rolling stock With the Government pushing indigenisation by making it mandatory to procure a minimum of 75 per cent of train cars and minimum of 25 per cent of critical equipment and subsystems (rolling stock components, S&T items and track components) from within the country, Basu sees India’s three operational metro rail coach factories, two coach factories at advanced stages, another two car factories under active planning and allied industries getting a boost. Indigenisation is a positive step, remarks Sahay. “Aggressively pushing Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat to metro rail rolling stock and systems (particularly near oligopoly areas of signals and rolling stock) would pare the cost.” Rolling stock will be needed for new lines as well as existing ones. “For instance, the Delhi metro needs refurbishing, replacement of systems and addition of new rolling stock,” he continues. Custom-designed rolling stock is also trending as “authorities try to incorporate regional and local cultures while planning and designing metro projects”, Raghavendra notes. Ever since the London Underground, the first metro rail system, opened for traffic in 1863, metro stations have depicted the history, culture, architecture and contemporary modernity of their respective cities, observes Sahay. “Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus in London, the art stations of Naples, Italy (Line 1 and 6), Stockholm’s Tunnelbana’s longest art exhibition in the world and Moscow subway’s dreamy murals are great examples.” In India, too, starting with the Delhi Metro’s Central Secretariat to Kashmere Gate heritage line, select stations reflect the history and culture of their city. Of late, “the authorities in Nagpur have involved architects in the design process,” observes Raghavendra. “In Mumbai, stations like Kalbadevi, Mumbai Central and Churchgate include aspects related to the city’s rich heritage, while stations at Dharavi and Worli include aspects associated with the city’s first major occupation—fishing.” “Kochi Metro Rail has awarded Godrej Interio two elevated ‘themed’ metro station projects,” shares Joshi. “One station will reflect Ayurveda’s remarkable contribution to the history of Kerala and India while the second, on ‘Freedom’, is envisaged as a tribute to India on its 75th Independence Day in 2022.” Alstom’s custom-designed train sets for the Kochi Metro set a new benchmark in promoting greener urban transportation in India with aesthetically pleasing and stylish designs in a colour scheme perfectly reflecting the authority’s new image, and technological innovations to enhance passenger experience. Alstom is also currently custom-designing and manufacturing 31 train sets (comprising 248 cars) for Mumbai Metro’s Line 3 (Aqua Line). The overall exterior and interiors are inspired by Mumbai’s undying energy and activity, while the interiors will be laid out to maximise utility. Alstom’s customised car for the Lucknow Metro features livery in golden, inspired by chikankari craftsmanship, and a front shape that expresses the spirit of the Roomi Gate, Bada Imambara and Asafi Masjid. Black (colour) at the front of the car is inspired by the modern feel of Hazratganj. Its advanced signalling and train control system enables the metro to virtually operate in a ‘driverless’ mode. New modern, high-capacity MOVIA metro vehicles delivered by Alstom for the Delhi Metro feature some of the world’s most advanced mobility technologies and are extremely robust and reliable to suit the city’s infrastructure. “Everything can be customised from the car body shell, voltage, motorisation and grade of automation to lighting, passenger information and seating,” says Alain Spohr, Managing Director, India & South Asia, Alstom. “When transport authorities/metro corporations express very specific requirements in their rolling stock tenders, resulting from material or aesthetic preferences, topographical or geographical features or infrastructure constraints such as clearance gauge or system voltage, Alstom draws on its in-house Design & Styling team to conceive a railcar to precisely suit the spirit and intention of the city in its forms, materials, colour scheme and ambience, explains Spohr. “Alstom adapts while maintaining a consistent focus on reliability, maintainability, low lifecycle costs and passenger comfort. With the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation, Alstom will now be able to offer a significantly increased range to meet customer-specific needs, from cost-efficient mass-market platforms to high-end technological innovations.” While culture increases the aesthetic quotient of the metro, Raghavendra opines that incorporating non-standard ‘cultural’ elements into metro designs may delay approvals and, in turn, project implementation. Speedy metro creation Delays are a real challenge in metro projects. Work on India’s first metro line in Kolkata started in 1972 and ended in 1984, and overshot the original budget 12 times. “One of the earliest lessons from the Kolkata metro was that special purpose vehicles should be created to execute such large projects,” says Sanjoy Sanyal, Founder & Managing Director, Bouw Consultants. So, in 1995, to speed up work on the country’s second metro, in Delhi, the Government created the DMRC with the authority and responsibility to execute the mammoth and complex project. Commissioning the first section of the Delhi metro took seven years, the slated time period. Other sections of the DMRC have also been completed punctually. But metro projects in other cities have seen delays and overspends that the country can ill afford. Common problems resulting in time and cost overruns include alignment issues, says Raghavendra, implying that the alignment is affected by obligatory points/routes, as well as land acquisition, lack of coordination, disputes between various government and non-government bodies and shortfalls in planned investments. Many, if not all, metro projects face these situations and solutions are usually uniquely evolved based on local conditions, says Raghavendra. Some ways to avoid these issues are to “keep an undeviating focus on the successful completion of the project, thereby generating viable solutions to problems at each stage; developing a team-work culture among all the stakeholders and supply chain elements; blending latest technology and professional expertise to design solutions to problems at each stage; developing effective communication between the project implementation machinery and the public; helping the public understand the project benefits to get their cooperation; and developing and implementing the best possible monitoring mechanism at each stage.” Systemising, simplifying and standardising the design of metro rail systems (viaduct, underground and stations) would fast-track construction at a substantially lower per unit cost, says Sahay. Indeed, learning from the DMRC has led to design improvements in the newer metros, observes Basu. “Recent metros in Nagpur, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kochi, to name a few, show that construction, operation and maintenance costs can be controlled through innovative designs and using ‘value engineering’ techniques.” Safer, sustainable metro construction In metro design, conventional segmental box girder spans have now been replaced with lighter U-girders for faster construction, shares Sanyal. “Precast elements like pier caps are being implemented. Standardising metro parts (like China did) and the use of precast factory-made concrete also help improve quality of construction.” “New construction features include the execution of independent viaducts, pre-engineered building components, that is, single-frame trusses and precast RCC/PSC members,” observes Basu. “Value engineering has impacted the viaduct width, casting or optimisation of the platform width, maintenance sheds, receiving substations, etc.” Design enhancements also focus on minimising disturbance to citizens from surveys and underground construction, adds Sanyal. “For example, Chennai Metro Rail in Phase 2 has reduced the station length to minimise work area requirements, thus also reducing the capital investment in the project.” Coming to safety, new features include communication-based signalling, door control and train management systems and modern surveillance gadgets on board, says Basu. “Merging the signal room with the telecom room and integrating the operation of various telecom systems have helped optimise energy consumption, while actively pursuing platform screen doors has substantially cut air-conditioning loads, apart from the obvious benefit of improving commuter safety.” Worldwide, efforts are being made to reduce the impact of noise and vibration generated by metro rails, both at the source and receptor levels, adds Sanyal. “Delhi Metro is using new rail and brake systems to reduce the noise and vibration generated by metro rails, coaches featuring advanced sound-absorbing cushion lining on the walls with better buffing for perfectly sealing doors that reduce sound filtering in from outside, and ballast-less track technology for virtually ‘joint-less’ tracks. Other newer technologies include air-conditioning that survives 50°C temperature, smoke detectors and a maximum running speed of 90 kmph.” Sustainability initiatives—such as harnessing solar energy to reduce the cost of operations—and integrating ticketing over various city transport modes for commuter convenience as well as financial savings are other learnings, adds Basu. What’s left to be done? DMRC’s legendary first managing director E Sreedharan exemplified strong leadership, a vital ingredient for the timely completion of mega projects within the budget. For the best outcomes, Sanyal recommends that companies develop a top-level project management plan covering the tasks allocated to all stakeholders, audit the work of the engineer and the project management company, develop clear stakeholder management and communication management plans, monitor on a regular basis, conduct comprehensive and rigorous risk management, and develop procedures for quality management. To ensure ownership and accuracy, these tasks should be taken up by the client’s own staff and not left to consultants. Uday Sambre, Professional Consultant for Metro and Rail Systems, suggests improving the detailing of the scope of work of detailed design consultants (DDCs) to avoid incomplete jobs. Additionally, innovation in contract formats could help encourage better design and greater deployment of technology. “Metro projects in PPP mode in India have not been successful so far while DMRC has shown that even government-run metros can be operationally profitable,” opines Sambre. He recommends EPC mode contracts for giving contractors an opportunity to experiment with new designs/concepts and proposes introducing independent engineering standalone tenders. Reddy insists that the PPP model remains an efficient mode for handling gargantuan infra projects. However, he would like the Government to take cognisance of macroeconomic crises and put in place a robust mechanism to pre-empt impending macroeconomic scenarios, provide adequate and timely succour to private partners to survive such crises and make projects worth investing in. “COVID-19 has brought to the fore the need for greater focus on business continuity to remain afloat, he adds. “A transparent risk-sharing mechanism and quick redressal of issues are essential to ensure that there are no unviable timeline and cost escalations.” A key aspect of metro finance is the commercialisation of land around metros. Experts are increasingly talking about the need to see metros as ‘transformative projects’ as opposed to ‘transportation projects’. Om Prakash Agarwal, CEO of the World Resources Institute (India), recently told The Economic Times that metros in India won’t succeed so long as the asset is treated as yet another civil engineering project where the main emphasis is on how well they are built and how well they operate. “This is not enough. The city must grow around the metro, and not in isolation of it. Future land use planning must have the metro at its core,” he said, adding that the share of population using metros in India is far too less. “Limited monetisation of the land is acceptable but it should not be entirely commercialised without proper planning and adequate provisions so as not to inconvenience the public and commuters, considering that space is limited in cities,” cautions Sambre. A lesson in metro viability The pandemic has (or should have) taught us a strong lesson in metro viability. With the Delhi metro and Hyderabad metro, to name two, suffering huge losses owing to lockdowns and restricted movement, less expensive mass rapid transit systems like the metrolite and metro neo have come into focus. While the metrolite is a smaller metro running mostly on the ground to cut the cost of construction, the metro neo is a rail-guided system comprising rubber-tyre electric coaches powered by overhead traction. In terms of cost and operational efficiency, these newer variants are attractive options to ease traffic in smaller cities such as Jammu, Visakhapatnam, Dehradun and Srinagar, and to connect less populous periphery areas in larger cities. “We expect the metrolite to cost 40 per cent less than the Rs 220-250 crore per km cost of the conventional metro rail system as a result of its much lower coach axle load (12 tonne compared to 17 tonne), smaller no-frill stations and simpler signalling, traction and communication systems,” says Sahay. “The metro neo will cost still less.” The lower investment comes at a cost. While the regular metro can carry 70,000 passengers per hour per direction (p/h/d), the metrolite can take 2,000-15,000 and the metro neo up to 8,000, extendable to 10,000. Essentially, “where the p/h/d exceeds 15,000, the metro is suitable, else other transport modes like trams, electric buses and the metro neo are more cost-effective solutions,” says Sambre. With government support, the inclusion of private players and the deployment of appropriate technology, the metrolite and the metro neo light urban train transit systems may offer a viable, cost-effective and operationally efficient city transit option for smaller and Tier-2 cities with a lower ridership projection, likely matching the regular metro rail service in comfort, convenience, environmental sustenance, connectivity and overall travel experience, observes Reddy. So far, the Government has green-lighted metrolite projects in Gorakhpur, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, expectedly to cost upwards of Rs 12,000 crore. Cost aside, Sambre sees these new formats as means to encourage new players to introduce new technologies like wireless systems, aesthetic power supply, etc. Spohr finds it encouraging that India plans to bring in newer technologies like the metrolite and the metro neo for urban metro networks in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, as these can be optimised solutions for small to medium cities (with lesser passenger density), providing economically viable, safe commute options and addressing last-mile connectivity challenges. “With more than 30 Tier 2/3 cities, India could become one of the largest markets for light rail solutions,” he says. Calling metro specialists Things are looking up for India’s metros, at both ends of the scale. Might a field that is so promising attract new players? So far, metro construction packages have attracted major Indian construction companies like Tata Projects, L&T, Afcons and JMC as well as international companies, notes Raghavendra. “In addition to other international players, recently, Turkish construction companies like Gulermak and Dogus have been active. The Indian metro consultancy market is also populated by both Indian companies such as Aarvee, CEG and Barsyl and international companies like AECOM, Egis, Systra and DB. Recently, a few Turkish engineering companies like Yuksel and Tumas have actively participated in bids and won some packages. In the realm of system contractors, existing players include CAF, Siemens, Alstom, etc.” To cope with rising demand for metros, Basu sees a need for more players to enter the field. In fact, he observes, “the Government amended the bidding policy in 2020 and relaxed FDI regulations in construction by removing the three-year lock-in period for this very purpose—to encourage more bidders and allow more overseas players to invest. The results are evident in rail coach manufacturing, with major international players like Alstom and Bombardier setting up plants in India. Other international players like Kawasaki, Hyundai Rotem and CRRC Nanjing are either tying up with Indian partners or directly supplying coaches to Indian metros.” In the construction space, metrolite projects are an upcoming segment that might attract new players, unless companies that are already actively constructing metros steal the show. Depending on the size of a metro project, it is likely to continue to attract major players because infrastructure projects have always been capital-intensive, opines Reddy. Raghavendra expects the same construction companies engaged in metro projects to pitch for upcoming metrolite projects as the basic viaduct structure of the latter is similar to that of the conventional structure. “Metrolite projects are likely to attract existing major players as well as medium-size players, especially companies implementing elevated metro projects,” says Sanyal. With an expanding pie, the more the merrier!Operational and upcoming metros in India CITYOPERATIONAL NETWORKNEW ROUTES UNDER CONSTRUCTIONAPPROVED NEW ROUTESPROPOSED NEW ROUTESSTART YEARAgra Metro0 km4 km25.400 kmNAAhmedabad Metro6 km39.74 km21.776 km0 km2019Bengaluru Metro48.1 km68.13 km56.24 km105.55 km2011Bhopal Metro0 km6.22 km21.65 km77.13 kmNAChennai Metro54.1 km0 km118.90 km15.30 km2015Delhi Metro347 km43.46 km24.99 km57.3 km2002Gurgaon Rapid Metro12.1 km0 km0 km200 km2013Hyderabad Metro67 km0 km0 km58 km2017Indore Metro05.29 km26.24 km57.18NAJaipur Metro11.98 km0 km0 km26.36 km2015Kanpur Metro08.73 km23.66 km0 kmN/AKochi Metro25 km2.94 km12.36 km0 km2017Kolkata Metro39.25 km56.32 km28.2 km15.7 km1984Lucknow Metro22.90 km0 km0 km85 km2016Meerut Metro0 km3 km17 km15 kmNAMumbai Metro11.40 km169 km21.29 km136.40 km2014Nagpur Metro22.90 km18.80 km48.30 km0 km2019Navi Mumbai Metro0 km11.10 km0 km95.30 kmNANoida Metro29.70 km0 km14.95 km70 km2019Patna Metro0 km6.107 km24.803 km0 kmNAPune Metro0 km58.58 km4.41 km26.46 kmNA Source: https://themetrorailguy.com/metro-rail-projects-in-india/-By Charu Bahri  

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