The Bold Voice of J&K

Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) for Jammu, Srinagar

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Sanjay Sapru

In the fast paced world of technology, India is making a mark to create a world-class Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) as an integral part of community infrastructural development. The continuous growth within the country in number of cities, population, traffic, buildings, etc has invariably called for a shift from private mode of conveyance to public mode of conveyance. Over a period of time it has been observed that a successful and well-planned (MRTS) exists in almost all developing nations. India had its first MRTS or Metro, twenty five years ago in Kolkata (then Calcutta). Unfortunately this could not spread to other parts of the country due to lack of funds, planning, lack of integration between various systems of mass transportation and above all the absence of comprehensive traffic and transportation planning. For the successful completion and implementation of such projects huge capital investments, long gestation period and complex technology is the need of hour. Research shows that the ideal share of public transport should be around 70 per cent in India’s metro cities, which at present is only around 35 per cent-40 per cent. India is looking to create a world class infrastructure with its existent Kolkata and Delhi Metros. In addition we do have the Metro presence in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Jaipur, Gurgaon and Kochi. Additionally, the proposals for MRTS are being chalked out for Pune, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Ludhiana, Bhopal, Indore and Faridabad, which may be implemented in the next few years.
Key Considerations
MRTS projects are extremely large projects. The key attributes for this are finance, logistics, extensive data, study of economic structures, profiling topography, travel routes, major traffic corridors, detailed surveys etc. Another very important aspect is to learn from its previous limitations and imperfections. We can bring down our operation and maintenance costs by further developing of our in-house technology. This would be a large milestone in order to make such projects self-sufficient.
Cost Factor
At present Metro projects are catering to cities with population of more than four million people. The costs are directly proportional to the areas which are proposed to serve underground, elevated or at grade alignment projects. The high cost of metros is justified by its very high carrying capacity of passengers at a very high speed and with minimum pollution.
Initially the funding of these projects was done through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) funding model, Delhi Metro model or State / Central Government funding. The concept of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (called the LPG model) introduced lately seems to be the most viable option to carry out such large projects across the country. Under this model the private sector developers are encouraged through viability gap funding scheme wherein 60 per cent of the cost is borne by private investor and 40 per cent is borne by the government in terms of grants.
Metros are known to serve the all sections of society at an affordable cost. Due to the huge capital costs involved in the implementation of MRTS it is suggested that government could participate through equity or meeting one time viability gap financing after detailed evaluation. For funding metros the government should provide infrastructure and the operating cost and cost of rolling stock must be met by users and beneficiaries. Where private players of repute are involved, the project could be sealed with private participation based on detailed conditions and period of concession specified. Land will be a major issue in realising the project for which the involvement of parastatal agencies will be critical. Sale of air space, advertisement rights, contribution of major commercial whole sale markets which generate huge volume of traffic, levying of external development charges on builders and promoters and a dedicated fund for MRTS can aid in the funding.
Advantages and Disadvantages
MRTS shall impact the country in many positive ways.
It is environmentally conducive as it considerably reduces noise and air pollution. The emission of toxic gasses and volatile compounds into air is minimised.
It has brought the society closer as all members of the society irrespective of their financial status, religion or cast are able to travel together hence enhancing the social integrity of the country.
It is fast and does not interfere with other traffic, averting accidents and mishaps.
It is a blessing for those individuals who are unable to drive.
(To be continued)

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