After mass rapid transit systems transformed the way people travel in India’s big cities, starting with Kolkata, then Delhi, and now projects under way in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, the wave is about to sweep smaller cities of Jaipur, Kochi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Nagpur, Patna, Ludhiana, Indore, Pune and Chandigarh and Ahmedabad.
Of the R2 lakh crore that India is expected to spend on developing metro rail systems in the country till 2019, almost half of that or over R91,000 crore (2013 estimates) will be on metro projects being implemented or planned in these cities.
India, urbanising at one of the fastest rates in the world, had 11.4% of its population reside in cities, according to the 1901 Census. This count increased to 28.53% to 2001 and has crossed 30% in 2011, reaching 31.16% now.
The rise in rural migration and the growing clout of the services sector in the economy—services accounted for 56.5% of the GDP in 2012-13 versus 13.7% by agriculture—have made a case for developing modes of rapid transport in the smaller cities as well. In 2011, Kamal Nath, Union urban development minister, said that all cities that have a population in excess of 20 lakh would get a metro corridor. By 2011 Census, 13 cities qualify under this criterion, of which 10 have already made some headway in either planning or implementing the metro projects.
Jaipur’s over R9,700-crore metro project, being implemented by state unit Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation (JMRC), is expected to be the fourth metro rail system in the country after Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore. JMRC has started trial runs on the first four kilometres last month. The 35-km project, implemented in a record 33 months, will run through the ‘Pink City’ connecting places of historical importance like Chhoti and Badi Chaupar.
The under-construction Kochi metro project, on the other end, is the first tier-II city to be granted a metro under the Union government’s scheme allowing cities having population more that 20 lakhs to have a metro rail system. The government of India the Kerala government are equal equity partners in Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL). The over R5,500-crore project covering 25 km on elevated tracks will have 22 stations. KMRL is in talks with Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the main implementing agency for France’s official development assistance to developing countries, for getting 180 million euros for the project. The agency’s loan carries 2% interest for a