Thursday, November 30, 2023

What’s driving growth of rapid transit system in India?


As India is thriving towards rapid urbanisation, the country needs to step up its game to have a smooth urban transport system and rapid transit is one key to that. How the country’s rapid transit system like metro rail transport is playing that role?

India is among the front-running countries that are witnessing rapid urbanisation. The rapidly growing population, increasing number of young citizens, migration, expansion of towns and cities, globalisation, demand for aspirational better living have been fostering urbanisation in the country. The pace of urbanisation in India is expected to continue in the coming years as high economic growth is seen in the cities over the years, and as the government has decided to grab the opportunity and channelling money to further thrust the country into urbanisation, through building several smart cities. To cope with this, the country needs to step up its game to introduce an improved rapid transit system that is one key requirement to be fulfilled to take a city’s living quotient high.

Around 50% of India will be urbanized by 2045, with the country planning to develop 100 smart cities across the country.

As of 2019, around 30% of Indian citizens were living in urban areas. Considering the present rate of growth India would see more than 50% of it being urbanized by 2045. Indian government’s plan to develop 100 smart cities across the country will certainly accelerate the pace of urbanisation in the country. To develop the proper urban infrastructure one key requirement is a smooth transportation system.

Smooth transportation plays a key role in the development of any village, town, or city and subsequently any country. A study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) says that India is witnessing its roads getting congested heavily with every passing month. The dense population of the country, unplanned narrow road infrastructure, people’s increasing aspiration of purchasing personal vehicles are playing major roles behind this congestion, which is resulting in wastage of a huge amount of money.

  • Delhi-NCR lost $9.60 billion in 2018 due to congested roads.
  • In 2018, congested roads resulted in Bangalore, Kolkata, and Mumbai losing $5.92 billion, 1.97 billion, and $4.80 billion, respectively.

According to the BCG study, Delhi-NCR witnessed a loss of $9.60 billion in 2018 due to congested roads. The amounts in Bangalore, Kolkata, and Mumbai were $5.92 billion, 1.97 billion, and $4.80 billion, respectively. Clearly, the country wastes a huge sum of money every year due to poor transportation systems, which can be saved and invested in the economic growth of the country that aims to become a $5 trillion economy in this decade. To unclog the roads to some extent, India needs to invest more in rapid transit systems like metro rail transport, which will serve better in reducing the number of vehicles on roads, besides reducing the point-to-point travel time.

Public transportation in major global cities contributes around 70% of the total people movement, compared to only around 35-40% in India.

However, the country witnesses several bottlenecks in terms of smooth, convenient, and safe transportation, even in urban areas as well. Every big city in India has its own complexities in terms of smooth transportation, population density, economic activity, availability of landmass for expansion, and climatic conditions among others.

Rapid transit

Urban transit system in India

In India, the rapid transit system includes the metro railway transportation that is present in 12 cities – Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Noida, Gurugram, Nagpur. Besides that, new metro railway projects are being planned and under the development phase in at least 15 cities, which are – Ahmedabad, Pune, Indore, Bhopal, Varanasi, Kozhikode, Vijayawada, Meerut, Vishakapatnam, Kanpur, Agra, Coimbatore, Patna, Navi Mumbai, Guwahati. Not only that. Several existing metro railway systems including Delhi and Kolkata metro are expanding their networks as the cities are expanding.

Oldest metro railway of India – Metro railway system started its journey in India back in 1984, when Kolkata got its first metro in the country. The aging metro system currently has one primary line and a secondary line operational. Apart from that, a couple of other metro routes are being developed, which are expected to be operational in near future. The city is densely populated and with very little landmass available for road expansion, this rapid transit system plays a key role in the city’s transportation system, despite it having a strong suburban railway network and bus service operated by both public and private operators.

Kolkata has only 8% roads available for the road transport system, compared to up to 30% in other cities.

Kolkata has only 8% roads available for road transport like buses, private vehicles, and other public transport systems like trams, taxis, autorickshaw, etc. On the other hand, the road space available for road transport in other cities is 25-30%, almost four times of Kolkata. The high level of congestion on roads alongside the abovementioned reasons played a key role in making rapid transit like metro railway very popular in the city. In the last few decades, Kolkata Metro has basically become the lifeline of the city.

Largest metro railway of India – The second metro railway network in India was introduced to Delhi and NCR. Delhi-NCR is one of the cities in India with a heavily dense vehicle population, which results in congestion on roads and vehicular pollution as well. The metro railway was introduced to Delhi-NCR at a time when the region used to sell more four-wheelers than the other three metro cities combined – Chennai, Kolkata, and Mumbai.

Delhi Metro is considered the most efficient rapid transit system in India and one of the best in entire Asia as well. Since its inception, the Delhi metro has been expanded and still expanding rapidly across Delhi and its satellite cities. Currently, it is considered the most preferred mode of transportation in regions like Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Ghaziabad, and Faridabad. In recent times, Noida has got its own rapid transit system in form of the Noida Metro.

Rapid transit

What’s favoring rapid transit system’s growth in India?

The modern urban planners agree on one thing that the public transport system should get priority in terms of investment over personal transport when it comes to the urban transportation system. The rapid transit system is one sector in the public transport system that should get the most importance, as it is swift, time-saving, and affordable at the same time.

Public transportation in major cities around the world contributes around 70% of the total people movement, while in India, it is only around 35-40%, despite having such a dense population, among which the majority of the people use public transportation. This is because of the unreliability of the public transport system in terms of efficiency, speed, punctuality, comfort, reliability, and convenience. The mediums like suburban trains in cities like Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai alongside the intracity bus services in these cities can be mentioned as examples of such public transport systems.

However, the rapid transit system like metro railway transportation sits in a completely different direction than the other public transport mediums. The metro railway systems in India are much more efficient, reliable, comfortable, convenient, punctual, and fast than the suburban railway networks and intracity bus services. This is the reason the rapid transit system has been gaining a strong favor from the commuters, especially in those cities, where the population is more than 20 lakh.

Also Read: Humanistic smart cities of future India

Team AFT
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