Thursday, June 29, 2006

A plan that’s just a mirage?

A plan that’s just a mirage?
By B K Chandrashekar & G Parameshwara
Deccan Herald

The undue delay in implementing the Bangalore Metro Rail project and the preference for Monorail is bad news.

The BJP-JD(S) government has, unfortunately, generated a high-decibel controversy on Bangalore's infrastructure. The JD(S) proclaimed that its alliance with the BJP was meant exclusively for Karnataka's "development" and that it was giving up its “secular” tag for this purpose!

But after nearly five months in the government, the coalition has demonstrably failed to embark on infrastructure projects that are so urgently required for the citizens of Bangalore. The government's pre-determined position on the Metro project and its highly suspicious enthusiasm to bring in a Malaysian company to build a Monorail confirms its lack of commitment to Bangalore.

The Chief Minister has announced that work on the Monorail will begin on August 15. How can this be done when the comprehensive traffic and transport survey of Bangalore is due only in November of this year? Is Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) being pressured to give some kind of a report that might be used by the government to bring in the Malaysian company?

Does the government know the exact routes on which the Monorail can be sensibly deployed? There are other issues too which need to be addressed and citizen groups consulted. Indeed, is the Monorail best suited for Bangalore even as a feeder system? Hitachi of Japan and Bombardier of Canada are the only companies manufacturing Monorail systems that are operating in different parts of the world. Met Rail of Malaysia, which is eager to execute the Monorail system, has not supplied and executed this system anywhere in the globe. They are reported to have made a presentation to the Chief Minister. Have other companies been given the opportunity to do so? The cost of Monorail is in the range of Rs 75 cr to Rs. 150 cr per km. Hitachi has quoted about Rs 75 cr per km for Delhi. The cost of the elevated metro rail in Delhi is in the range of Rs 75-85 cr per km. Therefore, it can be safely concluded that the cost of mono-rail and elevated metro rail is almost the same albeit the latter has ten times more carrying capacity.

The total network of Monorail in the world is about 200 km of which only 75 km is being used for mass transportation. The rest is being used for point-to-point service in amusement parks and airport to city commutation. The main cities using Monorail for daily commuting are Tokyo, Sydney, and Kuala Lumpur.

In these cities Monorail is being used as feeder to metro and not as its substitute as claimed by met rail.

Monorail is used on fewer traffic demand routes, sharper curving routes and roads with high gradients. It also has the advantage of being less noisy. Monorail passenger capacity is about 5000 to 8000 during peak hours (Peak Hour Peak Direction Trip) whereas metros have 40,000 to 1,00,000 during peak hours. The Metro planned for Bangalore will have about a 50,000 peak hour passenger capacity.

We are witnessing inordinate delays in the acquisition of private land and properties.

About 650 structures and approximately 27 acres of private land need to be acquired. The chief minister had stayed land acquisition on Kuvempu Road more than three months ago. He wanted to inspect the properties to be acquired on this road before going ahead with acquisition. He has not found time to inspect the area so far. Every day's delay, we are told, increases the project cost by Rs 1 cr!

The Justice Shivashankara Bhat Committee has been constituted to consider the proposals of the traders on CMH road as well as the suggested alignment. It may be recalled that Justice Bhat had resigned but was persuaded to continue and submit the report. Why has the government not acted on the report until now? The intention appears to be to stall the progress of the Metro Project. This is also confirmed by the fact that issues relating to the NGEF land required for the Metro depot (the heart of the Metro at Byappanahalli) have not yet been resolved. They are still pending in the High Court.

The metro alignment between Yashwanthpur and Peenya is caught up in the NHAI tangle. The financial closure of the project is not yet done. The general consultants as well as key personnel are yet to be appointed. Even if the State Government shows utmost alacrity from now on, it may take a minimum of one year to get the project construction started. Is there hope for Bangalore's citizens?

(The writers are former ministers.)


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