Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Failure" to fix concept of transportation main reason for delay in implementing Ahmedabad metro

By Our Representative
Indecision about the very concept of when, how and why the metro project in Ahmedabad should be implemented has been the main reason for delay in its implementation, said a top state official associated with the project. Well-placed sources in the Gujarat government have told Counterview that, if till August 2013, the concept of metro was transport-led development, "it has changed now.”
“The new concept is to develop metro in those areas where it can get traffic, as against the thinking earlier that metro would be developed in those areas where Ahmedabad should actually develop, towards Gandhinagar”, a senior official said, adding, “A presentation was made to the Gujarat chief minister suggesting how metro should lead to Ahmedabad expanding towards Gandhinagar from two directions – Gift City, on one hand, and along the SG Highway, on the other.”
In fact, the CM had also approved the idea of taking the metro towards south of Ahmedabad, too -- towards Dholera, where a modern city in the form of special investment region (SIR) is proposed to developed as part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. It was to be extended up to the proposed Greenfield international airport, just outside the SIR. The view was, once metro route was finalised towards Dholera, urbanisation would automatically develop in that direction.
During the presentation, which provided a scenario of development of Ahmedabad till 2050, it was suggested that the concept of transport-led development alone had led to the planned expansion of Navi Mumbai, and it was an "international practice" to do it that way. “It was suggested to the CM that a transport policy which helped horizontal growth of urban areas should be adopted. Modi was agreeable to the concept, and gave a go ahead to it.”
However, in a “remarkable piece of indecision”, officials of the state urban development department “dropped the idea transport-level development, and replaced it with the traditional concept of developing transport only where there is heavy concentration of population.” The result is, “the route has been changed. It is no more metro between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. In fact, Gandhinagar is out of the metro. It will be tube railway that will run underground in the entire length and breadth of the city.”
The official said, “With the new change in concept, the work already done – finalization of the route up to Gandhinagar, based on which financial closure for the metro project’s first phase was finalized – would have to redone. The new route would require fresh techno-economic study and soil testing, and the government would again have to go to more than half-a-dozen banks which had allowed financial closure. If till now Rs 300 crore has been spent for all this, an equal amount would have to spent afresh, coupled with delay.”
Meanwhile, latest estimates suggest that the cost of the metro rail project would be much higher than the estimate of Rs 22,800 crore, as envisaged in the detailed project report. This is because, the sources said, after toying with the idea of running most of the metro overground, the Gujarat government has found that it is not feasible, and about 60 per cent of the metro should run underground and there would no link with Gandhinagar in the immediate future. Earlier, only a small corridor of about 16 km was to be part of the 80 kilometres route of the metro.
The change in the route, significantly, would add to the nine-year delay in the metro project. Initially, the delay took place because the state government decided in favour of the BRTS project instead of the metro in 2004-05. In fact, the state government dropped metro like a hot potato, and realized that the delay has cost the state dearly, as several other states have already got their metro projects cleared from the Government of India, and have even got money for themselves.
According to officials, "A minister's committee recently rejected the earlier plan suggested by the Metro Link Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad (MEGA) Company Limited. The construction, which was earlier to link Ahmedabad with Gandhinagar, the state Capital, may now start in the old city area first." Significantly, only six months back, the officials were saying that the old city would have very little of metro, as it did not fit into the concept of transport-led growth!
"Change in the concept has led to change in emphasis, too.The underground rail network will be first taken up, spanning into two old city directions: APMC (Vasna)-Paldi-Jamalpur-Kalpur to Civil Hospital, and Memco (Naroda) to AEC (Sabarmati). These routes have accorded the highest priority now. Considering the dense population of these localities, digging the underground tunnel will be challenging task. Almost 60 per cent of the rail length will be underground now,'' officials said.

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