Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gurgaon Rapid Metro: The first private Metro system opened for operations

Gurgaon has emerged as the city with the third highest per capita income in India. 50% of Fortune 500 companies have their presence here. It is the hub of software outsourcing in India. It is also home to several banks and financial institutions. The city is expanding and yet inadequate infrastructure facilities and rising crimes against women are becoming pressing concerns for the city. Like Delhi, Gurgaon has been craving for Metro Systems ever since Delhi started expanding in several directions.

Gurgaon has now become the only Indian city to have 2 different metro systems. No other city can probably see 2 metro systems in future considering the slow pace of metro construction in Jaipur, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi and others. Delhi Metro's YELLOW LINE (Jahangipuri to HUDA city) was the first line to go outside Delhi and reach Haryana. Sikandarpur is the second station one reaches while boarding the Yellow Line Metro and crossing Delhi border into Haryana. Currently, yellow line has 5 stops in GURGAON - Guru Dronaacharya, Sikandarpur, M.G. Road, IFFCO Chowk and HUDA city center.

The Congress led Haryana Government wanted HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) to do the construction and operation and issued tenders. Delhi Lease and Finance (DLF) emerged as the only bidder and wanted to provide the construction, operation and connectivity. DLF came into an agreement with HUDA that it will pay connectivity charges and some percentage of ad revenue to it in lieu of complete self funding and operation. 
This project called RAPID METRO started in Aug 2009 and was intended to be complete in 30 months. A delay of 10 months did happen and then Rapid Metro was opened on 14th Nov 2013.

This is the first time such an agreement led to Metro construction in the country at such a quick pace justifying the name "RAPID METRO".

Unlike Delhi Metro that is patrolled by CISF Forces, Gurgaon Metro will be patrolled by private security. Only time will tell if these security set ups work efficiently or not. Huge presence of CCTV is a big plus and is becoming a norm for most new infrastructure projects these days. The trains will operate from 6:05 am -12:20 am with a frequency of 3 minutes.

Some of the salient features are presented in the image below (Courtesy: Skyscrapercity, Google)

 Phase - II will be finished by 2015 and will have 6 stations.

Why is that the speed of average Metro train is 30 km/hr when the speed can be reached to 80 km/hr? This speed must be eventually increased considering the increase in usage. Train systems operating at this speed is too slow and modern systems that have the ability to reach 80 km/hr must at least maintain 60 km/hr

It would rather surprise commuters of Delhi Metro as to how this train doesn't have reserved seats for women and senior citizens. Rapid Metro perhaps must learn from Delhi Metro regarding this. The number of coaches are just 3 with a 1000 passenger capacity. This is too less considering a huge workforce which plans to use this to commute to their workplaces. Eventually, I am sure they will increase the number of coaches based on Delhi metro experience.

While Delhi Metro has maintained all its stations fairly clean despite 12 years of its operation, one needs to wait and watch to see how this privately operated Rapid Metro does. As of now, Phase- 1 is just 6.1 km long and phase-2 is underway.

Another very interesting feature is that Delhi Metro and Rapid Metro have integrated in the way the smart cards are accepted. This is very convenient and well planned out strategy otherwise passengers would have had to get separate tokens and cards to cross the 2 systems. Like many tracks of Delhi Metro this one too draws power from a third rail.

The official website of the Rapid Metro is

The biggest lesson that comes out of this project really is the fast pace of execution. In 30 months this project was completed and when one looks at Mumbai it looks like Metro will not even be completed in another 30 years. Mumbai, which is much bigger than Gurgaon badly needs faster execution of Metro system and so is Bangalore. While Bangalore's progress is way better than that of Mumbai, Gurgaon's Rapid Metro business and execution model is worth emulating. The majority of the area where this line passes is owned by DLF and so DLF found it very profitable and tied up with Siemens and others (more details here).

If the IT companies in Bangalore took a similar initiative and just connected the Electronic city to major parts of the city it will be a big boost to all employees who commute to that area from other parts of the city. The Bangalore Metro phase - II envisions this but given the retarded pace of Phase - 1 construction it may take several years for this to see the light of the day. Hence, Gurgaon Rapid Metro is worth considering for areas of any major city where business and offices have a big presence.