Significant Headway

Growth in metro rail systems to meet urban transport needs

Metro rail systems provide high capacity public transit and are highly capital-intensive projects. In India, the first metro system was introduced in Kolkata in 1984. After almost two decades, the next metro was launched in Delhi in 2002. As of October 2017, over 355 km of metro projects are operational in nine cities.

Metro rail systems have seen remarkable growth in the past decade. During 2007-17, around 273 km of network length was added to the country’s metro rail systems. In the past few months, network additions have come from projects such as Kochi Metro, Phase I (18.19 km), Bangalore Metro, Phase I (12 km), the Lucknow Metro (8.5 km), Rapid Metro Gurgaon, Phase 2 (7.1 km) and the ITO-Kashmere Gate stretch of Delhi Metro, Phase III (9.37 km).

Ridership trend

The average daily ridership on metro rail-based systems has been rising consistently, keeping pace with the growth in the operational network. The figure increased from about 0.9 million in 2006 to around 3.87 million in 2016. In 2016-17, ridership on the Delhi metro crossed the 1 billion mark, registering an annual ridership of 1,001.65 million during the fiscal year. The Kolkata metro and Mumbai metro also recorded a healthy footfall of 0.6 million per day and 0.3 million per day respectively.

Technologies and systems in use

Rolling stock

The earliest metro projects such as the Kolkata metro and Delhi metro, Phase I, were on broad gauge. This was chosen primarily to support interoperability with mainline railways. Subsequently, there was a shift to standard gauge, which is the international norm for metro systems. All other metro systems, such as Delhi Metro, Phase III, Hyderabad Metro, Phase I, Chennai Metro, Phase I, Bangalore Metro, Phase I and Jaipur Metro, Phase I deploy standard gauge. The Delhi metro has the maximum number of operational coaches (about 1,396), as it has the largest operational metro network in the country.

Signalling, train control and telecom

The market for signalling, train control and telecommunications in India has expanded significantly in the past few years. In 2006, there were only two operational metro projects – Delhi Metro, Phase I, and the Kolkata metro. While the Kolkata metro ran on absolute signalling systems, the Delhi metro used automatic signalling and train control systems.

By 2013, a number of new metro projects/ lines were operationalised. These include Delhi Metro, Phase II, and Bangalore Metro, East-West Corridor, Reach 1. Apart from these, contracts were awarded for Jaipur Metro, Phase I (cab signalling and continuous automatic train control [ATC] system), Mumbai Metro, Line 1 (automatic train protection [ATP] system) and Gurgaon Metro, Phase I (deploying ATP, ATC and automatic train supervision systems).

Automatic fare collection

As more and more cities opt for the deployment of metro systems as a preferred mode of public transport, the market size of automated fare collection systems (AFCs) is growing in tandem, with growth picking up significantly in recent years, as projects have become operational. This has also led to the introduction of innovative solutions for fare collection, further supported by cashless transactions through mobile wallets and e-payments.

The Delhi metro is the first metro in the country to introduce a contactless ticketing system using smart cards and tokens, resulting in efficient collection of farebox revenues and convenience to commuters. The Bangalore metro deploys contactless smartcards and the Metro Coral Debit Card (which serves as an ICICI Bank debit card and a smart card for the metro. Other benefits include welcome gifts, spend rewards, airport lounge access, insurance and movie tickets. The Kolkata metro deploys radio frequency identification tokens and smart cards while Rapid Metro Gurgaon and the Jaipur metro deploys single-trip tokens and smart cards.

The way forward

The urban metro segment clearly ranks high on the government’s list of priority areas. In August 2017, the government approved the new Metro Rail Policy, 2017, for expanding and regulating metro rail services in Indian cities. The new policy seeks to bring urban transformation and financial viability through metro rail projects by focusing on last-mile connectivity, transit-oriented development, commercial/property development at stations and non-fare revenue through advertisements, leasing of space, etc.

Further, 22 projects, spanning a length of around 689 km, are planned to be developed in the next five years. New designs, technologies and construction techniques for metro systems are thus becoming a growing area of interest for the industry. The standards and norms for rolling stock and signalling and telecommunications are continuously improving. The metro rail segment is thus expected to offer significant business opportunities for contractors, technology providers, and equipment and material suppliers.


    Enter your email address