After nearly a decade long delay, it looks like the Pune Metro Rail project is finally going to see the light of the day. The PIB (Public Investment Board) approval came in last week, and the final approval from the Central Cabinet is expected later this month. Following this approval, the official launch of the project is expected soon thereafter.
Like with many infrastructure projects in Pune (airport, ring road, etc.), the Metro too is many years behind schedule. Today, the Pune metropolitan region has a population of over 6 million, and this is expected to approach 10 million in the next two decades. From an economy perspective, the Pune region will be among the top 5/6 metros in the country by 2030 – with major economic activity in both manufacturing and services.
At present, Pune has one of the worst public transit systems, among large cities in India. The percentage of private vehicle ownership is among the highest in the country. The city is adding over 1,000 new vehicles on the road each day! Big traffic jams, a rarity in Pune not long ago, are becoming the norm. With each passing year, they are getting worse. Improving public transportation is a critical need for the city.
Public transport needs to be enabled through multiple modes: Suburban/Light Rail, Metro Rail, BRT, Bus Service, Mini-Bus Shuttles, Pooled Rides, etc. All these modes have their advantages and disadvantages, and are relevant for specific use cases. This particular blog-post is focused on the Metro Rail. I have written before on Pune’s bus transit system before and will be writing more in the future.
Projects like airport, metro rail need significant investments and need to have a 30-50 year planning horizon outlook. These projects need to account for Pune’s current needs as well as the future growth. The present plan for the Pune Metro consists of two corridors:
- Swargate – PCMC
- Vanaz – Ramwadi
This plan was originally conceived many years back. Given the present situation in 2016 and looking at 2030 and beyond, it is important that we upgrade this plan right now, without any further delay.
Here are my suggestions to extend the existing plan (note: I am not proposing any major changes in the existing plans for the two corridors).
- Corridor 1
Expand Corridor-1 further north beyond PCMC Building to Nigdi, Akurdi and Dehu.
Create an expansion corridor branch (I will call it Corridor 1A for now) that stretches from PCMC Building to Moshi/Bhosari, and onwards to Chakan.
Expand Corridor-1 further south beyond Swargate to Gultekdi, Dhankawadi, Katraj.
A further expansion can also be made to extend beyond Katraj (through a tunnel) to the new proposed airport at Pargao-Memane (near Saswad).
- Corridor 2
Expand Corridor-2 further north-east beyond Ramwadi to Kharadi and Wagholi.
Create a branch of Corridor 2 (I will call it Corridor 2A for now), which extends to Karvenagar and Warje (from Paud Phata Karve Road, along the river). This will also enable relatively easy access for people living on the Sinhagad Road side as well (across from Rajaram Bridge).
Expand Corridor-2 further west from Vanaz to Bavdhan/Chandani Chowk, Bhugaon and Pirangut.
- Corridor 3 (new)
The new Corridor-3 should start from Hinjawadi Phase-3/4 in the north-west.
It should cover Hinjawadi, Wakad, Aundh, University, Shivajinagar, Pune Station, and then stretch further east to Cantonment Area, Magarpatta and Hadapsar.
Other general points to consider for this planning:
The need for at least 3/4 corridors is necessary, given the circular geography and population clusters of the Pune Metro Region.
It is critical that access is provided to IT Parks and Industries in Hinjawadi, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Chakan, Kharadi, and Hadapsar.
Connectivity to Railway Stations (Pune, Shivajinagar, Hadapsar, and Pimpri), Intercity Bus Terminals and Airport is critical.
The end points of the metro rail corridors should be located near (or beyond) the proposed outer ring road of the city. This will enable fast multi-modal transit.
BRT, Bus, Mini-Bus routes should be suitably adjusted to provide good multi-modal connectivity to the stations along these metro corridors.
Suburban Rail corridor should also be utilized from Lonavala to Daund (I have discussed this in my earlier blog-posts). This can be effectively the 4th Metro Corridor.
New Pune Airport – Critical Need for Supporting Infrastructure… Facilitating Development of South Pune Region
After waiting for more than a decade, we finally have some positive development on the Pune airport! This week, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced the final site for the new green-field airport.
The need for an independent civilian green-field airport has been identified for a long time. With a population of over 6 million, the Pune Metro Region is the 7th largest in the country, and growing fast. The population is expected to touch 10 million in the next two decades. The present Lohegaon airport at Pune is a defense airfield and this places numerous restrictions on commercial flight operations (number of available flying hours, adequate land for passenger terminal expansion, lack of a longer runway, lack of two parallel runways, etc.)
Many projects for the new airport were proposed since the last decade, but with no progress. It was a long wait. Some old timers on twitter will remember my regular tweets (since 2010) about the new Pune airport progress (or lack thereof).
Multiple sites in the Chakan-Rajgurunagar area (North Pune) were considered, but rejected due to land acquisition and other constraints. Finally, this last week the Maharashtra Government has finalized on the site near Purandar. The ‘Chatrapati Sambhaji Raje Airport’ (as it will be called) will come up near the Pargao-Memane villages, located to the South East of Pune, near the town of Saswad and the Purandar Fort. A big thanks to the CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Pune MP Anil Shirole and other authorities for pushing through this long pending critical project!
An aggressive 2019 deadline has been proposed. This is great, but will need extremely good execution.
This new airport can be an excellent catalyst to drive the development of South and South East Pune Region. Over the past two decades, a lot of the manufacturing and software/IT growth of Pune has been concentrated in the North West/North/North East corridors. This new airport will act as a magnet to attract development on the South/South East side. This is good for the long term balanced growth of the Pune Metro Region.
It is critical that a 5-10-30 year plan is created for this area. I believe this area (and development planning associated with it) will come under the newly formed PMRDA (Pune Metro Regional Development Authority). There are many lessons that can be learned from other areas development in Pune, as well as from other cities.
First and foremost, it will be critical to build a good road access to the new airport. At present, the accessibility of this area is not great. The routes through Dive Ghat, Bobdev Ghat and via Katraj Ghat – Khed Shivapur are all not ideal, given the current condition of these roads. The Ring Road project for Pune is another long pending project, and completing this project (at least certain sections of it) before 2019 is imperative for good access to the new airport. A ring road connection from the NH4 near Khed Shivapur to the new airport would be a good first access point.
Here we need to learn from the Bangalore and Hyderabad examples of the past decade. The new Bangalore airport was built in 2008, however the access road (widening the highway, flyovers, etc.) took a long time to build. Hyderabad on the other hand built good road access to the new airport from early on. The goal should be to have excellent road access infrastructure ready before the airport completion deadline.
Looking at the next few decades, it is also important to consider a good fast rail connectivity to this new airport, from the city center. Rail connectivity (public transport access) to the airport is critical.
As I mentioned earlier, the new airport will act as a prime catalyst to develop South/South-East Pune. Proximity to the airport will drive many businesses, industries, education/research institutions, tourism centric facilities to locate to this area. The long-term plan for this area should include setting up new IT/Software, Business and Research Parks in this area. The existing manufacturing areas (MIDCs) at Jejuri, Shirval/Khandala (Satara district) need to be expanded. This airport will have good proximity to Satara and Baramati as well, and manufacturing infrastructure in these areas can be boosted. A Delhi Aero-City type area should also be planned to locate hotels and businesses near the airport complex.
One important infrastructure piece that is lacking in Pune today is a good international standard expo and convention center. This should be ideally build near the new airport as well.
In addition to Pune, Panchagani and Mahabaleshwar will have very easy access from this new airport (less than 100 km). Similarly, the majestic forts of Purandar, Rajgad, Torna and Sinhagad are also nearby. If a good plan is developed, this airport can drive more tourism in the Pune region (including neighboring districts).
Pune has been lagging behind all the other metros on many of the key infrastructure projects (Airport, Metro, Ring Road, etc.). We have a lot of catch up to do, and fast execution is going to be of paramount importance. Whether that happens or not …. it remains to be seen. But at least as far as the airport is concerned, I am more optimistic this week, than I was at any point in the past 10 years!
Pune – Mumbai is one of the busiest urban corridors in the country. It connects two metro regions with populations of over 6 million and 20 million, respectively. Today, the commuters rely on the expressway and the train corridor. The traffic on this corridor is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade. There are already plans in place to expand the expressway from 6 to 8 lanes, and to improve the Bhor Ghat section via an alternate road alignment.
(Shinkansen (Bullet Trains), Japan. Image Credit: Wikipedia)
However, given the future growth in this area (Pune metro region may cross 10 million by 2030!), an alternative high speed rail corridor is also critical. The present rail corridor is restricted to 110 km/h (..and to a much slower limit in the Bhor Ghat section), and more importantly has a severe traffic congestion, thanks to the Mumbai suburban rail traffic. The Deccan Queen took less time to travel between Mumbai-Pune in 1930s (when launched), than today!
In addition to catering to the inter-city traffic, the high speed rail corridor can also support the new Navi Mumbai Airport in Kharghar (Panvel). The HSR corridor from Pune-Panvel-Kurla will support rapid access for Pune and Mumbai travellers to reach this airport (reducing the need for the new airport in Pune, which has been in a limbo for a long time). It will be possible to travel from Pune to Panvel (120 km) in under 45 min, and from Kurla, Central Mumbai to Panvel (30 km) in under 15 min. This will enable a great access to the new international airport from both cities.
I understand that the Pune-Panvel HSR corridor will be a bit more expensive and challenging given the mountainous Bhor Ghat section…but these challenges have been addressed in many other places in the world. More tunnelling will be required. One advantage of tunnelling is that, it may reduce some land acquisition issues.
The Ahmadabad-Mumbai HSR corridor entails a huge investment of 100,000 crores. For a small fraction (less than 25%?) of this investment, the corridor can also support excellent high speed connectivity between:
Pune – Navi Mumbai (Airport)
Mumbai – Navi Mumbai (Airport)
Pune – Ahmadabad
I hope the concerned authorities (Maharashtra Government, Central Government, Railways and others) consider this HSR corridor as a top priority and start work in this direction. Also, Pune, Mumbai industry and commerce bodies need to lobby for this aggressively.