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.
Attended an excellent lecture by Shrikar Pardeshi (IAS, 2001. Outgoing head of PMPML) this afternoon. This program was organized PMP Pravasi Manch and Sajag Nagrik Manch.
After the lecture, Pardeshi was felicitated by dozens of citizens groups. Pardeshi has achieved a near ‘rock star’ like status among his fans (many citizens of Pune)…A long line of people were queuing up to thank him! This is not something you would see happen very often, especially when it comes to a bureaucrat! Clearly, the work he has delivered in his various roles (PCMC Commissioner, Revenue Dept,….in addition to the short stint with PMPML) has been impressive.
For far too long, the PMPML has been in a pathetic condition. It was created in 2007, after the merger of PMT and PCMT. Even before 2007, the PMT was not exactly a great public transport service, compared to services in other cities, such as Mumbai’s BEST. In this context, it is important to understand the good improvements Pardeshi was able to deliver within his short tenure (just 114 days) as the head of PMPML (Pune’s public bus transit service). More importantly, he has initiated some excellent changes that should hopefully have a longer term impact.
Pardeshi is moving to Delhi to join the PMO, and I am sure this is great news for him as far as his career is concerned. I am sure he will continue having a great impact in his new position.
Pardeshi’s entire talk was full of facts and figures, root cause analyses, and descriptions of various process improvement initiatives. He comes across as a very data driven and details oriented person. He has also demonstrated an excellent consensus building ability across the multiple stakeholders (citizens, NGOs, local/state authorities, etc.) I have tried to capture some of the points from his lecture below.
For a long time, PMPML could barely manage to run 60% of its buses on the road. Many of the buses were not in a roadworthy condition due to lack of spares and other technical issues. Pardeshi was able to deliver a quick turnaround here in a short span of 4 months. Presently, this percentage has improved to 75%. This was achieved through better processes, prioritization and funds allocation.
A big issue for PMPML has been the financial support from its major shareholders – PMC and PCMC. Pardeshi was able to get the two municipal corporations to release adequate funds for PMPML.
According to Pardeshi, one of the big fundamental issues for PMPML is lack of parking spaces at depots. As a result, a majority of the buses are parked on the roads. This makes repair/maintenance difficult. It also results in theft and other problems. PMPML today has just 43 acres of land across its depots. One acre can hold 20 buses. Thus basic maths shows that PMPML is woefully out of capacity for its 2100 buses. PMPML ideally needs a minimum 140 acres. Some progress happening on this front with some of the Octroi Check-Posts land being allocated to PMPML. However, Pardeshi has also urged PMC and PCMC to consider further land allocations to PMPML. In land starved Mumbai, BEST still has adequate space to park their 4500 buses. Bangalore’s bus transit authority has over 1000 acres of space for their bus depots!
Pardeshi mentioned that BRT has had many issues, but we may see one (or two) corridors starting in 3 months. The main issue of ‘Intelligent Traffic Management System’ (ITMS) is being addressed. This is key requirement for the launch of BRTS.
Pardeshi mentioned that the Metro-Rail is essential; but it is worth noting that even by 2030, the Pune Metro is expected to support around 6-8 lakh passengers. PMPML today is already supporting 12 lakh passengers, and this number can easily go up to 24 lakh in 5-6 years. Just 10% of the funds that being allocated for the metro (Rs 12,000 crores) will be sufficient to significantly scale up and improve PMPML. Rs 1,200 crores can be used to add 2000 more buses (Rs 800 crores) and significant structural improvements in the depots and systems. I agree! Metro is necessary..but not sufficient.
Today, the population of the Pune region (that is supported by PMPML..) is around 68 Lakh. And this is being supported by just 2100 buses. Bangalore, with a population of 90 Lakh has more than 6000 buses!
It was good to hear that today, 60% of PMPML buses run on CNG and the other 40% on Diesel. I hope the CNG percentage improves.. fast!
Pardeshi talked a lot about the efforts being undertaken for route rationalization, better scheduling of drivers and buses. He also talked about the urgent need for improving IT systems in PMPML.
Pardeshi highlighted how he was able to get help from various NGOs/Citizens Groups to develop a new up to date website (should be launched soon) and mobile apps.
Pardeshi highlighted that private sub-contractors are not running their routes as efficiently. He mentioned that the Katraj depot was the most profitable in running their services.
Overall, it was interesting to note the cooperation he was able to obtain from various NGOs/Citizens Groups in jointly tackling some of the tough problems regarding PMPML. There were disagreements on some issues (e.g. pricing of tickets)..but he was able to keep disagreement issues aside and focus on the ones where there was consensus.
It was good to note the focus on drivers’ health, and other safety issues. In this short period, Pardeshi was able to launch multiple health checkups, treatment plans, etc.
The Mumbai – Pune rail corridor is one of the most important rail corridors in the country. It connects two big metros (total population over 25 million). The Mumbai-Pune rail line also continues down towards Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. The Mumbai – Pune stretch is also a very busy and important freight corridor, given the large number of manufacturing companies in Pune. Given the rise in services and manufacturing industries in both cities, as well as the overall population and per capita incomes, the number of commuters between the two cities has grown exponentially. Unfortunately, the railways hasn’t kept pace with this over the past few decades. The Mumbai – Pune Road Expressway provides some relief…but even that is getting congested.
Mumbai – Pune was one of the first intercity rail-lines completed in India (1850s). It was also the first intercity rail-line to be fully electrified (1920s). In 1930 luxury train Deccan Queen was started, and it took just 2 hours 45 min to cover the 192 km distance! Over the years, the Deccan Queen has slowed down (thanks to the heavy suburban local traffic) and now takes around 3 hours 15 min. So basically, in 85 years we have regressed…instead of speeding up! The Deccan Queen when it started was considered to be one of the fastest trains in all of Asia. Today on one hand, many countries have speeded up their trains to 150/180/200/300 kmph and beyond…while Mumbai – Pune corridor is still stuck at 110 kmph for over 80 years.
Here’s my wish list for the Pune – Mumbai rail corridor. Note, this is an unconstrained wish-list. I am not an expert in railways and don’t have feasibility/cost data for these suggestions. Note that this list is for the existing corridor (not for a possible high-speed ‘bullet train’…that will need an entirely new corridor, to support speeds of 300 kmph and higher (similar to the true high speed trains, in operation in Europe, Japan and China.)
The main thrust of the wish-list below is: expanding capacity of the current corridor to achieve faster run-times, some route changes, and faster frequencies. Expanding (widening) the corridor is key since this stretch has heavy suburban local traffic, which slows down through long distance trains.
* 4 tracking of Lonavala – Pune – Daund (present 2 tracks)
* 4 tracking of Bhor Ghat (Lonavala – Karjat) … (present 3 tracks)
* 4 tracking of Karjat – Panvel (present 2 tracks)
* 4 tracking of Panvel – Vashi – Mankhurd – Kurla (present 2 tracks)
* Establish: Pune-Karjat-Panvel-Vashi-Mankhurd-Kurla-Mumbai has the main Pune-Mumbai route. This will cut-off 25-30 km distance. Note, this is the route that Pune-Mumbai road takes as well.
* Ideally, provide a rail link along with the proposed trans-harbor link between Uran and South Mumbai. This will save another 10-20 km for the distance between Pune and South Mumbai (CST Station).
* The present route Pune-Karjat-Kalyan-Thane-Kurla-Mumbai is longer (192 km). This also is affected by heavy suburban local train traffic from Kalyan to Mumbai (fast locals).
* Current max speed on this route is 110 km/h. Bhor Ghat max speed is 40-60 km/h (or less).
* Explore if certain stretches of the non-Ghat section can be speeded up to 150-170 km/h (semi-high speed).
* Start hourly trains between the 2 cities on the new route. 2 hour run time is feasible with the current track (max speed of 110 km/h)…This was envisaged over two decades back with the Mumbai – Pune ‘Shatabdi’ ..but never implemented due to the suburban traffic. Even with a max speed of 110 km/hr and a 45 min travel time in the Ghat section, a sub 2 hour travel time is easily possible for a 160 km distance.
* Higher frequency (hourly and 30 min at peak times) should also lead to smaller trains, resulting in faster acceleration. This can facilitate short 2 min stops in Lonavala, Panvel if required.
* Connect Panvel Station with a light rail connection to the new upcoming Navi Mumbai airport at Kharghar. This will be convenient for both Mumbai and Pune travelers.
* Run some trains from Pune to western suburbs (route them from Kurla to Andheri/Bandra ..), instead of Dadar/CST.
* Start Lonavala-Pune-Daund suburban local trains with 15 min frequency. This is critical for the Pune metro region’s public transit. The Lonavala – Pune – Daund suburban corridor should be fully exploited to support Pune’s public transit system.
* To support this heavy Pune – Mumbai traffic, significant upgrades will be required for Pune and Shivajinagar stations. Both need additional platforms. Also, given the space restrictions at Pune, Shivajinagar, will have to expand capacities of Khadki/Dapodi/Pimpri and Hadapsar/Loni stations.
* Pune and Shivajinagar Stations should be supported by underground metro stations, to ease the commute. Khadki/Dapodi should also have metro stations (on the PCMC/Hinjavdi Metro route).
Now that the Central Government has given the green signal to the Metro in Pune, there is an urgent need to get some clarifications from the authorities. Metro-Rail is a good long term option for Pune – if designed and implemented well…Also, like any long ranging and super expensive project – it needs some detailed impact assessment and discussions. Thus far though, there are way too many open questions. It is definitely not an ideal scenario when so many basic questions lie unanswered. The residents of Pune cannot be in the dark on these open questions.
Many groups and transportation/civic experts from Pune (Pedestrians First, Parisar, NSCC,…) have raised these serious questions for a long time regarding the present proposed plan for the Metro. They summarized it again recently in a letter to the PMC, with a copy to the State and Central Government Authorities. The letter has been reproduced here – please click this link (scroll down the page, after clicking the link) at the Deccan Gymkhana Parisar Samiti Website. The letter specifically highlights the questions pertaining to the first proposed corridor (Vanaz-Ramwadi), but some of the general questions are applicable for other proposed corridors as well.
I think as a first step, every Pune Resident needs to be aware of these issues. Secondly, they need to pressurize their elected officials and other authorities to get answers to these and other related questions!
Note, the time to raise the questions is NOW! Not when the construction starts and we have JCBs rolling down the roads.
Pune is adding close to 1,000 vehicles every single day. That is nearly 400,000 vehicles per year on the already cramped Pune roads. And this number is increasing every single day. At the current rate of the growth of the city, I won’t be surprised if Pune starts adding 1,500 or 2,000 vehicles per day, before 2018. These are scary numbers, from the point of view of the city traffic.
The only way for the city traffic to sustain itself in the medium term, is by encouraging more commuters to use public transit and reduce the reliance on private vehicles. Today, only 10-20% of Pune’s population relies on public transport. This needs to change. But in order the facilitate this change, the public transit system needs to improve..as soon as possible. The 2-wheeler rider has to have a credible alternative.
Planners talk about the BRTS, Metro, Mono-Rail – but these are long term measures. In the best case scenario, the first corridor of the Metro is at least 5-7 years away. What is needed urgently is an effective short/med term plan. Something that can be executed in under 12 months and put into implementation mode. Ideally, we should consider and act on both the short/med and long term plans simultaneously. One reason for the short term crisis is due to poor long term planning 10/20/30 years back. We cannot repeat that mistake.
I believe that the right short and medium term (next 5-10 years) solution for efficient public transportation in Pune is an improved regular bus transit system. We need many more routes, with higher frequencies, and well maintained buses. We need mini-buses to enable good routes to crowded areas in the city center. High frequency mini-buses are also needed because the relatively short distances that people cover can, otherwise, be done by private vehicles. The bus service needs to operate with well-designed point-to-point, circular and hub-and-spoke routes. We also need long range buses that have less stops for the longer routes (e.g. Deccan to Hinjavdi).
Pune has a circular geography (like London, Delhi … and unlike Mumbai, New York City). Hence I think high capacity mass transit corridors (like 1-2 Metro Lines or 2-3 BRTS corridors) will not help majority of the population. They are needed..yes…but not at all adequate. Given Pune’s geography, a ring road will definitely help. Circular ring-road bus routes can connect with local routes.
Note, if we really wanted to serve such a circular geography with the Metro, we may end up needing 7-8 Lines (like in London or Berlin) and we know that this is clearly infeasible in the next 15-20 years.
Also, worth noting that many of the bus transit related improvements can be done for a fraction of the cost of the Metro Line and BRTS Corridors, and can be done fairly quickly, unlike the Metro. Even BRTS has taken more than 5 years and we are far from any decent implementation.
Take the example of the Hinjavdi IT Hub. 5 years from now, we may have 300,000 people working and commuting from there. And yet, there is no Metro route even in the planning stage for that area! What Hinjavdi needs right away is a series of comfortable (AC) buses operating there, from 10-15 different locations in the city. Today, barely 10% of Hinjavdi commuters use public transit. That number needs to rise up to over 50%. Public transit buses can be so much better than the company buses, if run effectively.
I am not against the Metro/BRTS – they are are also necessary, from the point of view of the long term transportation needs of the city. Do note, the existing BRTS needs to be fixed for all its problems before implementing any expanded version (my thoughts here) Even in the long term, when we have the Metro/BRTS/etc, given the circular geography and cross connectivity requirements, an efficient bus system will continue to be a critical need.
Essentially to summarize, what I am saying is that we need two active plans and projects to address the public transit needs. And a higher priority needs to be given to the short-medium term needs…and should be addressed on an urgent basis. Remember, to the 1,000 vehicles being added every day, we don’t have the luxury of not doing anything for the short term.
As I commented today on twitter – if we don’t address the next 5-10 years issues…we will all be in the dumps! Then we might as well forget the long term planning of a ‘vibrant metropolis’.
Lastly I will add some point about traffic management. The bus service improvements have to go hand in hand with a significant improvement in our management of traffic flows, traffic law enforcement and parking zones. This is a big topic in itself and I will discuss it in a separate blog post.