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.
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).