Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Capital Lessons for Namma Metro

Also published on Huffington Post India

“Where do you want to go today?”
Forget about poetic licence. Anywhere is truly possible with the Delhi Metro.

I travel to Delhi almost every month. From HUDA station in Gurgaon on one end to Jahangirpuri at the other, the Delhi Metro becomes my lifeline at least four times a week.
Gliding up escalators, dashing through the booths, running down squeaky-clean platforms and hopping on to cool coaches--the metro makes it all such a breeze. Of course, snaking queues and jam-packed coaches during peak hours take away from a breezy journey many a time. But that's the reality of metro travel in any big, bustling city. (The dozen times that I used the Paris Metro a few months back, I was lucky to get a seat a couple of times).
Down south, Bengaluru is looking to emulate the capital city's success.

The first east-west line stretch was inaugurated in October 2011. With a mere 6.7 km being covered, that little train did nothing to ease the city's notorious traffic congestion.
If anything, it was a sore reminder of what the public didn't have.
So, after nearly five years, when the next stretch of the Purple Line connecting the East to West Bengaluru was inaugurated on April 29 2016, the city's good people heaved a sigh of relief.

A long way to go, literally

The ribbon has been cut. A new stretch has been flagged off and thousands are now looking forward to a less frustrating commute. Well, at least to some parts of the city.
However, a Metro network that will crisscross the length and breadth of Bengaluru is still a long, long wait.
The Purple (east-west) and Green (north-south) lines of Phase 1 are expected to complete by December 2016. Fingers crossed.
The end date for Phase 2 (an extension of the Phase 1 corridors) is a distant 2020.
Phase 3 that will connect to the Bengaluru International Airport will start only after the completion of Phase 2. That will be a decade and at least two more Lok Sabha elections in between before a metro can take us to the airport--probably 2026!

What can Namma Metro learn from Delhi’s Metro model that has been hailed globally?

Run it like a private company and a profit centre

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was set up like a private company under the Companies Act, 1956, with a Chairman and Managing Director at the top.

The DMRC's vision is simple and practical--"commuting experience to be customer's delight".
The Mission focuses on the most important aspects:
• A deadline of 2021 to cover the whole of Delhi and adjoining areas
• To serve customers, including the differently abled, with passion
• To be No. 1 in India and among the Top 3 in Asia in Metro Rail Systems
• To make Delhi Metro self-sustainable.
Here are goals that are clear, realistic, achievable and most importantly measurable!
The Delhi Metro was delivered on time and within budget. Today, it is a brilliant network of 213 kilometres, 160 stations over six lines connecting to all parts of the city and also to the National Capital Region (NCR). So, you don't have to think twice about going to far flung Gurgaon, Faridabad and Noida. The Orange line is the Airport Express Line that takes you both to the domestic as well as international airports.
Women's safety got a boost after 2012 when the first car in the moving direction of every train on the Delhi Metro was reserved exclusively for ladies. Surveillance through CCTV and patrolling is so strict that this rule is seldom taken lightly.
A call to the Bengaluru M G Road station confirmed that there is no exclusive women's coach on Namma Metro.
A tired Bengaluru citizenry has stopped looking at the distant and already stretched deadlines of 2020 and 2026 for a full-fledged rapid transit system.
If more delays and the huge losses are to be avoided, this project will need to be run like a private corporation and a profit centre.

Find a leader with zero tolerance for inefficiency and corruption
The incorruptible and fearless E Sreedharan, also known as the Metro Man, was appointed to lead the Delhi Metro project. Mr Sreedharan was given a free hand to run the project with discipline and accountability. He demonstrated zero tolerance for political interference, inefficiency, corruption, delays and costly overruns.
One can say that much of the success story of Delhi Metro can be attributed to this man of unflinching integrity.

Last-mile connectivity
For answers, look to Delhi, jugaad masters of last-mile connectivity for public transportation.
Get out of any metro station and you'll be spoilt for choice for that last commute.
Feeder buses, cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws and battery operated rickshaws get you to your nearest destination point for just ₹10 per passenger.
Some metro stations also provide bicycles on rent for ₹10 for four hours.
A great commute in a swanky, air-conditioned metro car that ends in broken last-mile connectivity will have deep damaging effects to the success of the metro.
Imagine getting off Namma Metro at the Indiranagar station at 11:30pm and wondering how to get home to Ejipura!
Delhi calling
Forget foreign junkets. Ample study tours of the Delhi Metro should provide crucial insights to make Namma Metro a true success of commute and connectivity.
Delhi Metro vision, mission, network length, number of stations:http://www.delhimetrorail.com/
References to Bengaluru Metro completion dates, lines and phases:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namma_Metro and http://bmrc.co.in/ and media reports

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