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Mass Rapid Transit System –Suburban

By on September 29, 2013

Is making of Rapid Rail Transport Corporation to address NCR Sub-urban transport need and spending Rs. 188 Crs/Km a right decision?

Mass Rapid Transit System –suburban (MRTS-SU) means frequent and fast transport system covering the sub-urban region of a major metropolitan City. Indian Railways have been serving MRTS-SU right from the day of its commencement on 16th April 1853 between Mumbai-Thane on steam traction covering a distance of 33 Km in 45 minutes. The entire development of Railways started covering sub-urban network of major cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai etc. Long distance travel started with the spreading of Railways all over India. Even with the start of long distance journeys, there was no slowing of sub-urban network and it was improved upon with the introduction of Electrification, Electrical Multiple Unit, automatic signaling, route relay interlocking, a station on the main line to avoid loop line movement restricting speed, eradication of the level crossing, an automatic warning system for enhanced safety etc. Today, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai MRTS-SU have become the lifeline of the respective cities. MRTS-SU in Delhi started at the time of the Asian Games in 1984 to ferry commuters from around the city to different stadiums. No let up in punctuality, travel without speed breakers/ honking/jerks, concessional monthly pass  and safety attracted common man towards Indian Railway sub-urban network with full flow. The passenger demanded basic comfort. But kept  the Railways always on their toes to maintain and operate the services in good fettle. Passenger business has been a loss making proposition for Indian Railways. MRTS-SU digs into the losses much more, as can be seen comparing the price of the ticket. With Monthly pass, a passenger has to pay only for 15 journeys in a month. Just look at the monthly seasonal ticket as existing over Indian Raiwlays

Distance II Class I Class Distance II Class I Class Distance II Class I Class
1-10  60 240 46-50   165 660 81-85  235 940
11-15  75 300 51-55   180 720 86-95  270 1080
16-20   90 360 56-60   195 780 96-100  285 1140
21-30   105 420 61-65   195 780 101-110  300 1200
31-35   120 480 66-70   210 840 111-115  315 1260
36-40   135 540 71-75   225 900 116-125  330 1320
41-45   150 600 76-80   240 960 126-135  345 1380

Therefore, MRTS-SU services are heavily subsidized by Indian Railways (not Indian Govt.) from its  freight traffic earning. The situation was further compounded with no fare increase during the last 7 years. In fact, this led to the situation where the passengers were asking for price hike and  at least improve and add on to the services. Indian Railways continued to hold the asset in good fettle but certainly showed not much interest in increasing the services as compared to what has been done on the long distance segment.

Mumbai sub-urban transport and MRVC

Mumbai suburban alone carries 72 lakhs commuters every day. Two Railway zones, namely Western   and Central Railway, operate the Mumbai Suburban Railway System. It spreads over a route of 319 Km. 196 rakes (Train Sets) of 9, 12 or 15 car composition run more than 2700 train service per day. This works out to 2670 passengers per train with maximum going up to 5000 passengers per train ( A super dense crush loading with appx. 16 passengers per sq meter) . The system operates on 1500 V Dc/25 KV AC Power Supply from the overhead catenary. Automatic Signaling System with RRI in yards and an automatic warning system used to operate the trains. All stations are on the main line, thus not requiring looping at reduced speed. During 1990s, when IR was finding difficulty to fund development work for MRTS-Mumbai Suburban, a novel funding scheme came into existence. Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation Ltd (MRVC Ltd)., a Public Sector Undertaking of Govt. Of India under Ministry of Railways (MoR) was incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 on 12th July 1999 with an equity capital of Rs. 25 crore shared in the ratio of 51:49 between the Ministry of Railways and Government of Maharashtra.  MRVC is responsible to execute the projects under Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) as approved by the Ministry of Railways. The Corporation will execute a number of suburban rail improvement projects for enhancing suburban rail transportation capacity thereby reducing the overcrowding and meeting future traffic demands. The corporation will also be involved in the planning and development of the Mumbai Suburban Rail system. The primary objectives of MUTP were

  • To enhance the capacity so as to lower the passenger loading per 9 coaches to 3000 as against existing 5000. This is equal to reducing the loading from super dense crush to dense crush loading.
  • Segregate the suburban train operation from the main line passenger and freight services by laying additional lines.

Good job done by MRVC in building and planning infrastructure for the ever increasing demand of commuters in a professional manner. However, the passenger traffic will certainly grow, and it is to be seen, how the things take shape in coming future. But with the existing organization and all financial support from State Govt. on sharing basis, the future appears bright. Financial support is planned in two phases, namely Phase I of Rs. 4173 Crs. and Phase II of Rs. 5300 Crs. to be financed by loan from world bank, budgetary support from State and Central Govt., passenger surcharge and earning from land development.

Is it not a success story to improve upon MRTS-SU than why go anywhere else to look for alternatives?

There was a news the other day

Kerala to tie up with Railways to develop the suburban corridor

The UDF government of Kerala has decided to tie up with Railways to develop a Rs 3500-crore high-speed suburban corridor stretching some 100 km north of the state capital. A special purpose vehicle (SPV) would be made for implementation of the project and MRVC would be entrusted with the task of organizing a detailed project report within three months at a cost of Rs 10.99 crore. The railways and the state would bear 50:50 stakes in SPV and the project would be implemented by utilizing the existing double-line track from Thiruvananthapuram to Chengannur and Kayamkulam to Haripad. The greatest advantage of the project is that it would not involve land acquisition and raise the capability of the existing stock with improved signaling, higher acceleration and maximum speed stock.

There was an another news a few days back

Regional Rapid Transit System for NCR finally takes off

The NCRTC has been set up to take up Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) and Multi Modal Transport System in National Capital Region. Initially NCRTC will take up the three priority corridors Delhi-Sonipat-Panipat (111 km), Delhi-Gurgaon-Alwar (180 km) and Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut (90 km). The work of the corridors is likely to take off in roughly 6 months. First of all Delhi-Sonipat-Panipat corridor will be taken up, because its alignments have been finalized and the DPR has been approved by the Haryana Government. The New Company will have an authorized share capital of Rs. 100 crore in 50:50 ownership pattern with 50 per cent being owned by the Central Government through the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Railways (22.5% each), NCR Planning Board 5% and 50% State Governments (12.5% for each State). The Company would implement individual RRTS Corridors through either separate SPVs or on PPP mode. About funding pattern for each individual corridor the NCRTC Board will consult the individual stakeholders. The Ministry of Railways will contribute Rs. 22.5 crore only in the Company and would not be investing in individual corridors. As per the feasibility reports the total cost of the three corridors would be around Rs. 72,000 crores. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-01/chandigarh/40960657_1_ncr-planning-board-corridors-urban-development) Existing Indian Railway network providing sub-urban services are as follows:


Important features of this network

  • All sections are electrified with double  line except Shamli section
  • Khurja and Meerut network can be terminated at Anand Vihar for DMRC connectivity
  • Mathura will be connected at HZNM in Phase III
  • Rohtak, Panipat and Rewari should be extended for termination either underground or elevated at DLI/NDLS or suitable place

Look at the cost per Km for similar objective

First News:                        Rs. 3500 Crs. for 100 Km or Rs. 35 Crs./Km

Second News:                   Rs. 72000 Crs. for 381Km (90+111+180) or Rs. 188 Crs/Km

Most importantly the objective for both the scheme is same. Has anybody assessed the value addition of Rs. 153 Crs./Km?

Why it is so?

It is simple. RRTC wants to develop an elevated stand alone network on line similar to elevated MRTS Urban. Kerala Govt. is tying up with Railways to use existing at- grade network with investment for capacity enhancement.

Why not Kerala type project for NCRTC?

The first corridor, Delhi-Sonepat-Panipat  is 111 km long and is expected to see a daily ridership of nearly four lakh in 2016. This 111 Km section (IR network 90 Km) with 12 stations, maximum speed of 160 Kmph and at a frequency of 5 minutes will take 74 minutes of travel time. The average speed works out to be 90 Kmph. For speed potential of 160 Kmph, the train has to be air-conditioned. No idea has been given about the fare structure but most likely to be around Rs 2/Km, means the fare of Rs. 220/- from Delhi to Panipat. DMRC stock is having an acceleration of 0.82 m/s2 i.e. 2.9 km/h/s and most likely this stock will also have the same configuration. The Indian Railway time table says Rs. 192 for AC Chair Car, Rs.  77/- Second Class Sleeper and Rs.  44/- for ordinary class in Express and Rs.20 for EMU. The monthly season ticket will cost Rs. 300/- There is very unlikely shift of daily commuters from these services to NCRTC network. Similar network on an Indian Railway map is Howrah to Kharagpur, 116 Km and operating a commuter service between the two cities since ages with full satisfaction of the customer. Indian Railways have served the sub-urban network very efficiently but unable to upgrade the infrastructure due to limitation of funds. In case Rs. 4000 Crs. (Rs. 35 Crs./Km) in two phases is pumped in this section of 90 Km, the objective is more or less likely to be achieved. Investment will be in the following areas:

  • Third line in Phase I followed by the fourth line in Phase II
  • Automatic signaling
  • Platform on main line
  • Introduction of about 10 nos. of 8 coach non-air conditioned rakes on line similar to Mumbai Sub-urban network
  • Grade Separators and Building of ROB to eliminate level crossing
  • Fencing of the entire network
  • Acquiring land for III and IV line where required
  • Last mile connectivity with Delhi Metro station

Time saved for every raise of 5 Km speed

Time taken for a journey is given by Distance/Speed. With distance from point A to B remaining constant, the time taken is in inverse proportion to the speed. The advantage of reducing time keep on decreasing with increasing speed as can be seen from the graph and table below:

Deciding financing model keeping passenger in mind

There are basically two advantages to the passenger for an additional investment of Rs. 155 Crs./Km

  • Saving of 20 minutes for a journey of 100 Km. Is it worth paying 8 times the existing rail fare?
  • Comfortable travel in an air-conditioned coach. Look at the perspective of the passenger. The basic advantage of air condition travel is during 3-4 months and not for the whole year whereas fare is for the whole of the year. In case of urban transport, it is the technical requirement due to heavy passenger loading, closing of gates, underground travel. The same is not  the technical need for sub-urban traffic where the passenger loading is much less. For a journey of more than an hour, sitting accommodation for 50% of the  journey time  is necessary, therefore, ratio of sitting vs standing as to be more than urban metro.
  • There cannot be any non-air conditioned class in RRTC model due to speed of 160 Kmph. On the other hand,  it is possible to have a few air conditioned coaches in Kerala or MRVC model which can serve all categories of passenger.
  • The financial model is not yet decided and left to each individual corridor. The NCRTC Board will consult the individual stakeholders.

There is a need to review the decision. Each adjoining state mainly UP, Rajasthan and Haryana shall tie up with Indian Railways for improving MRTS-Sub-urban services  in their State connecting Delhi and

Financing Model can be on lines similar to that of MRVC i.e. Loan, budgetary support from State and Railways, surcharge on ordinary class passenger ticket serving respective line and real estate development around stations.

Something more

  • DFCIL has been created to take care of freight business and existing network of Indian Railways to cater for passenger business.
  • Indian Railways is deprived of funds and unable to take up projects for capacity enhancement. With the support of State Govt. and formation of some model like MRVC, it will create opportunity of win win situation for both the passenger as well as Railways.
  • Indian Railways unable to raise fares particularly for ordinary class and trend is likely to continue. Who is benefiting? If Indian Railways is unable to improve the services, the pressure will be on ‘Road’ for which State Govt. has to spend money. Is it not advantageous for the State Govt. to join hands with Railways? This will provide political mileage at minimum cost to the State Govt. as well.
  • This model is in the best interest of public and can be implemented within reasonable time and resources. The only additional need is to develop efficient feeder service the Railway network.

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  1. Harpreet Singh says:

    Dear sir,

    I agree that cost factor is many times ignored in Public projects. Due to complexity of decision making process in publically funded projects, investments are planned without evaluating its financial benefits by team of finance, marketing, administration etc.

    These are issues raised by various experts that in many cases, designs adopted by Indian Railways are also high cost ones. (Please refer to interview of Mr Bojji Rajaram, Retd MD, Konkan Railway Corporation, on The Statesman ).

    There are few takers for low cost designs/solutions. Alternate designs for proposals of flyovers submitted by cities are not evaluated.

    Solutions are definitely available as pointed out by you. I am of opinion that a new class can be introduced for suburban travel i.e AC EMU for which fares can be fixed at costing basis at initial stage itself. Increasing fares of existing classes of travel over IR may not be politically easy decision.