The future of Metro rail projects across India is hanging in the balance, thanks to a turf war between two central government ministries.
The ministry of urban development (MoUD) is the nodal agency to execute Metro rail projects in the next 10 years in all Indian cities with a population of more than two million that would see investments worth Rs. 2,000 billion.
The Metro Railways Amendment Act, 2009, however, empowers the ministry of railways to take the final call in respect of technical planning and safety issues concerning these projects. However, wanting to snap links with the railways, the MoUD has decided to move a Cabinet note suggesting a series of further amendments to the Act.
The railways had earlier rejected the proposals on the grounds that these would lead to a conflict of interests and would make the MoUD a business competitor.
The Cabinet note under preparation envisages the setting up of a Metro railway region (MRR) with a mandate to build lines anywhere and not necessarily those catering to suburban traffic, sources said.
Interestingly, the note under preparation proposes tariff rates for goods trains — suggesting that the MRR could bring freight operations under its ambit in the future.
Besides extension plans in Kolkata and Delhi, Metro rail projects are at various stages of execution in cities like Jaipur, Chennai, Kochi and Hyderabad.
Such projects are planned in about a dozen more cities, including Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Indore, Kanpur, Lucknow, Ludhiana, Nagpur, Nashik, Patna and Pune.
“Progress plans on these projects will suffer unless these contentious issues are sorted out,” an MoUD official said.