Monday Musings: Blaming Centre is futile when proposals of metro haven’t moved forward
When Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar countered opposition parties like Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for the city not getting much during the Union budget, he was right.
The NCP and Congress have been highlighting Centre’s apparent apathy towards Pune and the rest of Maharashtra. While the Centre allocated funds for the new phase of Nagpur metro and is starting the Neo metro at Nashik, Pune didn’t find any mention in the budget, a trigger, which leaders like Ajit Pawar are using against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The fact is neither the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) controlled Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) nor the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has sent any fresh proposal to the Centre for expanding the metro network in Pune this year. This is when multiple routes of Pune metro are being proposed. For the existing work on two lines of metro rail project from Swargate to Chinchwad and Vanaz to Ramwadi, the Centre has allocated funds while the third corridor between Hinjewadi to Shivajinagar is being developed by PMRDA and is being funded by the state government.
For the record, the much-awaited Katraj-Swargate metro route is on only on paper even as the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation has prepared its Detailed Project Report (DPR). Even after a year, the PMC general body has not yet cleared the Swargate-Katraj Metro proposal.
The standing committee approved extension of Swargate to Katraj 5.4 km extension of metro corridor on March 17, 2020 . Almost 12 months later, the proposal has not come yet before the general body, which has so far conducted its meetings online due to the Covid-19 pandemic even as the PMC now plans to allow in-person meetings from this week.
As per the DPR, the 5.4 km Swargate-Katraj stretch is likely to be underground and will cost ₹4,283 crore. If completed, it will be an extension to the existing Chinchwad-Swargate line, currently being developed by Maha-Metro, and will attract maximum footfall given the population density on Satara road.
While the proposal is awaiting approval, city’s public transport body Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) has proposed Neo metro on the stretch. The Neo metro, which is being promoted by Centre’s Ministry of Housing and Urban in non-Metro cities, is a rail guarded urban transport system with electric coaches installed on rubber tyre. The train, similar to Tram, is powered by overhead traction system.
The issue was discussed ruing the meeting of an umbrella body, Pune Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (PUMTA), which is now responsible for increasing the efficiency of the existing public transport system and developing a comprehensive transport system and maintaining coordination among various government bodies.
But this isn’t the only stretch awaiting any development. Popular as it is, those in power – whether at PMC or in the state government – have on multiple occasions proposed various routes of metro rail for the city, whose population is likely to cross 50 lakh given the merger of 23 villages in civic limits.
In reality, the state government or its agency Maha-Metro hasn’t prepared DPR of any of the routes, be it for extending the network till Khadakwasla, Warje, on the western part to Kharadi and Wagholi on the east. If the first phase of the metro rail network involving three lines plan to cover 55 kilometre stretch, the phase two, if sanctioned and executed in time, can expand the network covering 125 kilometres with around 10 lines.
On paper, this may sound impressive. In reality, a lot needs to be done, that too quickly. The city has already missed its bus to improve its mass transport. Without solid urban mass transport, city’s existing infrastructure of roads and flyovers may just be inadequate even if PMC keeps on adding them, one after another. The flyovers with widened roads may end up pushing bottlenecks from one point to another.