Sixteen years on, no sign of Pune Metro taking off
The company has been formed, foundation stone laid, but the Pune Metro rail project has been stuck in a traffic jam of promises for years. So, now what?Updated: Jun 26, 2017, 13:18 IST
On December 24, 2016, three months before the Pune civic elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said: “Had the (Pune Metro) project been sanctioned earlier by the Congress-NCP regime, the citizens of Pune wouldn’t have to endure traffic snarls.”
He was speaking at the Pune Metro Rail’s foundation stone laying ceremony,and was right,but only partially. There have been inordinate delays in bringing the Metro project to Pune. While the major share of the blame does go to the NCP-Congress for failing to initiate the project much earlier, local BJP politicians and environmentalists are also to be blamed for the delays.
A good 16 years ago when the Metro rail project proposal first came up, the then Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi first spoke about the Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) in 2001. For the next few years, nothing happened till everyone woke up to the fact that Pune’s traffic situation had deteriorated. Well aware of the traffic problems, Kalmadi and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar once again revived the Metro proposal in 2007, and again in 2012 when Pune was preparing for the civic polls.
In the hope that the promises made by the ruling parties would turn to reality, citizens once again elected the Congress NCP to power in the civic body. On the ground, however, not much happened for the next few years till the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014.
Just when things were looking up for the Metro in 2012, the entire issue was stalled over the question whether it should be underground or elevated. While a section of politicians wanted it to be elevated, another section led by BJP’s Pune MP, Anil Shirole and some environmentalists pushed for the underground route.
“Two or three lines of the Metro may not be enough for a city like Pune where the population is 55 lakh. Also, the Metro and bus networks have to be well-synchronised to make it successful,” said Ranjit Gadgil, programme director at Parisar, who works on transport issues. “For decades together,the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party dangled a carrot before the citizenry under the name of the Metro. The BJP was then in the opposition and criticised the two parties for the delay. Now it is for them to show that it can fulfil its promise,” said Amey Kasat, an engineering student, who commutes by public buses. As per the plan, two corridors are being developed by Maha Metro, the state government company which will oversee Pune’s Metro rail project.
The rail network will cover a total distance of 31km - a 16-km stretch from Pimpri to Swargate and the other from Vanaz to Ramwadi - at an estimated cost of Rs 11,420 crores. Recently, the Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (PMRDA) proposed another route on the Metro Map from Hinjewadi to Shivaji Nagar, which will be of 23-km length, at an estimated cost of Rs 7,947 crore. All the three lines are projected to become operational by 2021.
Officials of MahaMetro, the company responsible for executing the project, said they are under pressure to meet the deadline given the delays in the past. “We have the full support of the Central and State governments and we are pushing ahead to complete the project well in time. It has been just six months that the MahaMetro is functioning and we have been able to commence the civil work of corridor-I,” said Brijesh Dixit, managing director, MahaMetro.
Lawless, chaotic traffic in the absence of a strong public transport system has been the bane of Pune. Despite the rapid growth and development of the city- especially in the information technology sector, the public transport system has just not kept pace. In fact, citizens no longer trust the promises made by the politicians and therefore ask, “Will the Metro ever see the light of the day?” That is a question which will have to be answered.