Haryana govt intervention must for expansion: Gurgaon Rapid Metro
Gurgaon: Gurgaon's privately-owned Rapid Metro, which recently completed its first year of operation and is spreading its wings further into the city, has said that the intervention of the new Haryana government is imperative to expand such infrastructure projects.
The Union government has shown keen interest in public -private partnership (PPP) in various sectors despite it not working out in favour of the Delhi Airport Metro Express with Reliance Infrastructure.
"The PPP model worked but they were not satisfied with it. The IL&FS rail is only in the business of PPP projects. But these projects require a good 40 per cent support from the government, otherwise these projects cannot be made feasible. I think the new state government has to understand this that they may promote a lot of PPP projects but unless these are financially feasible, nobody is going to bid for those projects," said Sanjiv Rai, CEO & MD of Rapid Metro Gurgaon.
Noting that the previous Congress-led government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda was very supportive of the project, he said the new Manohar Lal Khattar government will take time to settle down and then this dialogue would be taken forward with the senior officers of the state.
The Rapid Metro, an initiative of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) Rail, was launched last year on November 14 to boost and further strengthen connectivity within the Cyber City.
The 5.1-km-long three-coach rail system, which claims to be the country's first fully privately funded Metro Rail system, has completed its Phase I which has six stations originating from Sikanderpur. The second phase construction is underway while the project's third phase is being planned.
"For Phase 3 we had told the previous Congress-led Haryana government that unless we get financial support we won't be able to make the north extension," Rai said.
The construction works under Phase II is 35 per cent complete and is proposed to be over by 2016. The 7-km-long network will have five stations--DLF Phase 1, Sushant Lok, Sector 53-54, AIT Chowk, and sector 55-56.
"Right now we have already made an initial proposal to the state government that it should consider providing to us some kind of financial support so that the project can be made feasible. And there is a north extension going towards Dwarka and Udhyog Vihar for that we have made very clear that Phase III cannot be done unless there is government support," the Rapid Metro MD said.
Within a span of one year, as many as 79.9 lakh commuters have travelled on the metro system, which is connected with Delhi Metro at Sikanderpur station.
Rai said that the system is struggling to increase its ridership, 90 per cent of which comes from the Delhi Metro, to make this project more financially viable.
"We have our limitations. We are only connected to the Delhi Metro via a common platform (Sikanderpur station) so we have to rely on them for our ridership. Majority of our ridership almost 90 per cent of it comes from Delhi Metro and that is anywhere between 9 and 10 per cent that comes from local residential areas," he said.
"Today, we have ridership between 30-40 thousand, this should have been 80-90 thousand per day. We are almost at 35 per cent at where we should have been. If this was 80-90 thousand this would have been a financially excellent project," he added.
The Rapid Metro has introduced various ways to attract commuters, mostly corporate office-goers, such as providing free shuttle service, walkways from Moulsari Avenue to Ambience Mall and zebra crossing at Shankar Chowk to ensure pedestrian safety and convenience, besides providing free Wi-Fi.
"We are doing a lot of things to improve ridership commuters-running free shuttle service, we are giving free shuttle service to private companies as they are guarantee us some commuters," Rai said.
On cutting down travel fares, which is currently fixed at flat Rs 20, Rai said the fare will not be reduced.
"We are bound to follow the rules set by the Model concession agreement that provides a methodology to calculate the fare. We got permission from Haryana government to have a flat fare...we arrived at a figure of Rs 20. As the system will go longer then we will also go to a step fare like Delhi Metro system. The fare will not come down," the Rapid Metro MD said, adding that the travel cost is much less as compared to an auto or taxi in the city.
When asked about environmental challenges faced by the privately-owned metro system, in terms of clearances, he said they were very few.
"We are a green, ecologically very stable project. Our trains already have regenerative capacity...so when the train is in movement it is generating some power. So every time it is sending some energy back to the system to save our power consumption," he said.
Rai said that a system is being put in place for the next phase where solar power panels will be installed on the roofs of Rapid Metro stations, which will provide solar power to the stations and save on thermal power.
Delhi Metro station buildings being constructed in phase three along with other metro stations in the country will be rated by their compatibility with green building norms.
DMRC has already announced that all the stations of its third phase of expansion along with 12 Receiving Sub Stations and residential quarters will be designed as green buildings.
When asked if the IL&FS will go public for funding the upcoming Rapid Metro projects, Rai said the company has talked to the State Government for providing financial support and a possibility of going public will only be considered post 2016.
"There are no plans to go public (with the funding). We have plans to complete the phase 2 project which we are targeting end of 2016, so once its completed and we have two systems operational and at that point then we are going to start to look at the possibility if it is feasible for us to go public to raise funds for future expansion," he said.
He said that in Phase 2 of Rapid Metro, about 16 acre of land was required to make the maintenance depot and after waiting for 10 months, 13 acres of the land was provided in October. Another 2 acres of land will be granted by the state government for building an administrative and training centre, Rai added.
The Rapid Metro MD also said there needs to be a change in the mindset of people to encourage them to use public transport over private vehicles.
The metro system was launched to boost and further strengthen connectivity within Cyber City, which has emerged as one of the busiest areas in Gurgaon with the traffic volumes of almost 2 to 2.27 lac vehicles entering and exiting the city on a daily basis.