Future trains

The Centre’s plan to put in place a metro rail network system in all cities with a population of more than 20 lakh may help ease the country’s looming urban transport crisis. The problems of urban transport have been discussed from various angles – financial, infrastructural, environmental etc – and many solutions have been prescribed.

The unfolding urban life scenario is worrisome but it also holds promises. Urban population will increase to about 540 million in the next decade. A good part of the increase will be accounted for by tier-II cities which will gain greater prominence for economic and other reasons. About 25 Indian cities are among the fastest growing 100 cities of the world.

Urbanisation is at the same time a cause, a catalyst and result of development and the country needs to give a boost to the process if it has to stay in the development race.
Since a sound and efficient mass rapid transport system is essential for urban development the proposed metro plan will be widely welcomed. The share of public transport has declined in urban areas in the last few years. This has serious financial and environmental implications.

Metro networks can make travel cheaper, cleaner and more convenient in cities. At present, full-fledged metro services operate in Delhi and Kolkota, and some other cities like Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore are on the metro map. The proposed plan will take the metro to cities like Kochi, Pune,   Lucknow and  Ludhiana. There is demand for further extension of service and better connectivity in the Delhi metro system which has proved to be very successful. Large investments are required to implement a metro plan but the return on funds, in financial and other terms, will be more than adequate.

It will be easier to implement metro projects in smaller cities than in metropolises. They will be able to provide space for the metro without inviting problems like displacement on a scale seen in bigger cities. The costs will also be lower. These cities will, in fact, be able to grow with the metro. Greater mobility of people and better infrastructure will spur their economic growth. The environmental dividend is another major attraction. The expertise gained from implementing metro projects in some cities should give policymakers confidence to extend the plan to other cities. So the plan should be pursued keenly and implemented at the earliest.

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