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Urban Transport in Mumbai

The Mumbai Metro Master Plan, comprising upgradation of the existing suburban railway system and the construction of a new metro, will cost a staggering Rs 60,000 crore at present prices and still leave a huge shortfall in carrying capacity when completed by 2022. The author argues for an alternative, a combination of the Skybus and the bus rapid transit system, which will take five years to implement at a much lower cost and with surplus carrying capacity.

Urban Transport in Mumbai

Two Choices for the Future

The Mumbai Metro Master Plan, comprising upgradation of the existing suburban railway system and the construction of a new metro, will cost a staggering Rs 60,000 crore at present prices and still leave a huge shortfall in carrying capacity when completed by 2022. The author argues for an alternative, a combination of the Skybus and the bus rapid transit system, which will take five years to implement at a much lower cost and with

surplus carrying capacity.


umbai’s suburban railway system is its lifeline, carrying over 6.5 million commuters daily. Although public road transport (BEST) carries 4.5 million passengers daily, 75 per cent of them are users of the railway. The north-south transport capacities are critical in Mumbai. This article first discusses with the existing railway load, its actual design capacity and what it would be when the ongoing Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) is fully executed. It will then give an idea of the capacity proposed under the Mumbai Metro Master Plan (MMMP) and what shortfall will still persist, right from commissioning of its first line until completion of the planned 146.5 km. The article argues that if instead the city opts for a Skybus-bus rapid transit system (BRTS) combine there will be a 34 per cent excess capacity in public transport. Detailed cost computations show that while the MMMP will cost Rs 60,000 crore and be not ready before 2022, it will end on with a 30 per cent shortfall in capacity. The Skybus-BRTS combine will cost only Rs 6,000 crore and provide 34 per cent excess capacity in five years, i e, by 2011. Thus, it is ironical that the state (Maharashtra) and central governments are pinning their hope of easing Mumbai’s commuting woes on the MMMP.

Mumbai Urban Transport Project

During the most extreme peak hour, about 75 trains reach Churchgate and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, each carrying about 4,500 to 5,000 commuters. Thus, about 3,50,000 commuters load the two railways per peak hour. While the design capacity of each coach is 200, it carries 500 to 550 persons, i e, it is 150-175 per cent overcrowded.

The MUTP was conceived essentially to ease this overcrowding as well as address the road congestion to some extent. The rail component of MUTP comprises

(1) converting nine-coach rakes to 12-coach rakes, (2) adding a fifth track between Santacruz and Borivli, (3) adding a pair of tracks between Borivli and Bhayandar,

(4) adding another pair between Bhayandar and Virar, and (5) adding fifth and sixth tracks between Kurla and Thane.

Converting nine-coach rakes to 12-coach rakes for the same crowd gives 33 per cent additional space. Each coach will thus carry 75 per cent of what it was carrying before the conversion, i e, 25 per cent fewer commuters.

The fifth track between Santacruz and Borivli is to prevent upcountry trains from occupying the tracks needed for the fast suburban trains, especially during the peak periods. Adding a pair of tracks between Borivli and Bhayandar and further up to Virar is quadruplication of the existing twin tracks. Since Mumbai’s western suburbs and beyond have grown considerably – five million reside in the western suburbs alone, according to the 2001 Census – this additional pair of tracks becomes essential to cater for the commuters there.

The fifth and sixth tracks on the Central Railway main line between Kurla and Thane are essentially for upcountry trains, enabling the fast suburban trains to run at higher frequency.

All these measures, part of MUTP Phase I, are expected to add to the overall carrying capacity of the railway system in Mumbai and reduce the overall congestion in the coaches by about 25 per cent. The MUTP rail component (Phase I) is scheduled to be completed by 2007. However, some delays have been observed and a target of 2009 seems more realistic.

There are a few more measures under Phase II of MUTP, including getting newer models of rakes, improvements in the signalling system and reducing the headway, which will reduce the coach congestion to the extent of 35 per cent overall. However, the MUTP Phase II schedule is currently uncertain and indefinite. Therefore one should consider only the 25 per cent congestion reduction in the coaches if MUTP Phase I gets fully implemented.

As mentioned earlier, the design capacity of each coach is 200. A 12-coach rake will have a design capacity of 2,400 and hourly capacity of 1,80,000 persons. This figure could have been increased if it was possible to reduce the headway. However, because the number of coaches per rake is being increased to 12 and the turnaround time at the terminals at Churchgate and CST is the governing criterion, and also

Economic and Political Weekly November 18, 2006

signalling upgradation and track modifications are needed, the headway cannot even be marginally reduced until MUTP Phase II is implemented.

This means there is a need for additional capacity of 1,70,000 persons per hour (pph) to meet the demand of 3,50,000 pph and prevent overcrowding in the suburban trains.

The point to note is that if all the ninecoach rakes are not converted into 12coach rakes, suburban trains will be overloaded and to that extent the required additional capacity will be more than 1,70,000 pph. Any system that provides surplus capacity should be adopted.

Mumbai Metro Master Plan

A metro network has been conceived in the MMMP to provide the required capacity because metro rails per se have high capacity. MMMP is a 146.5 km network essentially with two pairs of lines running north-south, and several east-west lines such as Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (V-A-G) and Bandra-Mankhurd. So far only the V-A-G line has been cleared for construction. The elevated section runs over arterial roads, which imposes certain restrictions on the size of metro stations and hence the number of coaches.

Since the capacity requirements are related to north-south travel, it would be appropriate to look at the proposed capacity of this route of MMMP. From the detailed project report it is noticed that the Colaba-Charkop line will have a four-coach metro with a headway of three minutes. Capacity in a four-coach metro is about 1200. Hence the Colaba-Charkop line, when completed (perhaps by end 2012), will have a capacity of only 24,000 pph. This is against the 1,70,000 pph needed. When the entire MMMP is constructed, i e, in 2022, the two north-south lines will have sixcoach metros running every three minutes, giving a capacity of 36,000 pph per route, i e, 72,000 pph overall for north-south runs. There is thus still a shortfall of 98,000 pph, i e, nearly 30 per cent, from the overall capacity requirement of 3,50,000 pph.

Each coach is about 20 m long. A fourcoach metro will need a 90 m long station complex and a six-coach metro will need a 130 m station complex. Increasing the number of coaches any more will occupy considerable space on the road on which the metro is proposed. In the urban setting of Mumbai, even a 90 m long station complex over an arterial road is not desirable, over and above the structure running all along the route.

Skybus-BRTS Combine

The bus rapid transit system or BRTS has successfully been running and carrying 45,000 persons per hour per direction (pphpd) in Bogota, Colombia, on arterial routes. In several places where the need is less, smaller capacity has been provided. If twin vestibule 250 person capacity buses are plied every 20 seconds, the 45,000 pphpd capacity is achieved (60 × 60/20 × 250 = 45,000).

Four north-south arterial roads have to be identified in Mumbai and provided with the BRTS to give a carrying capacity of 4 × 45,000 = 1,80,000 pph. This along with the suburban railway with only 200 persons per coach, carrying 1,80,000 pph, will carry 3,60,000 pph. This is about 3 per cent more than the overall need of 3,50,000 pph.

There are arguments that Mumbai roads are not wide enough to accommodate BRTS routes. What has to be understood is that if the public transport capacity is not increased speedily, there will be greater demand for roads for personal vehicles, even multi-level ones, and sea links. These will run short in no time and more road space will have to be created constantly. This also means that the need for parking space increases and much greater, and avoidable air and noise pollution is guaranteed. While heavy capital expenditure will have to be incurred, the roads will continue to be congested. This capital expenditure is not recoverable by toll on the users. In the state of road congestion and overcrowded public transport, if more road space is provided, more personal vehicles will come on the road and the state of congestion will persist. If BRTS is provided, at least BRTS buses will move with design speeds, carrying more people. In the absence of BRTS, the overcrowding of trains will continue and so will the number of consequent casualties.

Innovation is the key to successful implementation of BRTS routes. For example, the up and down routes need not be on the same road if road width is felt to be less; they could be on two near parallel roads such as Veer Savarkar Marg and Lady Jamshedji Road. The objective is to provide safe and sure capacity so that people can board an affordable and convenient mode of transport out of choice.

Even as the four BRTS routes may provide 3 per cent excess capacity, there is still scope to further improve matters quickly and economically. That is through the utilisation of Skybus technology, developed by the Konkan Railway.

A twin coach Skybus is expected to provide a capacity of 18,000 pphpd. This is because the one minute headway of 150 capacity coaches will have 60 services in an hour, giving them the capacity of 60 × 2 × 150 = 18,000 pphpd. A six-coach Skybus will provide 54,000 pphpd. With two such routes, north-south, the capacity obtained is 1,08,000 pph.

Altogether, the 1,80,000 pph of the existing suburban railway, 1,80,000 pph of BRTS and 1,08,000 pph of Skybus comes to a capacity of 4,68,000 pph as against the 3,50,000 pph needed. This is

Table 1: Delhi Metro Phase I


Under-Elevated On Total ground Grade

Length (km) 12.2 45.7 10.5 68.4 Rate (Rs

crore/km) 475 100 20 155 Cost

(Rs crore) 5795 4570 210 10,575

Table 2: Mumbai Metro

(With Rates Placed at Public Consultation by MMRDA/DMRC in February 2004)

Under-Elevated On Total ground Grade

Length (km) 32.5 114 0 146.5 Rate (Rs

crore/km) 250 100 0 133.3 Cost

(Rs crore) 8,125 11,400 0 19,525

Table 3: Mumbai Metro

(With Same Rates as for Delhi Metro from Table 1)

Under-Elevated On Total ground Grade

Length (km) 32.5 114 0 146.5 Rate (Rs

crore/km) 475 100 20 183 Cost

(Rs crore) 15,438 11,400 0 26,838

Table 4: Mumbai Metro

(With Bid Rates for Versova-Ghatkopar Stretch as Accepted by MMRDA-Govt of Maharashtra in May 2006)

Under-Elevated On Total ground Grade

Length (km) 40.5 106 0 146.5 Rate (Rs 974 205 20 417.6 crore/km) extrapolated Cost (Rs crore) 39,447 21,730 0 61,177

Economic and Political Weekly November 18, 2006 1,18,000 pph, i e, 34 per cent, in excess of the demand.

These can be fully put in place in five years time. The excess 34 per cent is a good buffer to absorb the vagaries of disruptions and optimistic performance estimates, and delays in implementation of some component or another. All this surplus will be available after spending only Rs 6,000 crore at current (2006) prices. Yet this option is not being seriously considered by the planners, for which no explanation is being provided.

Cost of Metro and MMMP

The metro rail for Delhi was sold with inflated ridership estimates, which came down gradually as portions of the metro began to get commissioned. This phenomenon is not unique to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). It happens the world over. The metro rail system is more than a 100 years old, and with the exceptions of Hong Kong, Tokyo and perhaps New York, where the density of population being served is very high, metro rails have been financially unviable. Taking this as a benchmark, experts in the transportation sector take the view that no infrastructure project is financially viable and must be supported because of socio-economic considerations; in reality neither sociological nor economic reasons are sustainable. It leads to urban degradation, the growth of slums and the rich enjoying the subsidies provided by the poor. Metro rail has nowhere reduced road congestion. In the scenario of Mumbai where already 88 per cent of commuters use the existing public transport, albeit in miserably crowded conditions, the fare structure of the proposed Metro, however low it may have been conceived, will still be out of reach of the majority of these commuters and they will continue to travel by the existing public transport facility in its miserable, unsafe, overcrowded condition.

Setting aside these aspects, it would be appropriate to present Tables 1-4 which give a fair idea of how the cost estimates of the Mumbai metro are going awry.

In June 2006, MMRDA seem to have decided to change the 8 km elevated section between Mahalaxmi and Mahim into an underground. Thereby the length of the underground section now stands at 40.5 km and elevated section at 106 km (Table 4)

The government of India set up an expert committee on Skybus in 2004 to assess its viability in growing Indian cities. It was headed by P V Indiresan, former director of IIT Madras. The committee consulted DMRC to verify the costs of Skybus, which was claimed as Rs 50 crore/km by the innovators and promoters, the Konkan Railway Corporation. Aside from the fact that an interested, competing party was asked to assess this estimate, DMRC stated that the cost of its own elevated section of Delhi metro was Rs 103 crore/km. That is the reason for assuming the rates in Table 1 for computing the cost of Mumbai Metro in February 2004 to compare with what was put forth by MMRDA/DMRC at the public consultation in February 2004. As can be seen from Table 2, the cost put forth at the public consultation was Rs 19,525 crore. But, the cost arrived at by using the DMRC rates for Delhi from Table 1 is Rs 26,838 crore (see Table 3). In fact the underground tube in Mumbai will be in basalt rock at 20 to 30 m depth, while the Delhi metro tube was at 10 to 20 m depth in softer soil. This aspect has not been considered; if it is it would make the cost higher for Mumbai than for Delhi.

In January 2006, the bids for the first line of Mumbai Metro were opened and the lowest bidder’s figure was Rs 2,356 crore for the 11.5 km east west connectivity, giving a rate for the 100 per cent elevated line as Rs 205 crore/km. Considering a proportionate increase for the underground section, the rate comes to (205/100) × 475 = Rs 974 crore/km. This value has been used in Table 4 in computing the cost for the entire 146.5 km MMMP. The amount is a staggering Rs 60,000 crore plus. At the lower end, considering the Table 1 values or the length of the V-A-G line as

13.5 km instead of 11.5 km, the cost of Mumbai Metro comes to Rs 50,000 crore or thereabouts, still a staggering figure.

As late as June 21, 2006, when the prime minister came to lay the foundation stone of the V-A-G line, while MMRDA was mentioning the cost of the line as Rs 2,356 crore, in the same breath it continued to state the cost of the entire 146.5 km Mumbai Metro as Rs 19,525 crore (in its Power Point presentation at the Shanmukhananda Hall) and not even Rs 26,000 crore plus.

Cost of Skybus-BRTS Combine

The estimated cost of the Skybus system is about Rs 50 crore/km. This is very realistic as the 1.6 km test track in Goa cost Rs 50 crore, along with a station, a coach and other components needed for testing, giving a per km cost of only Rs 31.25 crore. Skybus technology is an innovation of Konkan Railway Corporation. The patent obtained by B Rajaram, former managing director of KRC, is in the name of the president of India.

In the bus rapid transit system, i e, BRTS, buses ply on dedicated lanes. These buses run at desired frequencies to match the demand. They ply on city roads and no special roads are built other than physical segregation of the dedicated bus lane from the normal carriageway. BRTS uses information and communications technology (ICT) to ensure that priority is accorded to BRTS buses over personal vehicular traffic. This ensures smooth BRTS bus flow and the desired carrying capacity. The floor at the door of the bus and the floor of the bus stop are often kept at the same level for quick alighting and boarding, for which the doors are also kept wide. Depending on what additional features need to be provided, including access bridges, the cost of a BRTS route ranges from Rs 5 crore/km to Rs 15 crore/km, mostly closer to Rs 10 crore/km.

Mumbai extends about 40 km north-south and averages about 10 km east-west. Four north-south arterial routes and three eastwest routes of BRTS, totalling 200 km of BRTS, and two north south routes of Skybus, totalling 80 km, would cost Rs 6,000 crore, with Rs 10 crore/km for the BRTS and Rs 50 crore/km for the Skybus.

Most of the BRTS can be implemented in three years while the Skybus metro will take five years. Thus, in five years, the Skybus BRTS combine can be put in place, costing barely Rs 6,000 crore and a surplus capacity of 34 per cent of the required overall capacity of 3,50,000.

A question in many people’s mind is the accident on September 25, 2004 during the first public testing of the Skybus in Margoa when one engineer died. However, this tragic accident does not in any way constitute a fundamental problem with the Skybus technology. Skybus technology in its basics is railway technology in practically all its components and assembly. The only feature difference from the conventional railway technology is that the coach is suspended from the wheel-bogieframe; while it is rigidly fixed on top of it in conventional railway. The swing due to centrifugal forces takes place while negotiating a curve. The swing is dependent upon the turning radius and the velocity

Economic and Political Weekly November 18, 2006

and it can be accurately calculated to provide adequate clearance to cater to a speed of 50 kmph for the minimum design radius. However, the system is computer controlled and the Skybus is expected to automatically reduce the speed to 20 kmph at the curve. This did not occur on the day of the accident because instrumentation was not fully installed at that stage of testing.

The accident happened after the prototype had done more than 50 successful sorties over nearly three weeks. A sudden manual jamming of brakes on the curve with grease on its track is stated to be the reason for skidding and unexpected degree of swings, resulting in the coach hitting the pillars during its skid. The impact caused a fall of one of the testing engineers on board. The testing was being conducted with the doors kept open.

The 1.6 km test track at Madgao is where the accident occurred during testing. Testing was recommenced in January 2005 after clearance from the accident investigation agencies. Basically, the technology is sound, but like every new combination of component technologies it must be tested for safety and performance before its induction into service. Skybus technology must be similarly tested for all its functions. With the fundamentals of Skybus physics, mechanics and structural engineering being sound, it is only when it is tested on a 5 km stretch that will make the Skybus a proven technology, ready for induction into service.



Economic and Political Weekly November 18, 2006

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