Delhi Metro which is being referred as one of the shining examples of Indo-Japan collaborations, was the first endeavour in mass rapid transit system in India, writes Shinya Ejima.
Since 1990s, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) started to put its priority on the environment conservation and infrastructure development including its assistance to develop appropriate urban public transport systems in the metropolitan cities by introducing mass rapid transit (MRT) systems. The first endeavour in this regard in India was the Delhi Metro, which is being referred as one of the shining examples of Indo-Japan collaboration as on date.
Delhi Metro was completed within the scheduled time though it is rare in Indian mega infrastructure projects. This timely completion within the original cost of the project could be achieved due to unique work culture of DMRC which respected deadlines and intermediate milestones under the strong leadership of Dr E Sreedharan, former Managing Director of DMRC.
Dr Sreedharan has also been conferred with the 'Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star' award by the government of Japan in 2013 for his meritorious services.
The metro system is evaluated as safe and user-friendly. Safety control at stations is collectively managed at each station including X-ray inspection. Passengers positively evaluated the safety at the stations and in trains. For accessibility in platforms and trains, there are lifts for passengers on wheelchairs in each station and coaches. Textured Paving Blocks (Tectiles) are used for the visually disabled and cars have space for accommodating wheelchairs.
JICA has proactively contributed to the success of the Delhi Metro project by incorporating value added measures, such as HIV/AIDS awareness among the migrant construction workers, on-site visualisation (real-time monitoring) of the safety measures in deeper excavations, measures for the socially challenged, knowledge sharing based on international best practices through Japanese experts, modal shift and PR strategies.
In line with the national priority, assistance for development of metro systems in other metropolitan cities has remained as the prioritised area for JICA's assistance to India. Over the years, JICA's concessional long term financing has acted as a catalyst for development of infrastructure facilities for the public. Our experience shows that the role of national governments in financing and implementing such infrastructure projects is very crucial.
After the success of Delhi Metro, JICA continued to support the development of metro systems in other metropolitan cities in India like Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai. All these projects created a good demonstration effect and issues related to urban transport development started getting attention and importance at the highest levels.
As a whole, MRTS development in India has shown good performance, however, there are still some areas, which need to be improved considerably. Firstly, roles and responsibility of the executing agency is not clear. In some case, multiple authorities are managing urban transport without clear demarcation. As a result, there is significant confusion leading to lack of accountability and poor city planning. The requirement of the appropriate urban transport systems in India is rapidly increasing, and agencies like DMRC are gearing up to address the urban issues with adequate institutional and capacity building measures. However, appropriate institutional arrangements supported with technical staff are missing in urban transport agencies. To address such issues, technical assistance for capacity building of project authorities has been conducted by JICA. Also, the assistance for urban transportation such as technical assistance for feasibility study of Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in Pune was provided from JICA. The Ministry of Urban Development has issued the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) that recommends development of integrated land-use transport plans for cities, focus on development of public and non-motorised transport systems.
LRT, monorail, or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) may be suitable for medium to small cities and suburb area of metropolitan city, whose demand for urban transportation and estimated ridership is not much. To develop diversified urban transportation system and introduction of Japanese know-how to improve urban environment in India, JICA considers monorail and LRT development as a prioritised area of its assistance to India.