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Public Transport Options in Hyderabad

A city like Hyderabad, which has a high-density road network, with no proper footpaths, with buildings located on main roads, and with a high prevalence of informal activities doesn't need an elevated metro running through the heart of the city, but a modified version of a bus rapid transport system.

EPW

Public Transport Optionsin Hyderabad

A city like Hyderabad, which has a high-density road network, with no proper footpaths, with buildings located on main roads, and with a high prevalence of informal activities doesn’t need an elevated metro running through the heart of the city, but a modified version of a bus rapid transport system.

C RAMACHANDRAIAH

T
he government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP) seems to have opted for mass rapid transit system (MRTS), basically elevated metro, for Hyderabad city. Improving the existing multi-modal transit system (MMTS) – i e, trains running on the existing railway tracks and the road transport corporation buses – is not appearing on top of the agenda. This article attempts to highlight some of the public transport problems in Hyderabad and the possible alternatives to improve the existing system without going for elevated metro, which is not suitable for the city’s built-up area.

With a population of over six million, Hyderabad urban agglomeration (HUA) consists of Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) as the core, surrounding municipal towns, and some smaller settlements. Much of the demographic expansion in the last two decades in the HUA has occurred in the surrounding municipalities, which recorded a high growth rate of 71 per cent in 1991-2001 as compared to only 18.7 per cent in the core (MCH). The core city accounts for only 22 per cent of the area of the HUA but has 63 per cent of the population, about, 70 per cent of employment, and the central business districts. This makes the core city a high-density zone with a lot of intra-urban mobility from the rapidly growing suburbs.

Problems of Public Transport

The public sector Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) is the only mode of public transport to the citizens (with the MMTS now having a small share). In the city region, it runs about 2,800 buses on 914 routes by making 36,000 trips and carries 3.1 million passengers everyday. The buses are overcrowded much of the time. The two important national highways traverse through the city. Altogether, five corridors in the city are estimated to carry much of the load. In the last couple of decades, the number of private vehicles has increased phenomenally. The total number of vehicles is now estimated to be about two million, increasing at 10 per cent per annum, mainly in the two-wheeler and car segments. There has been only a nominal increase in the number of buses. Public transport in Hyderabad is estimated to account for only 40 per cent of the total passenger transport as against an ideal requirement of 70 per cent. With the area under roads at only 6-8 per cent, the vehicular density in Hyderabad is estimated to be the highest in India, at 2,400 vehicles per km. In this scenario, the APSRTC buses have to compete with multiple types of vehicles on the road, with the passengers increasingly opting for personal vehicles. The three-wheeler autos and seven-seater taxis have emerged as competitors to the buses and the roads are getting increasingly occupied by cars with each passing day, with large cars replacing the smaller ones. Poor infrastructure for public transport is making matters worse: in about 2,000 bus stops, only 40 have bus bays as against their requirement in 207 locations. Bus bays allow buses to take a small deviation without obstructing the main flow of vehicles.

Hyderabad has the dubious distinction of a large city without footpaths thus forcing pedestrians to walk on the roads. Wherever they exist, they are encroached. Presence of religious structures, a sign of competitive communalism particularly rampant in Hyderabad, on the roads (in the middle or on the sides) is further adding to the problems of road transport. Small structures are erected overnight or in no time by the collusion of local shopkeepers and politicians. Some have expanded into bigger

Economic and Political Weekly June 9, 2007

ones over time. It needs strong political will to tackle them.

Lack of a public transport policy and total absence of coordination between the different departments concerned with public transport indicate the utter disregard of the successive governments towards the plight of the citizens. Problems like overcrowding, inadequate traffic police,1 ever-increasing number of vehicles, average speeds at a low of only 14-16 kmph, and poor civic sense of the vehicle riders, etc, are making a journey on Hyderabad roads a harrowing experience. Vehicular pollution levels are rising above the permissible limits at all major traffic junctions. Hyderabad has been marked as the fastest diabetes-spreading city in India.

Rail-based MMTS services were introduced in the city in 2003. Currently, in two sectors, about 30,000 passengers are using the system every day whereas the number required is two lakh for break-even point, with the result that the South Central Railway is making losses. The proposed phases 2 and 3 of MMTS to cover more distant areas in the suburbs are now in jeopardy. Three main reasons for the low patronage of this system are: (1) absence of feeder services from/to the MMTS stations; (2) lack of a common ticket for bus and rail; and (3) low frequency of the trains. Those who are using the MMTS are reported to be happy with the service. A top railway official is reported to have said that it is possible to construct tracks parallel to the existing ones by acquiring land at some stretches. This would make it possible to run more number of MMTS trains. One does not know the fate of the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which was approved by GoAP and forwarded to the ministry of railways about a year ago to improve the efficiency and viability of MMTS services.

BRTS or Elevated Metro?

The GoAP appeared to have opted for bus rapid transit system (BRTS) in 2004 which is estimated to cost Rs 12-17 crore per km but later abandoned the idea. The proposed MRTS (elevated metro rail) now is estimated to cost of Rs 8,760 crore for 66 km (Rs 132.72 crore per km) with 63 stations in three routes: (1) MiyapurNampally-Dilsukhnagar-Chaitanyapuri (29.87 km and 27 stations);

(2) Secunderabad-Narayanaguda-Falaknuma (14.78 km and 16 stations); and (3) Tarnaka-Begumpet-JH Checkpost-Hitec City-NAC (21.74 km and 20 stations). The first phase will take four years for completion. While the projects in Delhi and Bangalore are completely governmentfunded, Hyderabad project is going to be in the public-private participation (PPP) model (The New Indian Express, Hyderabad, December 18, 2006). The prefeasibility study of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) for Hyderabad says that “for the same $ 1.1 billion capital investment required for the 37 km elevated metro, a 294 km BRT system could be built”. The study further pointed out that a BRT system in the same corridors would be self-financing including the cost of the buses, whereas the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) proposal would require a $ 35 million annual subsidy along with a 50 per cent increase over current bus fares.

What is not clear so far is the space requirements for the proposed stations on the existing roads which are already crowded. Assuming that each coach would be about 20 metre long, a four-coach rail needs a 90 metre long station complex [Badami 2006]. Construction of such long metro rail stations on the ground, 63 in number as per the reports, in the thickly built-up streets of Hyderabad necessitates large-scale demolition of existing buildings. An elevated corridor in the main streets all along the busy streets diminishes the existing visual appeal and will deface and blight the city of Hyderabad. The chaotic situation that develops during the construction of station complexes and the elevated corridor simultaneously in a particular line is beyond imagination if the traffic woes during construction of flyovers are any indication. In their enthusiasm to emulate Delhi, the authorities are ignoring the fact that Delhi is a low density city, has very wide roads, and that the elevated metro does not run on the central meridian all along the roads.

The authorities seem to have decided in favour of standard guage (SG) of 1,435 mm width over the broad guage (BG) of 1,676 mm in Hyderabad. When the DMRC tried to introduce SG in Delhi, the prime minister’s office and ministry of railways seem to have intervened to adopt the BG. The DMRC, however, recommended SG for Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The DMRC’s managing director, E Sreedharan, who has acquired a “cult status” after successful completion of the project in Delhi and is the lead consultant to the three cities mentioned above, and a number of international consultants, “often in association with coach manufacturers”, are pushing for the SG system [Ravibabu 2006]. Introduction of SG in Hyderabad precludes any possibility of synchronisation with the existing MMTS services which are currently operating on the broad gauge. The existing BG network in and around Hyderabad can be used up to the new international airport and to some suburban areas.

Global tenders also seem to have been invited and are in the finalisation stage for the metro on the three corridors. So far there has been no debate in the public fora on the pros and cons of the two systems, and why BRTS has been abandoned in favour of the metro. The issue deserves a debate because these transport systems involve huge amounts of money and are going to affect the lives of millions of people commuting daily in the city for years to come. The MCH commissioner announced recently that one important corridor, Mehdipatnam-Lakdikapool-Uppal, will have BRTS for which the feasibility study would be conducted by the IIT, Delhi (The Hindu, November 30, 2006). If such an important corridor can have BRTS, it is possible to have similar system in the other three corridors also.

Modified BRTS Model

This article argues for a modified version of the BRTS for a sustained roadbased public transport system. This system suits Hyderabad’s specific characteristics in terms of high density, road network, location of buildings on main roads, high prevalence of informal activities, etc. Further, the BRTS buses could be Indian buses, manufactured in India and assembled in Hyderabad. The BRTS is also estimated to be self-financing and could be expanded to new corridors easily. If Hyderabad has to follow Delhi’s model of metro, the rolling stock are manufactured by Rotem, part of the Hyundai Motor group, a South Korean company.

Since the people in Indian cities are used to halt on the left of the road, the BRTS model for Hyderabad should have a dedicated lane on the left of the road (unlike in the central meridian), which is a modified version of the ITDP model. Provision of a dedicated lane is possible since the government is widening the existing roads and constructing flyovers at several junctions. Each bus station platform should

Economic and Political Weekly June 9, 2007 be elevated to the height of the bus floor for faster boarding and alighting. The doors of these buses are wide, automatic and open only when the bus comes to a complete halt at the bus platform. The passengers must pre-pay to enter the bus stop. At present, a large number of passengers enter and exit the buses at traffic signals than at bus stops in several locations due to lack of footpaths and slow moving traffic.

A modified version of the BRTS with the following important measures as a package will suit Hyderabad better than elevated metro: (1) Constitution of a metropolitan transport authority with representatives from different departments, including railways, that are connected with public transport directly or indirectly. The chief minister should head such a body. A separate transport corporation should be formed by separating the city region of APSRTC from the rest of the corporation. An entirely new fleet of BRT model of buses should be introduced. (2) Dedicated bus lanes on the left of roads. (3) Compulsory pedestrian pathways and zebra crossings. There should be no road without a footpath. At bus stops, the footpath should go behind the bus stop, and not merge with it as is the case now. (4) A passenger should be able to travel with a single ticket for multiple changes of buses in a particular direction. (5) A strong force of welltrained and well-paid traffic personnel, at least 5,000 in number. Traffic policing should be made a respectable and responsible task. (6) The frequency of MMTS trains (along with a system of a single ticket for bus-and-train journey) should be improved. (7) Several traffic junctions (for instance, Kothi and Lakdikapool) should be developed as major traffic interchange points. More space should be created at such places by acquiring some land/buildings for buses to halt/turn, etc, and also subways should be constructed for people to change directions. (8) The state government and the railways should seriously think in terms of laying a rail link (elevated or underground) from Nampally to Malakpet so that a circular railway line forms with Kachiguda, Secunderabad and Begumpet.

Conclusion

If the proposed 166 km-long Outer Ring Road (ORR) is going to facilitate faster movement of vehicles on the periphery and reduce the traffic demand in the core area of the city, as claimed by the MCH (2005: 42), there is no need to opt for the elevated metro. Elevated metro through the heart of the city is not a common practice in the world. The DMRC, the cult status of E Sreedharan, and international consultants should not make Hyderabad blindly implement elevated metro. Any public transport model should be specific to the particularities of that city. The abovelisted measures should be implemented as a package with a strong political will. That only will reduce congestion, improve air quality and make public transport a comfortable and dignified experience in Hyderabad rather than the costly mega project of elevated metro. The issue deserves a public debate.

EPW

Email: crchandraiah@yahoo.co.in

Note

1 At least one traffic constable is required at 600 junctions to regulate traffic. But traffic constables are deployed only at about 230 junctions for lack of personnel. The existing number is about 1,100 against a minimum requirement of 2,500 (Based on discussion with A K Khan, ACP-Traffic, Hyderabad).

References

Badami, Sudhir P (2006): ‘Urban Transport in Mumbai: Two Choices for the Future’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLI, No 46, November 18, pp 4724-27.

ITDP (2005): ‘Pre-Feasibility Study for Bus Rapid Transit Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh’, Draft Final, March, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, New York.

MCH (2005): ‘Action Plan for Traffic and Transportation Management in Hyderabad Metropolitan Area’, Report of the Committee headed by A Raghotham Rao, December, Hyderabad.

Ravibabu, M (2006): ‘Standard Gauge or Broad Gauge? Revisiting the Metro Rail Debate’, Economic and Political Weekly, October 7, 4248-50.

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