Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, is in the throes of a ‘metro-morphosis’. With just about a month remaining before elections are declared in the state, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is leaving no stone unturned to be able to dedicate the first installment of his dream project, the Lucknow Metro, to the people on time.
Says Kumar Keshav, Managing Director, Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC), “Every day is precious for us. Our rolling stock (metro train rakes) will start arriving by the middle of this month and we will start the trial run from December 1.” The trial run pertains to a Priority Section of 8.5 km on the North-South Corridor which would be 23 km long (22 stations in all, from Chaudhry Charan Singh Airport to Mushipulia). The second corridor of the Rs 13,000-crore project, the East-West Corridor, would stretch over 12 km (12 stations, from Charbagh to Basant Kunj, on Hardoi Road)—work on this corridor is yet to start and its completion date is uncertain for now. The LMRC is a 50:50 enterprise of the central and UP governments and the estimated cost of Rs 6,880 crore for the North-South Corridor Phase 1A project is being partially funded with a loan of Rs3,502 crore from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
“The Priority Section stretch from Transport Nagar to Charbagh Railway Station, having 8 stations, is expected to be ready for commercial operations by March 2017, in just a little over two years, a feat no other Metro project in the country has been able to achieve,” says Keshav.
The target date for completion of the entire North-South Corridor is March 2019, with the Lucknow Metro project competing with the Kochi Metro Rail project for the tag of the fastest Metro project in India. It could also end up as India’s most economical Metro project. “The per km cost of our project is less than Kochi Metro’s, primarily due to land being cheaper in Lucknow,” he says.
The project was first mooted during the predecessor Mayawati regime, but it was only after the Akhilesh Yadav government came to power in 2012 that it gathered steam. “The existing urban transport system of Lucknow city is under severe stress. Strengthening the transport infrastructure had therefore assumed urgency,” explains a senior LMRC official. Lucknow has a population of around 3 million at present and the figure is expected to touch 5 million by 2031 on account of rapid development of suburban areas.
Commenting on the speed of work, Alok Ranjan, former chief secretary, government of UP, says, “Unlike most Metros in India, we had a common signalling and rolling stock bid. This allowed us to save time. We did this work in 65 weeks, instead of the 90 weeks for the Delhi Metro. We have also cuts costs of the signalling system by one-fourth as compared to the Delhi Metro.”
The Metro’s rolling stock would have the most advanced signaling and train control system—called the Communication Based Train Control System (CBTC)—which would enable trains to operate virtually in a ‘driverless’ mode. While unveiling the prototype of the train sets, LMRC and Alstom had said their styling was ‘a tribute to the city’s cultural richness’, with the front end ‘conceived in the spirit of’ the gates’ of Lucknow’s monuments like the Bara Imambara congregation hall, Asifi mosque and Rumi Darwaza gateway.
LMRC has undertaken several initiatives for energy conservation. Among these is the use of regenerative braking in trains, which would ensure that energy generated every time brakes are applied is used by the system. “This will result in saving of almost 30 to 35% traction energy, reducing the emission of Green House Gases (GHG),” says the official.
LMRC is also betting on solar power. “Initially the Lucknow Metro plans to generate around 1.5-2 MW of electricity through roof-mounted solar photo voltaic cells under the Renewable Energy Service Company (RESCO) model,” he says.