For Bengaluru, the Karnataka government has proposed a 42-km LRT project.
The preference for Metro over Light Rail Transit (LRT) that the country’s cities have witnessed could change, that is if Pune’s plan to build an LRT network sees the light of day.
Mooted by the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) and L&T Infra Engineering as part of their Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP), the first corridor would be 9.08 km long, extending from Sinhagad Road to Veer Baji Pasalkar Chowk to Pune Cantonment. From a PHPD (passengers per hour per direction) of 6,500 estimated in 2018, ridership on the line is expected to go up to 7,000 PHPD in 2028. The next phase of the project would entail construction of a 8.87-km stretch from Warje to Swargate, a 35.23-km line from Wagholi to Hinjewadi and another 17.81-km line from Chandani Chowk to Hinjewadi. These LRT lines would add up to a total length of 70.99 km. No timelines have been specified yet for the project.
The move for LRT needs to be seen against a backdrop of the city’s traffic woes and public demand to extend the three Metro lines being built in Pune. There have been pleas to extend the 16,59-km East-West Corridor-I (Pimpri Chinchwad to Swargate) to Nigdi at one end and Katraj at the other. As for the 14.93-km North-South Corridor-II (Vanaz to Ramwadi), residents want it extended to Wagholi on one side and Chandani Chowk on the other. For the 23.3-km third line (Hinjewadi to Shivajinagar), an extension to Hadapsar is being sought. While detailed project reports (DPRs) are being prepared, there is uncertainty on these extensions being built given funding and viability concerns.
Says Nikhil Mijar, an urban planner who worked on the CMP, “the advantage with LRT, which would cost around
Rs 150 cr/km, is that it could be upgraded to a Metro in the future.” For an urban area which has sparse population, the LRT system would work well, he holds. Besides costing less than a Metro to build and operate, LRT needs fewer coaches and smaller stations.
Pune is not the first Indian city to explore the LRT option. While sporadic attempts have been made, LRT is yet to take off in the country—though Gurgaon’s Rapid Metro is sometimes classified as light Metro. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has recommended smaller cities looking to build Metro rail to opt for LRTS instead. The ministry of housing and urban affairs is even working on standards for LRTS.
The Andhra Pradesh government is considering the LRTS option for Vijayawada and Vishakapatnam. The Kerala government conducted initial studies and made an investment for 35.12-km LRT systems in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, but the proposal was nixed abruptly with the DMRC walking out. The Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd (DIMTS) has identified three corridors for LRT in the national capital, totalling 45 km in length. For Bengaluru, the Karnataka government has proposed a 42-km LRT project.
Interest in LRT is growing because of the high cost of building and operating Metro rail and the high traffic density required for its viability, issues that have impacted Metro systems the world over. On average, a Metro costs Rs 250-300 crore/km, while the figure is around Rs 500 crore/km for underground stretches. Around 425 km of Metro lines have been built in India with construction of another 580 km underway.
Says Arvind Mahajan, an infrastructure expert, “while many cities are looking at Metro rail, one needs to keep in mind the fact that its coaches and carriages are standardised. It makes sense to keep costs low as affordability for passengers is also a factor. The other advantage with LRT is that it can be integrated well with the existing road system of a city, providing flexibility.”