Where do people run in Nagpur

Contribution to sustainable transport

A new metro line is being built in India's metropolis Nagpur, which is being financed with a promotional loan from KfW Development Bank. It is intended to make a contribution to sustainable public transport. E + Z / D + C editor Sabine Balk visited the construction site and made a test drive on a test track.

The elevated railway plows through the middle of the city of 2.4 million inhabitants, a medium-sized metropolis by Indian standards. More than 70 percent of the 42-kilometer route has already been completed. According to the management, work on the construction sites is carried out around the clock every day. Along the new metro line there are meter-thick concrete pillars on which the rail bed can already be seen at a height of over eight meters. A 4.5 kilometer long double-decker section in the heart of the city is particularly impressive. The street runs on the first floor, the metro runs along the route above.

The Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (Maha Metro for short), an Indian state-owned company that is half owned by the central government and half of the state of Maharashtra, is developing, building and operating the gigantic infrastructure project. The Executive Director, Ramnath Subramaniam, who is responsible for planning, personally leads the visitors from Germany, a delegation of KfW employees and journalists, from construction site to construction site throughout the day. He is very satisfied: “We are well on schedule, there are hardly any delays and we are confident that we will be finished on schedule.” The Nagpur Metro is scheduled to start operating in 2020.

The city is hoping for many advantages from the new means of public transport. So far there has been no noteworthy local public transport in Nagpur. There are a few city buses that make up less than ten percent of local transport. The buses are poorly maintained, unreliable and grubby. “Who wants to ride in a bus like this when they can take a brand new metro?” Asks Ramnath Subramaniam.

Most people drive into town on their mopeds, a smaller proportion by car. Private traffic makes up over 70 percent. Those responsible at Maha Metro hope to change that with the new means of transport. Because traffic jams, bad air and noise are part of everyday life on the streets in Nagpur - as in many cities in India.

Nagpur's declared aim is to provide climate-friendly mobility solutions and to shift private transport towards public transport. The heart of the new traffic plan is the metro, which is being built on two corridors (north-south and east-west). There will be a total of 40 stations and two depots for the maintenance of the trains.

To ensure that the metro is widely used, the planners have also developed a concept for getting to the stations, explains Ramnath Subramaniam. In the vicinity of the stations there will be an infrastructure for non-motorized transport, i.e. footpaths, cycle paths or bike sharing. Park & ​​Ride areas for the mopeds are also to be built; electric buses are intended to complement the feeder system. Despite all the thoughtful planning, the Maha Metro manager knows how difficult it is to dissuade people from their previous habits: "It will take some persuasion to get people to change to the metro."

Maha Metro's managing director, Brijesh Dixit, assures that there was no great resistance to the construction from the residents concerned. He said fewer than 100 people had to be relocated and they were generously compensated. “Mainly business owners were affected, but some of them can continue their business in the new stations,” he said.

Maha Metro plans to convince people of the new transport concept through public campaigns. The company is expecting 380,000 passengers per day in 2021, one year after the planned start-up. By 2041 it should be over half a million. By shifting urban traffic from road to rail, Nagpur expects annual savings of around 67,000 tonnes of CO2 and an improvement in air quality by reducing particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions. The project aims to create around 1,700 direct jobs. According to Ramnath Subramaniam, around 10,000 workers are employed on the construction site.

In order to make the project even more sustainable, Maha Metro is implementing further goals, assures the Executive Director: The stations are planned and built according to energy-efficient specifications; Most of the electricity for the metro comes from solar panels on the roofs of metro stations; the wastewater is 100 percent recycled; Rainwater is collected and used; Trees that had to be felled for construction are being reforested elsewhere; 5,000 new trees have been planted so far.

This sustainability concept also convinced KfW Development Bank, which is supporting the construction of the metro with a loan of half a billion euros. This is the highest single loan ever given. The French Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is providing a further 130 million, while the rest is shared equally between the Indian central government and the Maharashtra government. The total costs amount to around 1.2 billion euros. KfW board member Joachim Nagel was satisfied with the progress of the metro construction: "The project is very well managed and is going according to plan."

Like the rest of the German delegation, he was happy to get into the brand-new Chinese-made metro cars for a test drive and have the technology explained to him. The trains are still sparkling with cleanliness, and the air conditioning cools the warm Indian air down to around 20 degrees.

Sabine Balk is editor of E + Z / D + C and visited the metro construction in Nagpur at the invitation of KfW.
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