Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Friday said the future of urban public transport lay in developing the metro rail network in Indian cities.

He was speaking after flagging off the first set of standard gauge coaches manufactured by BEML for the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

Mr. Yeddyurappa said metro rail networks were “a safe and comfortable mode of transport in cities such as Bangalore, which suffer from severe traffic congestion.” Referring to the Value Added Tax concessions extended to BEML by the government, he said, “The measure has yielded rich dividends, resulting in world class infrastructure and manufacturing capability within the State.”

Union Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniyappa symbolically handed over the first indigenously developed 80-tonne aluminium wagon developed by BEML to the National Aluminium Company Ltd. (NALCO).

Union Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju said BEML had displayed the capability of diversifying its product range. He pointed out that the company had bagged the contract for supplying 150 coaches for the Bangalore metro project “despite stiff global competition.”

DMRC chairman E. Sreedharan said BEML would supply 196 standard gauge coaches for Phase II of the Delhi Metro. This may be followed by “an additional order for about 60 coaches when the Delhi-Faridabad line is ready for operations.” The DMRC planned to increase the length of its train from four to six cars. It had placed an “experimental order” for eight coaches with BEML to run these trains. “If the experiment is successful, we plan to introduce extend the length of 70 trains to six cars.”

Mr. Sreedharan said tax concessions extended to BEML by the State government had enabled it to keep the costs low. More such measures were required to enable BEML to remain competitive. While pointing out that the metro coaches were “still expensive,” he complemented BEML’s move to develop low-cost coaches.

BEML had played a significant role by developing indigenous capability. “When we established the DMRC we never imagined that metro cars would roll out of a facility like the BEML,” he said.

Chairman and Managing Director of BEML V.R.S. Natarajan said Chinese metro car manufacturers, aided by “special incentives,” had developed export capabilities significantly. “Permanent VAT and Customs Duty exemptions would enable BEML to compete effectively with Chinese manufacturers,” he pointed out. BEML’s research and development centre for designing and developing low-cost coaches is likely to be inaugurated soon in Bangalore.

The aluminium wagon, jointly developed by BEML and NALCO, is meant for use in the high-speed freight corridors that are being developed by the Railways. Mr. Natarajan said the companies had “acted proactively because the high speed freight corridors are not yet operational.”