Prime Minister said the Centre would support 19 cities with a population of over two million each to prepare detailed project reports for Metro rail projects.

The Kochi Metro Rail project moved a step closer to becoming a reality with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laying its foundation in Kochi on Thursday.

In his address, the Prime Minister said the Centre would support 19 cities with a population of over two million each to prepare detailed project reports for Metro rail projects. Twelve cities had already prepared the reports, he added.

Dr. Singh said the Central support for the 25-km Kochi project, estimated at Rs. 5,180 crore, would be around Rs. 1,000 crore. Kochi would be the eighth city in India to have a Metro network.

“However, Metro rail is just one component of an efficient public transport system. We need to build in our cities multimodal transport systems that efficiently integrate different modes of public transport like buses and trains,” he said.

He said Metro rail projects under implementation in seven cities cost more than Rs. 1.15 lakh crore with a total length of 476 km. The Delhi Metro carried about 22 lakh people a day. Dr. Singh paid rich tributes to Metroman E. Sreedharan, describing him as a great entrepreneur, and hoped that “his example will fire the imagination of younger people all over the country.”

He said the Union government would provide assistance for Bus Rapid Transit System projects in 11 cities with a total length of over 437 km, estimated at over Rs. 5,500 crore.

Dr. Singh said an “efficient public transport system is critical to the orderly growth and development of India cities.” It would help in meeting “challenges like traffic congestion, air pollution and the high rates of accidents on roads.”

Dr. Singh said around 40 per cent of the Indian population would be living in towns and cities by 2031. This segment, which would have at least 60 crore people, would be contributing more than 70 per cent of the GDP.

The high speed of urbanisation posed unprecedented managerial and policy challenges, which should be addressed with courage and determination. Unless provisioning of services kept pace with urbanisation, “the country will face serious problems of haphazard urban growth, slums and crumbling city infrastructure all-round.”

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