Work on the much-awaited Jaipur Metro Rail, the Pink City's dream project, was formally launched here on Thursday at the proposed site for the terminal station in Mansarovar. A large number of people turned up on the occasion to cheer the State's political leadership and “Metro Man” E. Sreedharan.

The foundation stone for the first stage of Phase I of the project, the 9.25-km stretch between Chandpole in the Walled City of Jaipur and Mansarovar, was laid by Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Urban Development Minister Shanti Dhariwal, Transport Minister Brajkishore Sharma, Jaipur MP Mahesh Joshi and local MLAs were present.

“This is a historic day not only for Jaipur but also for the whole of Rajasthan,” said Mr. Nath. Responding to a request from Mr. Gehlot for clearing the second stage of Phase I, he quipped: “Mr. Gehlot is a friend of 21 years' standing. When he makes a request, I treat it as an order. The second stage stands cleared,” he announced.

Mr. Nath lamented that his home State Madhya Pradesh was not having any proposal for a metro and hence he was not in a position to help. “There is no metro in my State — neither in Bhopal nor in Indore. How do I face the people there?” he wondered.

The Union Minister asked those behind the project not to wait for the stipulated time period to complete the first stage. “Complete this faster and carry out the foundation-laying of the second stage this year itself,” he suggested.

Mr. Sreedharan, who predicted immense benefit to the people of Jaipur from the metro rail, earlier said completing the first stage by June 2013 itself would be a world record. Mr. Nath said rapid urbanisation taking place all over the country was posing new challenges on the infrastructural front. “Development brings this burden to the urban centres. Today's youth want to reach the cities and that is good also,” he said. Mr. Gehlot, thanking both Mr. Nath and his predecessor in the Union Urban Development Ministry Jaipal Reddy, said the Metro Rail project was one big step towards Jaipur achieving the status of a world class city. He also thanked Dr. Sreedharan for his support to the project.

Mr. Gehlot also said the cities of Jodhpur and Kota in the State could be considered for introduction of a metro rail system.