Space availability a challenge for metro rail project planners

Part of feasibility report submitted has identified four corridors where the Government could establish metro rail network for 136 km

On July 19, 2017, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced in the Assembly that the State Government would implement metro rail project in Coimbatore.

His announcement came long after the State missed an opportunity to give metro rail to the city, as the then Central Government under United Progressive Alliance had in 2011 identified Coimbatore as one of the cities eligible for a mass rapid transit project.

A few other cities like Kochi that were on the Government's list of Tier II cities for metro rail had taken up and also completed the project in the last nine years.

Consequent upon the July 2017 announcement, the State Government asked Chennai Metro Rail Limited to prepare a feasibility report and the latter had engaged Systra and RITES for the purpose.

Sources familiar with the development said the two organisations, Systra and RITES, had submitted a part of the report and were working to complete the rest.

The report at present had identified four corridors where the Government could establish metro rail network for 136 km.

The first corridor would be on Avinashi Road for 26 km, from Ukkadam to Kaniyur – identified red line; the second on Mettupalayam Road for 24 km, from Ukkadam to Bilichi, identified yellow line; the third on Trichy road for 42 km, from Thadagam Road to Karanampettai, identified blue line; and, the fourth on Perur Road and Sathyamangalam Road for 44 km, from Karunya Nagar to Ganesapuram, identified green line.

The sources said the proposal on hand was to implement the project in phases on the four identified corridors by not covering the entire stretch at one go.

For instance, the first phase of the project on blue line would be from Ondipudur to Ukkadam, on the red line it would be from Goldwyns to Ukkadam, on the green line it would be from Saravanampatti to Perur and the on the yellow line it would be from Periyanaickenpalayam to North Coimbatore.

As part of the proposal, the two consultant organisations had also proposed two rail depots or yards – one on Mettupalayam Road and another on Avinashi Road.

So far, so good. But if the organisations’ feasibility report should attain fruition by leading to a detail project report, more work needed to be done because there was not enough space available for metro rail, as proposed, in several stretches of the arterial roads, the sources said.

It appeared that the feasibility report suggested taking metro at grade – on the road – on Trichy Road and Avinashi Road. It would mean metro taking away seven metres (3.5 + 3.5 for two tracks) on the two roads with an average width of 15m each.

In other words, the space available for buses, cars, two-wheelers and other vehicles would be halved, the sources pointed out and added that it would only lead to traffic congestions, given the reduced carrying capacity.

Besides, at grade metro rail network would also require stations and the train movement would lead to stoppage of traffic.

Imagine metro train plying every minute or so on either direction bringing traffic to a halt on Avinashi Road or Trichy Road. It would lead to chaos, the sources said.

The alternative to at grade metro rail – either elevated or underground rail – had their set of problems as well. The cost of constructing a metro rail at grade worked to around ₹50 crore a km, ₹100 crore a km for elevated rail line and ₹150 crore to ₹200 crore a km for underground line.

Given the cost of investment and return on investment, there was a lot of thinking going on, said an officer privy to the development.

For the metro rail to be useful by taking away people from roads, the conversion rate should be at least 30% - that is around one-third of the people using roads should switch over to metro rail and that had not happened in bigger cities like Chennai.

In Coimbatore's context, at least 20,000 of the 60,000 people using either Avinashi Road or Trichy Road should travel by metro, he added.

Sixty thousand people or passenger car units had been studied as the vehicle movement in a day.

Now, with the State Government starting the ground work to construct an integrated bus terminus in Vellalore, the consultant organisations were studying how to link Ukkadam with Vellalore on the metro rail network.

It was studying if the line should pass through Athupalam or Nanjundapuram or Singanallur.

Commenting on the development, urban planner and architect Sarfarz S. Yaseen said given the city's spread, its road network, vehicle movement and other aspects, the best solution to address traffic woes would be to strengthen the city's bus network, improve bus shelters and bus stands and provide last mile connectivity.

But strengthening bus network did not mean bus rapid transit system as that was not feasible, either, as preliminary studies had shown. He argued that even if the city were to get metro rail last mile connectivity would still be a problem.

Consumer activist K. Kathirmathiyon suggested that from a layman's point of view it would be better if the metro rail network served people in the city's periphery because that was where the city would witness development in the next 15 – 20 years.

As metro rail came with heavy investment and was aimed at providing a solution in the long run, the consultant organisations should not look at the core city alone. And, in core city there was the problem of identifying land, he said.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 4:47:41 PM |

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