January 08, 2014

First section of Jaipur metro due to open in March

Written by  Raghav Thakur
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THE chairman and managing director of Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation (JMRCL), Mr Nihal Chand Goel, takes justifiable pride for having executed India's fastest metro project. 

The 9.7km line from Man Sarover to Chand Pole under Phase-IA was completed in just 21 months without time or cost overruns.

Late last month the first six of 10 four-car trains ordered from BEML in Bangalore arrived in Jaipur. The line is scheduled to become operational by March.

Continental Engineering, Taiwan, has been awarded a Rs 31.5bn contract to construct Phase IB, a 2.4km underground section from Chand Pole to Badi Chopar. The civil works should be completed by November 2016. So, could things not be better?

JaipurAs it turns out, substantive issues are emerging. For one, the already low daily ridership figures forecasts of 20,000 in 2014 rising to 29,000 in 2021 are expected to come down further. For example, the ridership figures projected for Phase I of the Delhi metro were projected at 330,000, while actual ridership for Phases I and II together is 260,000. Also, Jaipur is barely reaching the 8% financial internal rate of return (FIRR) stipulated by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), which is responsible for metro projects.

More problematic is that after taking the engineering procurement contract route for Phase IA, Jaipur has decided to jump horses mid-way by deciding to follow the public-private partnership (PPP) or build, operate, transfer (BOT) route for Phases IB and II. What can the state government do to raise additional resources and make the project viable? What kind of sweeteners can be offered to the concessionaires? What will be the fate of six firms that have been short-listed for Phase IB?

In November 2010, the Congress Party-led Rajasthan government launched metro construction work without obtaining formal and written approval from the national Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission. This undue haste has resulted in an inordinate delay in securing 20% funding from the central government amounting to Rs 6.3bn against the total Phase I cost of Rs 31.9bn.

"Issues have now been sorted out, as the Public Investment Board and the new Group of Ministers have sanctioned release of central government's share," Goel says. But the central government's green signal has come with several riders - including directives for bringing major changes in the detailed project report. The report - already revised twice - is being re-written again to incorporate changes suggested by the MoUD.

Even though the civil works contract for Phase IB has been awarded, a number of alignment changes are proposed to this section as well as Phase II. The 23km long Ambabadi - Sitapura line, for example, is now proposed to connect to the airport. A new report is now being prepared.

Today's big question is this: with Rajasthan having gone to the polls on December 1, how will the project play out in the event of a change in government in the state? 

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