DPR of Vijayawada Metro raises doubts on the immediate viability of the project

Vijayawada (BZA): Notwithstanding the hoop and hoopla prevailed over the metro train chugging through Vijayawada city, the Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has sowed the seeds of doubts about the very viability of the project without levying additional burden on the people. Academicians fear that government might choose to impose additional cess/surcharges to fill the viability gap even before launching the project.

Tax payers association has cautioned the government against rushing with the metro train project with the existing design as it is going to leave huge burden on the exchequer and also people. The Union urban development ministry, which promised to support the metro train projects in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam, has cleverly escaped from the burden by routing its intension through DPR.

In the DPR, DMRC suggested that State and Central government should take 20 percent each burden and pool up remaining from the markets through loans. In fact, DMRC exceeded its brief on the issue of finances as it is not its job to suggest who should take how much burden. Its responsibility is to prepare estimated costs and leave the issue of mobilization of funds to the State government, which assigned the task to it. State government has lost an opportunity to bring pressure on Centre to grant of at least 50 percent of the cost due to the unwanted suggestion of DMRC on sharing of burdens.

As per the DMRC formula, the Centre and State governments would take about Rs.2400 crore (Rs.1200 crore each) burden and mobilse the remaining Rs.3800 crore of the total estimated cost of Rs.6200 crore from the markets. “Borrowing huge monies from the markets is nothing but penalizing the tax payers,” observed charted accountant M Subbarao. Projects like JNNURM and BRTS too have failed to give desired results and pushed the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation into deep debt burden even when the Centre took a share of 50 percent as the state government failed to release its share of 30 percent. “One could imagine the fate of the Metro project if the Centre confined to funding just 20 percent. Venkaiah Naidu seemed to have influenced the DMRC to come out with such a report as DMRC is working under his ministry,” alleged city congress president Malladi Vishnu. Interestingly, DMRC stated that the Rate of Return (profitability margin) of Vijayawada metro would be just around 3.07 percent against the minimum requirement of 16-20 percent.

“It is not only viable but not desired at the moment,” sad Tax payers association secretary MV Anjaneyulu. He said that proposed metro train project would make the city further congested instead of expanding the city horizon. Cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata required Metro as those cities were spread over 60-80km radius with a population of over one crore. On the other hand, Vijayawada city is not spread over even 20km with a population of just 10 lakh, said. He observed that it would take at least a decade for the city to add another 10 lakh population even after the location of the capital city.

Even in the limited city, DMRC proposed to take up just 12-13km stretch of metro, which would no way resolve the traffic woes of the people, said Anjaneyulu. “Metro should be focused on connecting interior areas with the city to make city grow. Do they want people to reside already thickly populated Bandar road and Eluru road areas,” asked urban transport expert Abdul Rehman. He said that it was unscientific to take the passenger traffic of APSRTC bus station and railway station to project the Metro train traffic. “A person from Ajith Singh Nagar who wanted to reach railway station, will continue to depend either on auto or bus service as he can’t catch Metro close to his residential area.

How can you account for all such people as possible metro passengers?” he asked. Instead of fancying for metro, government should be first try to connect the city with sub-urban with a train network to help the poor living in the outskirts enter city in search of work, said economics professor DAR Subramanyam. Tax payers secretary Anjaneyulu said that existing traffic woes of city could be eased with just 10 percent of the proposed cost of metro by completing the construction of flyover at Benz circle, Kanakadurga temple and widening of a couple of roads. “Metro is not right solution to ease traffic congestion at his particular juncture.

It will levy unnecessary burden on people,” he said. Most of the metro train projects in the country were running with deep losses despite having resources to pocked revenues through commercial spaces as the projects itself high cost intensive, said an engineering official at VMC. He said that private firm, which took the Airport to railway station stretch in Delhi on PPP basis, is struggling to manage its finances and trying to handover the project back to DMRC. In fact, metro project advisor E Sreedharan himself admitted that the concepts of BOT, PPP and Privatisation have all failed to take off in the country in Metro projects. Then, who is going to take the burden? Centre, State or People? Over to Naidu Square.