Kolkata Metro officials to visit Hyderabad Metro to learn best practices

Kolkata: While Kolkata’s flagship project, the East West Metro fell victim to government apathy, work for the Hyderabad Metro Rail Project, being built with private funds, is going on in full swing overcoming initial hurdles.  Work has been completed for about 16 km of the 72-km long stretch and officials are hopeful that services between the first eight stations would begin by March 2015. “We might finish even ahead of our timeline – 2016-17,” said Mr NVS Reddy, the Managing Director of the Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited. It is being implemented on DBFOT (design-build-finance-operate-transfer) basis and will come back to the government after 35 years.

While the East West Metro Corridor Project ran into a land acquisition hurdle, particularly over the Central Station at BB Ganguly Street, in case of Hyderabad Metro, similar problems were overcome by adopting an “unconventional” approach. For instance acquiring 100 acres for the Uppal depot led to protests but the farmers were convinced to come together and pool all the 850 odd acres, till then utilised for growing fodder. “We required around 200 acres, 100 acres each went to the water board and Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, the rest 450 acres were developed by us and redistributed among farmers. As the land value increased every one of them is now a crorepati. It was a win-win situation for all of us,” said Mr Reddy. Even now and then there are problems of encroachment and agitations which are being tackled by HMRL, though mostly government lands are being used for setting up the facilities.

But what clinched the issue for the Hyderabad Metro is the unstinted support it had received from successive state governments. Contrary to the East West Metro which was abandoned by the current regime because of being perceived as a Left Front’s baby, the Hyderabad Metro conceived during the regime of Mr N Chandrababu Naidu received unstinted support even when the Congress came to power. Unlike other cities Hyderabad Metro, a fully elevated one, is primarily a state government project with L&T as the private partner. “We have worked under four chief ministers and 10 chief secretaries and received absolute support,” said Mr Reddy who promised a green but faster mass transit system with adequate room for cyclists, other non-motorised transport and pedestrian facilities.

Despite the political uncertainty rocking the state, the Telengana protests and scepticism among many about the project’s viability, it is the support from the state government which has helped this public-private-partnership (PPP) project to be back on the rails. There was a time when the financial bidding had to be postponed six times due to political uncertainty. The Satyam scam and Delhi Metro’s architect, Dr E Sreedharan’s biting public criticism of the private funding against government land had almost but derailed it. “Now even the government departments are ready to give up land for the project as we offered to rebuild their dilapidated buildings at our cost. We widened roads from our own funds and tried to gain people’s confidence,” says Mr Reddy. He conceded that they could be flexible on rehabilitation only because of the PPP model. So Hyderabad seems to have stolen a march over Kolkata – India’s first city with a Metro rail.