Why the metro could fail in state capitals

By Ajit Chak

Call it a rip off of the DMRC it is known as the LMRC and there are good chances that it will end up as an ornamental underground toy train unless there are incentives to use in the city of nawabs which is Lucknow.
Whoever decided to make Lucknow a smart city made a big blunder as the city is full of only a few things called howlers. It has a flyover on the road to Sitapur near the IIM crossing which actually falls on the wrong side of the road. This bridge should have been demolished and the engineer responsible jailed but things do not go this way in some smart cities. Chandigarh however is an exception to the rule, but again even Chandigarh can do without a metro and for such small state capitals it is imperative that planners rethink the concept of the metro.
The metro has been hugely successful in Delhi and will continue to be hugely successful there as it eases travel, reduces travel time and takes people places without having to bother about where they will park their car or their bike.
Apart from this it provides a fast and easy way to reach places as far off as 40 km from one another in a matter of minutes. These are the reasons and some others why people prefer to use the metro in Delhi rather than drive a car, ride a motorbike or scooter and use a bus or an auto or Uber and Ola. For one the metro is far cheaper to use than most of these modes of transport. Supertowns like Delhi, known now as the NCR is also seeing an influx of migrants from all over the nation. They come to work on limited salaries in the private sector, they do not have their personal vehicles and they wish to save money and send home some to folks back home. This is another incentive to use the metro.
To make it easy to use the metro the city has allowed E-rickshaws, autos and buses to back up and provide easy access to metro stations. The metro is a success because it has been built to solve a problem the city was facing. Do the small statecapitals of India have the same problem and will the metro succeed there or end up as place for romantic teens to meet?
The basic premise on which the metro was built in Delhi is being ignored by town planners in most cities which is why the metro may not have the same fate there as it has in Delhi.
There are two things going on in small state capitals. For one the ones like Bhopal and Lucknow are facing traffic snarl ups and delays and traffic jams but these are more due to other factors and not just the absence of a metro.
Lucknow is a city where teens drive motorbikes without helmets unlike Chandigarh. Hardly anyone wears a seat belt while driving a car and so on. People cut across the road as they please and come from the wrong side as a practice instead of following traffic rules while driving. They do this because it is convenient to come from the wrong side and no one objects least of all the policewallah.
Finally who would the commuter in the metro be? Students who use the E Rickshaw may switch to the metro but not the scooty variety. There is no influx of migrants into the city to do jobs so again another category of metro user is missing and finally the migrants who have come have come from Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, and brought with them their SUVs and guards. They will not like to use the metro. Government officials can be safely ruled out.
However the metro could play a big role in making state capitals livable and not living hells. To do this the town planners and the transport planners need to work together. There are two things going on in states. The railway network which connected small towns is degrading from bad to worse and faces chaos and indiscipline. Its ageing technology makes it unsafe and the systems to run it are mired in red tape.
The metro could link and decongest state capitals by linking them with satellite townships. Take the case of Lucknow most government offices could be shifted to Barabanki or Etaunjaor Itariya and the metro could be used to link up the area. Mathura could be connected with metro to the Central Secretariat in Delhi and this would speed up development in Mathura and lead to a better quality of life for those who work in the Central Secretariat as they need not live in Lajpatnagarto be close to it. Close may no longer mean distance but may mean time taken to reach a destination.
The planners of metros in small state capitals need to realise that the metro and its ability to connect small towns with the state capital also needs to be exploited as it may not be financially possible for any government UPA or NDA to reinvent the railways fast enough for anyone in India to safely enjoy comfort, safety and speed while travelling.


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