By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, December 10, 2017: ‘Bhubaneswar is choking and the government is joking!’ It is possibly a fair description of the state of the Capital at present.

Latest studies show that at present the city is recording an alarming level of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in air. According to prescribed standard, the SPM shouldn’t exceed 100 micro gram per metre cube, but samples taken by Odisha State Pollution Control Board show SPM between 180 and 200 micro gram per metre cube.

These data reflect the present situation; the Temple City is rapidly becoming a bowl of dust and smoke. The unprecedented increase in the number of two- and four-wheelers, auto rickshaws, narrow roads, poor engineering practice during road widening schemes or road works are some of the main factors turning Bhubaneswar into ‘Smug City”.

Experts say that an ultimate solution to these problems is the introduction of a mass rapid transit line through an electrified metro rail system in the Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The state government has realised the need for a new mode of transport and signed a contract with Balaji Railroad Systems Ltd. (BARSYL) on 23 August 2014 for preparation of a detailed project report for a mass rapid transit system (MRTS) Monorail project between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack covering 30 km.

The Urban Transport planners concede that the Twin City is in need of a mass rapid transit system covering a wide part of the city, which can operate efficiently at a much greater capacity.

A metro rail with a transport capacity of 10,000 to 50,000 passengers per direction per hour is required to meet present and future traffic needs with less on ground foot print to avoid interference with road users. This applies particularly to the major transport arteries that will be built through and around the central areas of the Twin City.

However, the progress of preparation of DPR is very slow and till now draft DPR is not ready due to lack of coordination between the government officials and BARSYL. As per Indian scenario, a MRTS system needs 5 to10 years to commence its operation from inception date leading to massive escalation of cost and resources.

It is high time to plan an efficient mass transit system to keep the intercity roads congestion free at horizon year 2025 level. The area within the proposed future Ring Road is the central zone of activity with major businesses and government administrative centres; it is also home to approximately 1.5 million people for such a congested and densely populated region.

Previously proposed monorail system would not be adequate due to technical complexity. To deal with Twin City’s current and future transport chaos, immediate development of a Rail based light metro system is essential, Urban Transit system experts requesting anonymity opined.

A light metro rail system with Bus Corridor Integration is a best fit solution to the Twin City. The success of such a rail system is evident in Delhi, Jaipur. The metro system can be developed along with elevated road and bus corridor in single Structure and double level to save scarce valuable urban land.

A light metro rail system is essential for the regeneration of the Twin City. Once built, such transport infrastructure will become a societal asset for generations. Such assets should be sufficiently resilient and their planning should be relevant for at least the next 40 horizon year’s adherent to Vision-2030 papers of Bhubaneswar city suggested by IIT, Kharagpur.

A cheaper solution such as monorail is attractive and may work in the short-term, but the Twin City needs a sustainable transportation system with compatibility with higher passenger demand of future growth period of 30-40 year. The benefits of an effective rail transportation infrastructure is clear—it will boost economic growth, create jobs, regenerate communities, connect people and places, enhance the quality of life and foster environmental sustainability.

This will boost the Socio Economic development of the MRTS corridor in the new and untouched region of Bhubaneswar Cuttack Urban Complex.

The expenditure per kilometer is estimated at Rs 150 crore for elevated Light Metro. The total project outlay is pegged at Rs 5000 crore, 50% of which will be borne by the central government under the Urban Transport Planning scheme and the other 50% by the state government. An optimised design with combination of elevated and at grade (surface) alignment of Light Rail could be executable at 100-120 Crores per kilometer cost.

“MRTS is imperative for a Smart City. Sooner we have the DPR ready, the MRTS project can take off. As the project is still under the department of urban development, it should hasten the process of finalising the DPR to provide sustainable passenger transport solution to the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack city”

The city is eagerly waiting for this smart initiative to take shape.