Suddenly the much hyped Pune metro railway seems to be a dubious proposition - primarily due to the unholy haste with which the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has granted approval to the project and is now seeking state and central funding.
The two glaring questions that have arisen are - can a municipal corporation which cannot run a city bus service efficiently be trusted to manage a highly complex operation like a metro rail network; and, is there really a need for a metro railway, especially at a stupendous cost of over Rs 10,000 crores of public money.
In fact, there is no point in even debating whether the projections are right, or the calculations based on accurate studies. What makes more sense is to use existing resources and infrastructure and funds to provide a public mass-transportation service which will efficiently serve the needs of the existing population and continue to remain viable for the next 20 or 30 years.
For a fraction of the cost of the metro rail project, the city can acquire a few hundred buses - something that the PMC has been sleeping on for a very long time. It is pertinent to note that the civic body which has not been able to put a simple Bus Rapid Transportation project in place in the last two years is dreaming of a metro railway.
The issue here is this - there are several much cheaper options available; options that would be cheaper and easier to operate and maintain than a complex metro rail network. Has the PMC examined these options ? Has it taken an educated and informed decision ? Has it considered the long term implications of creating a metro railway ? Is the PMC eminently qualified to take such decisions in isolation ?
Take for instance the costing itself. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had given an estimate of less than Rs 10,000 crores for the entire project, based on September 2008 prices. The PMC’s estimate for the first phase alone is Rs 6000 crores.
What is becoming increasingly clear is the fact that it is the corporators who are hankering after the project. It is public knowledge that mega projects mean mega contracts. And mega contracts mean mega benefits and spin offs.
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