Despite state government’s tall claims, the proposed metro rail is unlikely to be one answer to city’s many traffic ills. Instead, it only going to add to traffic congestion, not just during construction but even afterwards. For, many activists say that the govenment has failed to show vision in planning the tracks for the project, particularly the Secunderabad-Hi-Tec City corridor, which the DMRC has termed it as “not feasible.” Besides, the clause to levy premium rates during peak hours of traffic, may go against the concept of “affordable public transport”.
Hyderabad: Is the government suffering from vision impairment? Buried in a sea of files is a crucial document that is curiously not visible to the powers that be. A detailed project report submitted by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, the original consultant of the Hyderabad metro project, states clearly that the Secunderabad-Hi-Tec City corridor is “not feasible as a fully elevated corridor from engineering point of view due to steep gradients, large number of ups and downs along the alignment and presence of flyovers on the route”.
The vision problem is not limited to the ignored DMRC recommendation alone. The government and metro rail authorities are also unable to visualise 70-feet tall pillars, 11-feet in diameter standing right in the middle of busy junctions on this stretch holding the metro rail track, even as the traffic would crawl in its shadow, manoeuvring its way around the towering pillars. Worse, despite the government’s tall claims, the metro rail is not going to ease traffic congestion. Why? Well, the answer lies in a government order itself issued a couple of months ago which gave the developer, L&T, the freedom to levy a `premium’ ticket rate on peak hour commuters, defying the very concept of `affordable public transport’.
But before discussing the ticket pricing, activists and Hyderabad-lovers point out the other aspects that the powers that be are glossing over. Threatening to throw traffic and city life out of gear is the Secunderabad-Hi-Tech City corridor, and not only during its under construction period when traffic on this arterial road would come to a grinding halt. After it takes shape, the rail track would be adjacent to flyovers on the Paradise-Begumpet stretch, and the metro would be whistling its way through many commercial properties, turning them invisible and thus ringing their death knell. Owners of establishments here are at their wits end. Ask the managing director of Varun Motors, Prabhu Kishore, and he rues how his Begumpet outlet (next to the flyover) lost 700 square yards to road widening and flyover expansion and fears what he stands to lose with the metro rail project.
The stretch is curiously laid out. The Secunderabad-Hi-Tec City route will pass through Parade Grounds, then cross the HPS stretch and reach Lifestyle building. At the Greenland signal, it would turn towards Ameerpet, go up to Maitrivanam and then move to Yousufguda checkpost, Krishna Nagar and then Jubilee Hills checkpost before touching Hi-Tec City.
Activists say, the government has shown its lack of vision. “The suburban rail connects Secunderabad to Begumpet. What is the point of this track,” questions activist M Mandal. He pertinently notes that the government could have done well by increasing the frequency of trains on this route. “It would serve the same purpose at a much lesser cost,” Mandal says. Activists also note how the Parade Grounds view will be completely hampered.
Moreover, the metro rail would have better served the city, without disrupting its traffic, had it planned “around” the city, as against at its very centre. “If it had corridors say on the same lines as the Outer Ring Road, circling the city and also connecting the new developing parts to it, it would have served a better purpose. Also, the city would have been spared of nightmare of massive construction activity on busy roads,” notes Krishna Nagar resident B Shankar Prasad, who shudders at the thought of the metro rail’s corridor stretching between Maitrivanam towards Yousufguda checkpost via Krishna Nagar.
So, why did the planners of the project refuse to consider such options? Well, apart from the vision impairment, there are also commercial interests that they are trying to protect, allege activists. “They don’t want it to circle the city as the idea is to kill RTC. There is a `competition clause’ in the concession agreement which states that no other public transport projects would be taken on the stretches that are being covered by the three metro corridors,” says RTI activist Umesh Varma. Clearly, the whole reasoning for the metro rail’s current plan of tearing through the city has been made keeping not commuters but the business interest of the developer, which was originally the now disgraced Ramalinga Raju of Maytas, in mind.
Unlike the activism in Sultan Bazaar, which has found the support of even TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao, the property owners on the Secunderabad-Hi tec City stretch are still gathering information before they put up a protest. Establishments here have been visited by metro officials to do soil testing but they haven’t been informed yet of any construction work. “It is worrisome for us as our property is going to get affected. About a month ago, officials had come to do some measurements, but we did not allow them as they did not even have a notification. They are assuming that these private properties are already theirs,” said the manager of a commercial venture, located in the busy Begumpet-Paradise stretch.
The sentiment of property owners on this stretch is only an indication for long drawn battles that await the authorities once they start acquiring land on this stretch. And each day lost in handing over land to L&T, would add to the heavy penalty (already running into crores of rupees) the government is bound to pay for delaying this process.
The developer’s business interest that has played a crucial role in the way the metro rail has been planned. The commuter appears incidental. The ticket pricing GO (Ms No. 127) issued on April 13, 2011, has a detailed section on peak and off-peak hours fare. In this section, the government gives the developer the liberty to charge a premium of 25 per cent on tickets for peak hour travel adding up to four hours everyday. Well, the GO also states that off-peak hour travel would attract a discount. But traffic experts are flummoxed. They say that in other countries, the toll tax collected from car users on busy stretches during peak hours is high, which is to encourage the use of public transport. But it is just the opposite here. Peak hour travel will be expensive for metro users!
Activists rue that the metro rail chief, NVS Reddy, is flitting in and out of meetings with industry bodies showcasing the metro project to them. Another sector supporting metro rail is that of realtors who believe that the project would help appreciate land rates in the twin cities. The CM has put his weight behind it, possibly sensing a more serious resistance to the project with TRS joining the anti-metro activism. In this melee, the only ignored voice is that of the “people of Hyderabad’ who have not been met even once by the government or metro rail authorities even as the plot to turn their lives upside down gets only thicker.
Secunderabad to Hi-Tech City – 16 km (approx)
Passing Through: 13 Areas
Route Map – Paradise – Rasoolpura – Prakash Nagar – Begumpet – Ameerpet – Madhura Nagar – Yousufguda – Road No. 5, Jubilee Hills – Jubilee Hills check post – Pedamma Temple – Madhapur – COD (Centre for Organisation and Development) – Hi Tec city
Busiest Areas on the stretch: Greenland, Ameerpet, Maitrivanam, Krishna Nagar, Pedamma Temple, Hi-Tec City. TOI