PUNE: The in-principle approval of the Pune metro rail project heralds the possibility of an infusion of new life into the city’s challenged infrastructure. The metro has the potential to overcome the limitations of Pune’s road network.
Going by available figures, the two planned corridors – the 16.59 km stretch from PCMC to Swargate and the 14.92 km stretch from Vanaz to Ramwadi – will help in reducing the stagnation that plagues some parts of the city. And yet, the metro’s implementation will only touch the tip of the iceberg.
Looking at the current picture, the infrastructure in many inner locations of Pune has hit a roadblock. This is especially true for older traditional localities, from which development spreads outwards like spokes from a hub. Getting into and out of these areas, especially at peak traffic hours, is a big issue. In other words, the metro will address only a miniscule part of Pune’s requirement for better, more efficient public transport.
The marking of the metro’s routes has already been provisioned in the latest development plan. Altogether, the Pune metro blueprint appears to envision 30 stations in the first and second phases with 15 of these along the Vanaz-Ramwadi corridor to be elevated, while five stations along the Chinchwad-Swargate corrdior to be underground. These five underground stations at Shivajinagar, ASI, PMC, Budhwar Peth, Mahatma Phule Mandai and Swargate would play a pivotal role in the overall easing of Pune’s commuting issues.
The metro will also add a level of comfort to public transportation, given that it provides air conditioning and generous standing space and also does away with the torture of sudden braking. The 360-degree implementation of both the metro phases will not be without challenges. As we have already witnessed in Mumbai, the very establishment of the base infrastructure for such services is liable to bring with it major disruptions in real-time commuting for Pune’s citizens.
The metro is a not a catch-all solution to Pune’s transportation needs. Without roads of sufficient capacity, public transport penetration into the core areas of the city will remain a problem. The constant congestion of the available roads by private and public transport vehicles has subtracted significantly from the livability quotient of the inner city locations. Pune continues to hold the dubious distinction of being one of the most polluted cities. In areas like Shivajinagar, the volume of traffic has long since caused air-suspended particulate matter readings to be far in excess of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard.
Lack of cohesive and comprehensive infrastructure, especially in terms of intra-city connectivity, is becoming a bigger problem for Pune with every passing year. Bureaucratic hurdles for implementation of pending or deferred undertakings must be removed. The Pune metro – while a laudable and noteworthy undertaking – is only the beginning of a long journey towards bringing the city up to ‘speed’.