Friday, April 27, 2012

Metro gives Larsen & Toubro monopoly over city transport
B V Shiv Shankar, Times of India, Hyderabad, Apr 27, 2012,

HYDERABAD: While Hyderabad metro rail is expected to be the panacea to the growing traffic congestion in the city, the urban rail services can sound the death knell to other public transportsystems already in place in the city due to a monopoly clause granted by the state to Larsen & Toubro, the private partner, through the concession agreement.

The clause in the 
concession agreement restricts the government from developing or improving the public transport system along the stretch of the three corridors- Miyapur to LB Nagar (corridor-I), Jubilee Bus Station to Falaknuma (corridor-II) and Nagole to Shiplaramam (corridor-III) - where the metro rail is taking shape. This would mean that there would be no scope for the improvement of the city bus service or MMTS (Multi-Model Transport System) that has emerged as a popular mode of urban rail transport.

The concession agreement says: "The government shall not construct any rail or road transport system between, inter alia, the three metro corridors" for a period of 35 years from the date the metro rail becomes operational. Further, L&T is entitled to an additional concession period of another 35 years. That means that the state government cannot develop any other public transport system for over 70 years without the consent of the private engineering company.

More startlingly, the concession agreement even restricts the government from revising the fare for the public transport or extending discounts or reductions in the fare and in the event of breach of these provisions, the government is liable to pay compensation to L&T under the latter's terms.

This clause can go against the state government and can end up acting against the interests of the commuter for whose benefit the metro rail has been conceived. This is because at a delay of Rs 5 crore per day in the construction of the project, keeping in mind the factors of the prevailing rate of inflation, insurance, currency fluctuation and rate of interest on the escalated project cost, the basic fare of the metro rail is expected to be around Rs 14 as of April 1, 2016. This would mean that the commuter would have to pay a high price for travelling on the metro rail even as the state would be helpless in improving the other modes of transport.

Charging that these provisions of the concession agreement are in violation of the Competition Act 2002, members of civil society, who have already petitioned the AP High Court against Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL) on the charges of changing the alignment unilaterally, are now mulling moving the Competition Commission. "The provisions made in the concession agreement are monopolistic and are in defiance of the Competition Act. We are planning to complain to the Competition Commission," said Prof C Ramachandriah, who is spearheading the agitation against metro rail project.

While citing a similarity of the Hyderabad metro rail case with that of the Bangalore International Airport (BIA) that is facing a case under the Monopolistic Trade Practice Act after it insisted upon the closure of the government-run HAL airport in the city, Ramachandriah said curtailing the growth of public sector companies to suit the needs of private companies was unfair. A petition filed by Vivek Kulkarni, a former IAS officer, against BIA, is pending in the Karnataka high court.

However, authorities in HMRL said the 
metro rail service would only supplement the existing public transport system, and, hence, would not violate the Competition Act. "We are making use of the city buses as the feeder service for the metro rail. There is no question of treating it as our competitor," said a senior officer in the HMRL. An e-mail query to the L&T did not elicit reply.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

HMR told to seek public opinion on metro rail

Seek public opinion on metro rail: High Court to Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited
Times of India,  Apr 18, 2012
HYDERABAD: A division bench of the high court on Tuesday asked both the authorities of Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL), the state government and various other stakeholders including the owners of the properties which are being acquired for the project, to work out within a week a model through which the responsibility of eliciting public opinion is fulfilled and the project moves from its initial phase to the next stage.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by HMRL against the order of a 
single judge staying the ongoing project work. The judge found fault with the authorities for not hearing the public before going ahead with the project work. The stay was granted following a petition filed by the owners of the properties.

The metro rail authorities showed the details of the project to the bench comprising 
Chief JusticeMadan B Lokur and Justice P V Sanjay Kumar on Tuesday through a power point presentation.

D V Sitarama Murthy, 
senior counsel for the property owners, said that the project was completely shrouded in mystery as the officials displayed a scant regard for a democratic approach. "Their arrogance in refusing even to listen to us is disturbing," he said. "Their attempt to describe it as a tramway is also not correct," he said and added that the project was very much a metro rail. The dangerous curves in the proposed line between Ameerpet and Shilparamam were a result of change of alignments. In crowded areas, the options of underground rail should be considered, he said. The chief justice asked both the authorities and the petitioners to work out a model through which public opinion on the project could be elicited. "It's not possible to hear half of Hyderabad now. Therefore, it would be better for each side to nominate experts to put forward their opinion during the public hearing," he said.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's tramway, not metro rail

It's tramway, not metro rail
B.V. Shiv Shankar, Times of India, Apr 15, 2012.
HYDERABAD: Is Hyderabad going to have a metro rail or a glorified toy train chugging through the city at a snail's pace? In a surprising declaration before the AP high court, Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL) Managing Director,  N V S Reddy said that though the project is named as metro rail, in reality, it is a tramway. This was stated in the writ petition filed in the high court on April 9 seeking the vacation of the stay imposed by a single bench of the court last month on the works on the stretch between Ameerpet and Jubilee Hills of corridor 3 (Nagole-Shilparamam) of the 'metro rail' project.

"Hyderabad Metro Rail project is a tramway and that merely the project is named as metro rail will not cease to be a tramway," N V S Reddy said in the petition. What Reddy meant was that instead of a rapid mass transport that is supposed to be a panacea for the city's growing traffic problem, what actually taking shape is a low potential tramway.
"With the advancement of technology, it is possible to bring a tramway at an elevated level and it was valid because the service is only meant for intra-city traffic unlike a rail system that is meant for inter-city long-distance traffic," N V S Reddy said in the writ petition. HMRL's appeal seeking the vacation of the stay is slated to be heard by the division bench of Chief JusticeMadan B Lokur and Justice P V Sanjay Kumar on April 17.

Experts feel a tramway can never match a metro rail in terms of handling traffic load and speed. While the metro rail - a rapid mass transit system -has a maximum speed of 120 km per hour and an average speed of 80 kmph, a tramway can travel at a maximum speed of 40 km per hour and will have an average speed of a mere 20-25 kmph!

As far as the traffic capacity is concerned, a metro train can handle 50,000 passengers per hour per direction (PPD) at peak hours, while a tramway's capacity is just 4,000 passengers per hour per direction. Normally, a tramway is suitable for short-distance public transport carrying low passenger load with low speed and coal mines where the services are used to transport workers from one side to other and in amusement parks.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

L&T stays away from Metro site tour

L&T stays away from Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited site tour
Times of India,| Apr 7, 2012.
HYDERABAD: While Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL) claimed on Friday that the project was well on course, representatives of Larsen & Toubro, the project contractor, were conspicuous by their absence when the site inspection was conducted. 

Sources in L&T said the company was insisting on addressing critical issues like getting the HC stay vacated on the works in the stretch between Ameerpet and Jubilee Hills, which is a part of Corridor-III between Nagole and Shilparamam, before claiming that all was well as far as the progress of the project was concerned.

HMRL took the media on a tour to Miyapur where it acquired 104 acres of land for the project, recently, after the high court gave its nod to fresh notification for the land acquisition. Legislators Jayaprakash Narayan
 and Bhikshapathi Yadav, representing Kukatpally and Serilingampally, through which the metro rail passes, accompanied the team. 

A highly-placed source in the L&T said the company was not interested in being present at the event as it would convey a wrong message that the project work had begun when, actually, it was not the case. "Preparatory works are not the actual works and people must not be confused about it. Our participation would have created that confusion and, therefore, we stayed away," said the source.

The sources in the L&T said the company was particularly concerned about the court stay on the works on the stretch between Ameerpet and Jubilee Hills as the court had made some serious observations about the modalities of dealing with the project when it gave the stay order last month. The court has said: "There is a serious lacuna in the very launching of the project, under the AP Tramways Act, although it is almost a full-fledged railway."

While HMRL is taking time to file an appeal in the court asking for vacation of the stay in the backdrop of the court's scathing remarks, L&T is understood to have expressed its concerned over the delay. "HMRL's priority should have been to take efforts to vacate the stay instead of conducting the site visits that would not take us anywhere at this stage," said the sources in L&T.

Replying to media query relating to the issue at the site visit, NVS Reddy, managing director of HMRL, said the efforts were on to tackle all the legal issues pending. "I would not like to talk about the stay order at this juncture as it would be sub judice. But, I am sure that we can convince the court that we are on right track and there is no doubt 
in our mind that the project will face any hurdles on its way." 

Sources in the HMRL said they were studying the court's order and would take some more time before filing the appeal as it had to be done critically well considering the court's remarks.

Apart from the stay order there are many issues to be resolved before handing over the entire Right of Way (ROW) to the L&T. While HMRL is yet to acquire 15.5 acres of land, earmarked for the project in Osmania University,
 the project evoked violent protests in Sultan Bazar area that comes in the. Besides, HMRL Road widening is yet to be done at various parts along the stretch of the planned alignment of the project.