Citizens' Issues
Mumbai Monorail: Tall claims & the reality

Mumbai Monorail's passenger carrying capacity per hour per direction is just 6,292 and not 20,000 as claimed by MMRDA. Similarly, with so many sharp bends and stations spaced at about a kilometre, the maximum speed of Monorail will be nowhere near 80kmph but will barely touch 45kmph

On a day when the first Monorail in the country has started running, should there be introspection on the decision taken and aspirations being raised to other cities in the country? Serious introspection is needed because there is a gross misinformation being propagated by the authorities (i) to justify the decision and (ii) to market the monorail system in India.
 

Point to ask by all cities and also state governments and the central government is, why has Maharashtra Government put the 185km of monorail system planned for Mumbai Metropolitan Region, including Mumbai region into cold storage? Very recently there was a news item that said that due to financial constraints, the Mumbai Metro Line-3 will get delayed in starting.
 

Who is governing Mumbai? Should not a Mumbaikar decide what should be provided for her mobility? When barely 3% of Mumbai population is using motorcars, why should all infrastructures being considered for car users? And when public transport is being considered, why are only capital intensive ones being thought of which also have low capacities and very long implementation time in a city that is heavily dense not just population wise but from underground utility services points of view also?
 

If one simply considers the time taken to construct the 8.8km and subsequent 11.2km of monorail and similarly for the 11.4km of Mumbai Metro One, the average implementation time seems to be not less than 50 years for 100km route.
 

Then what is the solution to Mumbai’s mobility problem? Well, the government may begin by making all transportation projects with people in mind and provide safe, comfortable and efficient systems by prioritizing walking, cycling and the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) and bring about real democracy reflected on roads. What we need is Sustainable Urban Mobility. The aam aadmi must be provided the basic facilities which in fact are also of low capital costs. Just to give an idea, The underground Metro in Mumbai will cost Rs2,000 crore  per km, elevated Metro- Rs500 crore/km, The Monorail is costing Rs150 crore/km and BRTS will cost less than Rs25 crore/km. Yes, just Rs25 crore/km including the rolling stock for a capacity of 40,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) (check with Bogota- they have achieved 47,000 pphpd).
 


Table A gives the cost breakup for the Monorail as it was contracted to the consortium of Scomi. The current figures, it is gathered is Rs3,000 crore not Rs2,460 crore. Table B gives the computation of the capacity of the Monorail. The claim of 20,000 pphpd by MMRDA is misleading as the capacity is barely 6,292 pphpd. Table 3 gives comparison of reality and MMRDA Claims. With stations spaced at about a kilometre, the maximum speed will be nowhere near 80kmph but barely touch 45kmph. With so many sharp bends, the average of 30kmph considered by MMRDA needs to be seriously revisited.

All this leads to only one consideration. There has to be total transparency by the government agencies in placing before public and hold public consultations before deciding upon what is being done, for whom is it being done and whether there are any alternatives.

 

(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07).  He is member of the committee constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the suburban railways system friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011- ). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy.)

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COMMENTS

shadi katyal

3 years ago

It is a well written article with some data but why so negative. People do need to move and even at this speed they are better off.

there is nothing about the breakdown when it happens and how people will be evacuated.
It is a good start and may help the mobility

Amarendra Sahay

3 years ago

MUMBAI HAS VERY LITTLE SPACE FOR ROADS. IF THAT IS CHOKED BY BRTS THEN THE CONFUSION WHICH IS OCCURRING IN NEW DELHI WILL BE MULTIPLIED MANY FOLD. THE SUCCESS STORY IS AHMEDABAD WITH BRT BEING ON NOT THE INNER CITY ROAD BUT ELSEWHERE. OTHER TRAFFIC ON TEH ROADS IS NOT SO DENSE.
INDIA HAS ENOUGH EXPERIENCE IN BRT AND RAIL BASED SYSTEMS BY NOW TO DECIDE THE MOST EFFECTIVE PUBLIC TRANSPORT AND NOT BEING SWAYED BY THE SHINY PAMPHLETS PUBLISHED BY THE FORIGN COMPANIES SELLING THEIR WARES AND SERVICES.

Raksh Pal Abrol

3 years ago

The issue of Mumbai Monorail is still in dispute.The BEST is empowered to provide Electrical Energy under the BOMBAY ELECTRICAL licence,1905 to Railways,monorail and it does form part of Transport undertaking after 1965.The Reliance Infrastructure Limited have no license to provide electrical energy in South Mumbai from 30th May,1930.The Tata Power Company has broken the ties with RINFRA in the year 2008 and Supreme Court has over ruled the issue under Article 19(1)(g)claomed by RInfra.The RInfra has neither set up their own Transmission and Distribution between Chembur and Wadala of Extra High Tension and High Tension system during 2003 to 2014.S.C. has over ruled any OPen Access in BEST Area,after 2003,by MERC and APTEL.Under which provisions the target will reach of providing Bus Rapid Transit System(BRTS)and 20.000 passenger per hour per direcion,when the total capacity of mono rail is just 560.Source of Power not ascertain.Tata and BEST cannot divert the supply to Mono Rail managed by MMRDA or by RInfra.They are liable to wheeling charges as determined by MERC.

Dr Anantha K Ramdas

3 years ago

Looks like somebody wants to make millions every year for 50 years or more!

Like the author said, it is better to go in for road transport, widen the roads and increase frequency.

Hope CAG is looking at this developing scam?

Melroy C F Fernandes

3 years ago

Good analysis by Mr.Badami.
I wish to lay emphasis on particularly 2 aspects that he has pointed out. The over-spending on roads to benefit the ,usually single occupant,2 wheeler and 4 wheeler industry over that of mass transport systems. And, the encouragement of walking or cycling over short distances where mass transports cannot reach.I would add that pooling of taxis and rickshaws should be encouraged instead of single occupant hiring of taxis and rickshaws.

Raman Sehgal

3 years ago

Excellent Analysis on technical aspects. However we must way in PPHPD achieved in operational BRT corridors (like Ahmedabad and Delhi) versus PPHPD achieved in a metro corridor in a metropoliitian city. Also BRT concept in Delhi has totally failed with inconvience at maximum for general public. Therefore we probably must explore even cost effective model like LRT in India which is successful in other parts of the world and has much lower cost/Km in comparision to Metro/monorails.

sivasankaran

3 years ago

higher the project cost, higher will be the commission to the politicians and the officials.that makes such projects viable to them

Simple Indian

3 years ago

With a population like India has in every major city, let alone metros like Mumbai/Delhi, monorail can never be part of any RTS. At best, it will enable passengers travelling by taxis to opt for monorail. Moreover, the monorail route plan is so strange, it doesn't cater to most commuters who have predictable travel routes. What Mumbai needs is more East-West links. A metro-rail / BRTS connecting, say Borivali to Thane, or Andheri-Kurla-Vashi will have far more takers than a Wadala-Chembur-Worli route.
Also, town planners should focus on providing for adequate commuting options BEFORE people settle down, rather than build infrastructure AFTER millions have settled and encroached upon even public land originally meant for public transport systems. Navi Mumbai is better planned, but has its woes thanks to limited connectivity with the island city of Mumbai.

Ramesh Poapt

3 years ago

Very good article! Thanks Moneylife..Its different!

PATTABHI

3 years ago

Will this end up as another scam?

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Emerging markets turmoil: Danger or opportunity?

The combination of higher interest rates, economic slow down, and poor information means that the revelation of the true health of emerging markets-EM financial systems will not surface until the problems are too large to hide

Last week markets fell. Most of the pull back was blamed on turbulence in emerging market currencies. Actually the fall of emerging markets (EM) currencies is nothing new. It has been going on since last May, when US Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, announced the possibility of a tape of the bond-buying program known as quantitative easing (QE). Since then currencies of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, India, Russia, Turkey and South Africa have fallen between 10% and 20%. The question is whether this is the beginning of something far more serious?

 

The reflexive response is to look at the last major meltdown of emerging market currencies. Is the present situation similar to what happened during the Asian crises of 1997? Most commentators would answer soothingly in the negative. They would point out that today’s investors look at emerging markets as an increasingly diverse group of economies. Problems with one or two emerging markets may have nothing to do with others. It is true that there is more diversity, but the currency issues hit four out of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). This would indicate that the problems are more pervasive among emerging markets.

 

Emerging markets growth has slowed, but in general they are still in good shape. Advocates point out that they are still growing faster that most developed countries. So despite this recent slowdown they should benefit from a general global expansion. This is a rather narrow view. The US, Europe and Japanese economies seem to be recovering, but much of the rest of the world seems to be slowing. As I pointed out in my recent piece on the Fragile Five, these economies make up 14% of the world economy. Problems in these countries will have a major negative impact on any nascent global growth.

 

The big argument against a repeat of 1997 is the question of “original sin”. This is the general name for debt incurred by an entity, either corporate or the state, in an emerging market in a currency other than its own. Unlike 1997, much of the recent borrowing has been denominated in local currency. So the lenders, not the debtors, assume the currency risk. The idea is generally true, but this type of borrowing is still going on. According to a recent article in Moneylife “RBI that 60% to 65% of corporates’ forex borrowings were un-hedged”. I am sure Indian companies are not the only sinners among emerging markets.

 

The fall in EM currencies does indicate strength. Fewer countries peg their currencies. With flexible currency policies, large reserves and deeper local currency capital markets, EMs should be able the weather the storm far better than in 1997. Since EM investments are relatively cheap, rather than a crisis, optimists regard this pull back as an opportunity to invest.

 

Or is it? There is one major problem with the optimistic case: debt. In order to protect their currency, the Turkish central bank held a special midnight meeting and raised its interest rate. Turkish central bank ostensibly more than doubled the benchmark from 4.5% to 10%. But the effective rate on Turkey’s interbank rate was already above 7% before the rise. So the rise was not as great as it seemed. South Africa also raised rates by 50 basis points, but presented it as one off move. Markets were not impressed by either move and continue the sell off.

 

But more important than the currency issue is the interest rate. Raising interest rates in any country will further slow the economy. A rise in interest rates in almost all of the emerging markets including China, will put pressure on the debtors. This is important because unlike 1997, there has been a large rise in the amount of debt taken on in the EMs. The easy money policies of the developed countries plus the large loans made by the Chinese financial system have created an ocean of debt. As interest rates rise and currencies fall, the probability of default will explode.

 

In a blog last Monday, The Economist published an article also comparing the present situation to 1997. They saw two real threats. The first was political instability, which in my view is always with us. The second threat was that there “might be a sense that the emerging economies are fibbing about the state of their financial systems.” In short information is the problem. No one really knows how bad the debt situation is.

 

I can assure the blog’s author that the level of bad debts in all emerging markets is far greater than is presently known. Why the certainty? Simple, compare them to a developed economies. All of the developing countries have less stringent regulation than the European Union (EU). But even with better regulators, it has still taken the European Central Bank years and numerous stress tests to determine the real extent of bad loans. All of the EMs have large state-owned banks that have made loans for political purpose. The true state of these loans will also be hidden for the same reason. China carefully controls information, so the probability of getting an accurate number is near zero.

 

The combination of higher interest rates, economic slow down, and poor information means that the revelation of the true health of EM financial systems will not surface until the problems are too large to hide. By then it will be too late and this week’s currency turbulence will look like a summer squall compared to a tsunami.

 

(William Gamble is president of Emerging Market Strategies. An international lawyer and economist, he developed his theories beginning with his first-hand experience and business dealings in the Russia starting in 1993. Mr Gamble holds two graduate law degrees. He was educated at Institute D'Etudes Politique, Trinity College, University of Miami School of Law, and University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. He was a member of the bar in three states, over four different federal courts and has spoken four languages.)

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COMMENTS

Simple Indian

3 years ago

EMs will offer growth prospects to both FIIs and domestic investors so long as they have strong decisive political leadership heading stable governments. India has obviously gone from bad to worse thanks to losing out on both these counts. From all indications, the upcoming LS polls may throw up an even more fractured verdict.

Ramesh Poapt

3 years ago

very good article! Thanks Moneylife. Pl continue...

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