Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Ahmedabad Metro’s phase 1 on Friday and said it was the first time 32 km of a metro rail had been operationalised in one go in India and that a “double-engine sarkar”—a reference to the BJP’s ruling both the state and the central governments—had made it possible.
“Today, 32 km of the Ahmedabad Metro has been operationalised. You will be surprised to hear that ever since metro services began in India, this is the first time a 32 km stretch has been launched at a time,” Modi said after taking a ride on the metro in his home state of Gujarat.
Modi said the metro train project was completed quickly despite its passing over an Indian Railway route. He boarded the upgraded version of the Vande Bharat train from Gandhinagar and travelled to the Kalupur railway station in Ahmedabad. From an underground metro station, thrown open three years ago, he then travelled to the Doordarshan Tower metro station near Thaltej, where he participated in an event held for inaugurating both the metro and the Vande Bharat train.
This stretch takes the total length of metro rails in the country to 810 km.
“On this occasion, I also want to tell you how Ahmedabad benefited from a double-engine government. When the overhead space over the Ahmedabad-Botad railway line had to be used for the metro project, the Centre quickly gave permission. This speeded up work on the Vasana-Old High Court route of metro,” Modi said.
The proposal to use the railway land was sent to the Centre in 2012, but it got cleared in November 2014, months after Modi became prime minister. In March 2015, from being a state government entity, Metro-Link Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad (MEGA) became a 50:50 joint venture of the Gujarat government and the central government. In January 2019 MEGA was renamed as the Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation (GMRC).
Modi said a multimodal hub that he had imagined at the beginning of the 21st century was fast becoming a reality in Ahmedabad. A multimodal hub is being developed at the Kalupur railway station, where BRTS and city buses will be available from ground floor, taxis and private cars from the upper floor and metro and bullet train connectivity from the Saraspur side, he said at the event.
“In order to connect the Kalupur road overbridge to the Saraspur road overbridge, a 13-lane road will be made in front of the station,” Modi said. “Apart from Kalupur, the Sabarmati bullet train station will also be made into a multimodal transport hub.”
Modi remembered his building the BRTS corridor and taking his first BRTS ride in Gujarat. “The attempt even then was to see how the poor can be served and provided with seamless connectivity,” he said.
“We are focusing on and investing in cities in a big way because these cities will ensure the development of the country in the next 25 years. This investment is not limited to connectivity, but includes providing smart services. Existing services are being upgraded and suburbs are being developed,” the prime minister said.
“Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad is an excellent example of twin-city development. In the coming days, many twin cities will be developed in Gujarat. Till now we used to hear about New York-New Jersey twin cities, but my Hindustan can’t be held back. You can see before your eyes the development of the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar twin-city model. Similarly, Anand-Nadiad, Bharuch-Ankleshwar, Valsad-Vapi, Surat-Navsari, Vadodara-Halol-Kalol, Morbi-Wankaner, Morbi-Kadi… Such twin cities will strengthen the image of Gujarat,” he said.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Modi flagged off the first 6.5 km of the Ahmedabad Metro’s phase 1 in March 2019. With 32 km being operationalised ahead of the Assembly elections, the metro will now run for 38.5 km. This includes the North-South corridor (APMC Vasna-Motera), which will be extended to Gandhinagar and GIFT City in phase II and the East-West Corridor (Vastral Gam-Thaltej).
The inauguration of phase-1 comes almost 20 years after it was conceptualised. Thereafter it underwent multiple route changes and cost escalations as well as witnessed irregularities and a consequent change of guard. The lowest point was in August 2013, when Sanjay Gupta, head of the Ahmedabad Metro and a retired IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, was imprisoned in a Rs 211-crore scam.
Despite the inauguration, work on phase 1 is expected to be finished only by March 2023. The incomplete sections include a 1.4-km stretch between Thaltej and Thaltej Gam, the westernmost stretch of the East-West corridor. The other incomplete parts are the underground station of Kankaria East and the Sabarmati metro station (which will provide one of the two crucial interlinks for passengers travelling on the planned bullet train and the Indian Railways network).
While phase-1 routes will be thrown open to passengers on October 2, the GMRC will have to finish a third-party audit on sections of both corridors to reaffirm structural safety and the quality of the elevated and underground sections. This was necessitated after the Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS) gave a conditional authorisation for opening the Ahmedabad Metro as it had found “deficiencies” in the construction. The first detailed project report for the metro was made in 2005 and the foundation stone laid in March 2015 by then chief minister Anandiben Patel.