Government approves new metro policy with focus on private investment

The central government has approved a new metro rail policy, with a big window for private investments across a range of operations

The union cabinet, at a meeting chaired by prime minister Narendra Modi, on August 16, 2017, approved a new metro policy that makes the public-private partnership (PPP) component mandatory, for availing central assistance. The policy also empowers states to make rules and set up a permanent Fare Fixation Authority, for timely revision of fares. It also provides for a rigorous assessment of new proposals by independent third-parties, to be identified by the government, said Housing and Urban Affairs secretary, DS Mishra.

The metro policy outlines three models of metro projects for central assistance. In one of them, the centre will provide a lump sum grant of 10 per cent of the cost, union finance minister Arun Jaitley said, while briefing reporters on the cabinet decisions. The second one envisages a 50:50 equity sharing model between the central and state governments. The third is a PPP model with central assistance, under the viability gap funding scheme of the Finance Ministry.

Under all these options, private participation is mandatory, said Mishra, who was also present during the briefing.

Private participation could be either for complete provision of metro rail, or for some unbundled components like automatic fare collection, operation or maintenance. Such a provision is made compulsory, to meet the huge resource demand for capital-intensive and high capacity metro projects, Mishra added.

See also: Centre frames new Transit-Oriented Development policy

Under the policy, Mishra said, states need to adopt innovative financing mechanisms like Value Capture Financing (VCF) and issue of bonds. VCF seeks imposition of new taxes or a ‘betterment levy’, to capture a share of increase in the asset’s value, in the vicinity of state-sponsored infrastructure projects like metro rail. Mishra said that the policy also seeks to ensure last mile-connectivity, requiring states to give commitments regarding feeder bus services and ensuring infrastructure like walking and cycling pathways.

To ensure that the least-cost mode of public transport is selected, the new policy also mandates that alternate analysis be carried out, before proposing the metro rail projects.

The policy requires states to compulsorily set up an Urban Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA), which will prepare comprehensive mobility plans for cities, to ensure complete multi-modal integration.

It also stipulates a shift from the present ‘Financial Internal Rate of Return’ of 8 per cent to an ‘Economic Internal Rate of Return’ of 14 per cent, for approving metro projects. Economic rate takes into consideration, apart from financial aspect, other benefits of the projects like employment generation and reduction in pollution.

The new policy also mandates transit-oriented development (TOD), which envisages setting up projects like housing and offices, within walkable distance from the metro corridor.

Besides Delhi, metro services with a total length of 370 kms are currently operational in seven cities – Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Gurugram. Metro projects of 537 kms are under construction. Projects of about 600 kms in length are under the consideration of the government and will require to follow the new policy, an official said.

 

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