Kochi: Noting that an efficient transport system was 'critical' for orderly growth of cities, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the government has decided to support preparation of Detailed Project Reports (DPR) for Metro rail in all 19 cities with a population of over two million.

Laying the foundation for the Rs 5,181 crore Kochi Metro project here, Singh said DPRs had already been prepared for 12 cities and Metro rail projects were being implemented in seven cities covering a total network of length 476 km at a cost of over Rs 1.15 lakh crore.

The Delhi Metro is carrying about 22 lakh people daily, he said.

Pointing out that an efficient transport system was a service that was 'critical' to the orderly growth and development of cities, Singh said Metro rail was just one component of such a transport system.

"We need to build our cities with multimodal transport systems that efficiently integrate different modes of public transport like buses and trains. I understand that the Urban Development Ministry has taken several initiatives to promote sustainable transport practices in the country," he said.

These include support to Metro rail projects, Bus Rapid Transit Systems and sanction of city buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

Singh said unless provisioning of services keeps pace with urbanisation, "we will face serious problems of haphazard urban growth, slums and crumbling city infrastructure."

At present, about 28 percent people live in towns and cities which is expected to go up to 40 percent by 2031, amounting to 60 crore people and contributing over 70 percent of the GDP, he said.

"The high speed of urbanisation poses unprecedented managerial and policy challenges that we need to respond to."

The Prime Minister said the Centre was also providing assistance for implementation of Bus Rapid Transit System projects in 11 cities with a network of over 437 km costing more than Rs 5,500 crore.

Under JNNURM, the government has sanctioned over 15,000 low floor buses for mission cities totally costing over Rs 4,700 crore and committed over Rs 2,000 crore of assistance for the JNNURM buses, he said.

Describing Kochi as one of the fastest growing urban agglomerations, Singh said it has emerged as one of the most important ports and was expected to evolve as an economic and logistical hub with the operationalisation of International Container Transhipment Terminal at nearby Valarpadam.

Kochi is the eighth city in the country to get the Metro. The newly sanctioned Metro line will run 25 km from Aluva to Petta. The central government will contribute Rs 1,000 crore for the project out of the total project cost.

The Prime Minister also said a number of big projects in and around Kochi were in the offing. Under JNNURM, Centre has sanctioned six projects with a total cost of over Rs 509 crore with more than Rs 254 crore being its share.

"All this will hasten the pace of development in this area, Kochi's transport infrastructure is already under severe stress, with the demand for travel having risen steeply in the recent years. The Metro would provide with a modern mass transport system, not only making it convenient for the residents to commute, but also further facilitating Kochi's development," he said.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government has taken steps to ensure that land acquisition for the Kochi Metro was kept to the minimum.

"Land is very scarce in Kerala. It is a sacrifice of the people who give their land for the progress of the state," he said, adding government had decided to "liberally" compensate them.

The government has already decided to study the Phase-II extension of the Kochi metro to Nedumbassery airport and Kakkanad.

(Agencies)

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