June 4, 2024


Does Thiruvananthapuram need a metro rail network?

Several Indian cities have awful traffic. The situation is worse in some due to ongoing metro construction work. In Chennai, for example, with traffic diversions galore thanks to the work on phase 2, many metro barricades carry the phrase “Inconvenience today for better tomorrow”.

The next city to pull into the metro station could be Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. It’s unlikely to be the last. But, urban planners and activists have wondered if a metro network, which is expensive and time-consuming, is the answer to the city’s transportation woes. Are there alternatives that would be better suited?


There’s no question that India’s urban centres are expanding fast. Per the Census, the number of metropolitan areas with over 1 million people increased from 35 in 2001 to 53 in 2011. That’s set to continue with some projections that the urban population will be 590 million by 2031. A burgeoning industrial sector, more economic activities, and increased employment opportunities are just a few factors.

All this comes with increased travel demands – more people making daily trips. The increase in urban travel has a knock-on effect on urban transport. There’s more traffic congestion, particularly during peak hours, environmental degradation, and accidents. If building transport infrastructure wasn’t expensive enough, these add financial weight.

When the 2005 National Urban Transport Policy was implemented, public transport became a focus area for several Indian cities. The 12th Five-Year Plan and other agencies like the Transport Development Policy Committee (NTDPC) released guidelines to select urban public transport modes. The factors considered were peak hour peak direction traffic, population density, and trip length. These were used to determine whether Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), or something else, was the best fit.

The growth of the metro rail in India has been relatively quick. In 2014, only five cities had one. Today, that’s increased to over 20, with more on the way. One of those cities is Thiruvananthapuram. The original plan was actually for a light metro system. That later changed to a conventional metro network akin to Kochi.

In the 2000s, Thiruvananthapuram’s attempt to build a rapid transport system failed when its metro proposal was rejected by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. While the state government looked elsewhere, the DMRC was eventually brought on to conduct the detailed project report (DPR). The reason to switch from a monorail to a metro was cost overruns.

The DMRC’s first draft of the DPR stated the estimated cost for the 42.1 km metro network to be over ₹11,000 crore, split into two phases. The final report will be sent by the end of this month. But some aren’t convinced that a metro network is what the system needs.

VIEW: A metro is the best approach

In recent years, Kerala’s capital has seen rapid growth in population and economic activities. That progress has come with several urban transportation challenges. The city has experienced an increase in traffic congestion, and something needs to change. It’s an all too familiar story playing out across several Indian cities as governments struggle to keep up with increased urbanisation and population expansion.

The proposed route for the Thiruvananthapuram metro from Kazhakootam to Karamana will be a single line to begin with. Just like the Kochi metro, the network will cut through the city to cater to as many people as possible. The city itself has an estimated population of over 10 lakh, and the metropolitan area is projected to have a population of over 23 lakh.

Another reason the metro makes sense is that Thiruvananthapuram is flanked by the Kollam district, which is fast-urbanising. Thiruvananthapuram is also connected to the Kanyakumari district. The area is seen as having major economic potential with towns within a two-hour distance. The city also has three major railway stations, with a push to have more, highlighting the city’s transport needs.

COUNTERVIEW: There are better alternatives

Since the region is ripe for economic growth, a metro doesn’t make sense. A suburban rail system connecting Thiruvananthapuram and Nagercoil could help with inter-state development. The ongoing widening of National Highway 66 to increase connectivity presents an opportunity to integrate a regional rail network with the highway. It could become a coastal hub with seamless access to the port and airport.

One common argument against a metro for Thiruvananthapuram has been applied to other cities – why not improve other public transport facilities? A case can be made that the state should invest more and enhance the Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) to benefit the public. As far as the route is concerned, Kazhakootam is an IT hub where most people who work at Technopark live and don’t have to travel frequently to Thiruvananthapuram.

In Kerala, most people use the KSRTC buses. In the Thiruvananthapuram district, over 1,000 buses are operated by the KSRTC. Data from the city’s corporation showed that nearly 1.7 crore people used the bus service in 2022-23. The other thing is that the proposal is only for a single line, which won’t benefit the masses. If a metro is what’s needed, then it should be multiple lines. However, that would cost significantly more than the current estimate of over ₹11,000 crore.

Reference Links:

  • A matter of choice: Determining public transport systems for urban India – ORF
  • India’s Metro Rail Revolution: Bringing Urban Mobility on the Right Track – News18
  • India’s metro rail network poised to surpass USA’s to become world’s 2nd largest – Times of India
  • Metro rail in Kerala’s capital to cost Rs 11600 crore, final DPR in June – Times of India
  • Bullish on India: How Metro rail has transformed the way urban India commutes – Moneycontrol
  • Debate surrounds Thiruvananthapuram metro: Is the project efficient? – The News Minute
  • Thiruvananthapuram needs a suburban rail network, not a metro service – Deccan Herald

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Thiruvananthapuram does need a metro rail network.

b) Thiruvananthapuram doesn’t need a metro rail network.


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