Fast and luxuriousEvery day, thousands of people enter the Kathmandu Valley from all over the country looking for opportunities, with the result that the population has swelled to around 5 million in the last decade.
Every day, thousands of people enter the Kathmandu Valley from all over the country looking for opportunities, with the result that the population has swelled to around 5 million in the last decade. Likewise, the number of motor vehicles has reached saturation point, leading to extreme traffic congestion and increased commute time. The only solution to this chaotic situation is a mass transit system like metro rail, monorail and cable car.
A metro rail train with steel wheels runs on steel tracks like a regular train while a train with rubber tires runs on a paved road. Since there is limited space in the Valley, a surface metro rail is not possible. Building an underground system is risky. One scary example is the sinkhole that developed at Bhagwati Bahal Road in Naxal when the ground at the construction site of a hotel nearby was dug up to build an underground car park. The estimated cost of building a 77.28-km metro rail system in the Valley is Rs555 billion, or Rs7.11 billion per kilometre, and construction will take 14 years. The high cost, long construction time, availability of funds, political instability and problems such as greed, poor management and accountability may derail the scheme midway through the project.
A combination of metro rail, monorail and cable car seems to be the most viable and permanent solution to traffic issues. An elevated monorail is used as a rapid transport system for public transportation. It is an electrified commuter train service that falls under the light rail transit (LRT) category. In fact, monorail is the lightest LRT as it is a flexible, versatile and highly adaptable train. Monorail vehicles run on a double track, and can be staffed or unstaffed. Monorail is suited for the built-up environment of cities like Kathmandu.
From the passenger’s perspective, monorail can have advantages over metro rail, buses and other automobiles. Monorail avoids red lights, intersections and traffic jams. Surface-level trains, buses, automobiles and pedestrians can collide with each other or with other vehicles, while monorail is very safe. As with other elevated transit systems, monorail passengers enjoy sunlight and views of the city, and they can see that they have reached their destination. The cars can have traditional windows that can be opened by passengers.
Monorail is free of noise and vibration as it runs on nitrogen-inflated rubber tires unlike on steel wheels like metro rail. Its design does not allow derailment, whereas a system with traditional steel wheels running on steel tracks like metro rail suffers from safety issues. Monorail is quieter than buses and trains. A monorail beam way casts a narrow shadow because of its overhead beam system. The supporting piers or columns do not occupy a large space on the ground and its right of way is comparatively much narrower.
Monorail has the flexibility and versatility to negotiate tight curves, making it suitable for congested urban roads. Monorail has the capability to ascend gradients of up to 6 percent. Hence, they can go over existing infrastructure such as flyovers or be used on hilly terrain. This is possible due to high traction provided by rubber tires. It is always separated from other traffic and pedestrians as it is elevated and needs less space. Monorail is more environmentally friendly with simpler structures, and it does not obstruct sunlight or trap toxic exhausts and emissions.
Its pollution-free operation helps cities regain their ecological balance. Moreover, it poses minimal disruption to the existing structure.
Light-weight construction, little vibration and minimum noise are features that make a monorail system environmental-friendly. Monorail blends perfectly with the city fabric with its slim and light-weight structures, sleek exterior appearance and aerodynamic design. A futuristic and modern monorail car gliding silently on elevated guide ways add to the aesthetic beauty of the cityscape. It will also boost tourism as it offers aerial views from the comfort of its cars. Monorail has proved to be the most profitable means of transportation for passengers worldwide. A monorail system has a capacity to carry 28,000 persons per hour per direction. Therefore, if we run it from 5am to 10pm, the traffic problem will be significantly resolved.
The cost of building a monorail system is Rs2.2 billion per kilometre. The total cost for a 77.28-km system comes to Rs170 billion which is much less than the cost of metro rail. Moreover, it can be completed in six to seven years. As monorail is cheaper than metro rail, the fare will be almost the same as for buses, micro buses and tempos, and it runs a lot faster (28.55 km in 24 minutes) and is more comfortable. Monorail can be a national pride project; the government should implement it under a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
A combination of metro rail, monorail and cable car systems may be the best solution; but metro rail being an undertaking of the government, its implementation may disturb the construction schedule of the other two. A privately funded monorail project has better chances of being implemented faster than metro rail. The government’s go-ahead is all that is needed for this project which may be a step forward in resolving the Valley’s traffic congestion.
Thapa is Chairman of Kathmandu Mono Rail Co Pvt Ltd