India's 'Metro Man' E Sreedharan, who was working as an advisor to the Andhra Pradesh government on metro rail projects, has submitted his resignation to Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
Confirming the same to The News Minute, Sreedharan said, "Yes. I had submitted a resignation on July 1."
When asked about the reason, 85-year-old Sreedharan said, "I tendered the resignation because of my old age, which has made it difficult for me to travel to Andhra Pradesh frequently. Besides that, the work pressure was also more."
Sreedharan, who was Principal Advisor, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), was in 2015 called in to oversee the Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada metro rail projects.
Quoting sources, The New Indian Express reported that Sreedharan tendered his resignation due to differences between him and CM Chandrababu.
The TNIE report adds that the state's recent move to discard the metro rail project and look at Light Rail Technology (LRT) had irked the noted expert, who had spent months studying the viability of a metro project and submitting a report.
The newspaper report also claims that the Metro Man did not get an appointment with the CM, even after trying for a month.
However, when asked about it, Sreedharan told TNM that he did not want to comment on the issue, and insisted that it was his old age, that led him to resign.
A history of delays
In September 2015, Sreedharan submitted Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) to CM Chandrababu Naidu, in the presence of the then Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu.
At the time, the Chief Minister had told media persons that both projects would be completed by December 2018.
The metro project in the coastal city of Visakhapatnam was estimated to cost Rs 12,727 crore while the one in Vijayawada would cost Rs 6,769 crore, he had said.
However, almost two years later, the state government is still in the phase of considering proposals.
In the DPR submitted, the Vijayawada metro was proposed to cover 26.03 km, while the Visakhapatnam metro was estimated to be developed on two corridors over a total length of 42.55 km.
Breaking down the numbers related to the Vijayawada Metro, Sreedharan had said that the project comprised of two corridors. Corridor 1 (Pandit Nehru Bus Terminal-Penamaluru) was proposed to be 12.76 km long and corridor 2 (Pandit Nehru Bus Terminal-Nidamanuru) was expected to be 13.27 km long.
It was also stated that corridor 1 would be linked to the capital city Amaravati, while corridor 2 would be connected to Gannavaram airport.
After the project barely progressed for two years, in May, 2017, the Union finance ministry refused to approve the Vijayawada Metro Rail, stating that the Centre did not find it financially viable.
When asked about the rejection, a senior official of the Amaravati Metro Rail Corporation (AMRC) told The Hindu that the "Vijayawada Metro would not be able to match the peak passengers-per-hour-per-direction (called â€˜ridershipâ€™) requirement, which is minimum 20,000 in a single direction, for at least the next two-and-a-half decades."
This was in direct conflict of what Venkaiah Naidu had said in 2015, that though Vijayawada did not meet the population criteria of for taking up the metro project, the central government had granted an exemption.
Even the Chief Minister has completely changed his trajectory.
Last month, the AMRC met with Naidu, to discuss alternative transportation proposals for the city of Vijayawada.
They proposed the use of Light Rail Technology (LRT), stating that this system was more flexible and profitable than the metro system.
"The LRT system, one of the most avant-garde technologies operating in Germany and France, allows for increasing the number of cars and hence, frequency, depending on the footfall, while the metro train system is more rigid," a press release from the Chief Minister's office said.
â€œEvery person in the city must travel a maximum of 30 minutes to reach their regular destinations. The transportation system must be efficient and pollution-free," Naidu added, expressing that he was keen on the proposal.
Even the Visakhapatnam metro rail project has made no headway.
Though proposed in 2014, ahead of the Vijayawada metro rail, the state government reportedly did not allocate funds for the project.
As of March this year, the project was awaiting an in-principle nod from the Centre, after submitting the DPR.
Even in June this year, officials maintained that they were awaiting for the Centre's Metro Rail Policy to be implemented, following which the DPR would head to the Finance Ministry for approval.
With the future of both proposals of the metro rail projects looking bleak, it would seem that Vijayawada's residents only have a 'Light Metro' to look forward to.
In the first week of August, a team of experts from German development bank KfW met with the Andhra Chief Minister and proposed an alternative mode of transport -- a train operated on light rails that runs at an average speed of 35 kmph.
Stating that the Light Metro Rail (LMR) could be extended to Amaravati and Gannavaram airport for a much cheaper cost, the experts told the state government that land acquisition rates would also be lower.