A Modern Transport System for the Ancient & Pilgrimage City Varanasi

Varanasi Metrolite is an urban Light Rail Transit (LRT) system with two lines and 26 stations proposed by the Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation Limited (UPMRCL) for Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

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METROLITE
METROLITE (Representational Image)
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Overview

The Uttar Pradesh government had planned to develop and construct a metro rail system in Varanasi, Meerut, and Agra. The state government hired and contracted RITES, an infrastructure development company, to carry out a traffic analysis. The government planned to reach out to RITES for a comprehensive proposal for the project that would include feasibility and financial viability. The overall completion cost for the Varanasi Metro development has been expected to be around Rs. 17,227 crores, including taxes, costs and duties. The project has been planned to be executed as a 50:50 joint venture (JV) project by the Government of India (GoI) and the Government of Uttar Pradesh (GoUP). To ensure the project’s financial viability, both the central and state governments have offered extra grants in addition to their equity investment.

The Government of Uttar Pradesh (GoUP) had delegated to the Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation (UPMRC) the role of ‘Coordinator’ for the development of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Varanasi Metro. The nodal agency for the development of this DPR for the Varanasi Metro is the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA). M/s RITES, a Government of India undertaking, has been hired to prepare the DPR for this purpose. Work on preparing the DPR for the Varanasi Metro began in May 2015, with a series of site visits by an LMRC team led by LMRC and RITES, as well as VDA officials. Metro lines for Varanasi city have been finalised, and a DPR was developed following site visits, engineering surveys, and review meetings/discussions with the Commissioner, Varanasi, and VDA officials.

M/s RITES developed the DPR with the assistance of the Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation (UPMRC). The DPR envisions two lines totalling 29.235 kilometres in length for the Varanasi Metro Rail project. The first corridor, which runs from BHEL to BHU, is 19.35 kilometres long, comprising an elevated stretch of 3.845 kilometres and an underground distance of 15.505 km. The second corridor, which spans 9.885 kilometres from Benia Bagh to Sarnath, has an elevated stretch of 1.923 kilometres and an underground section of 7.962 kilometres.

According to the DPR, a maintenance depot for both corridors spanning over and covering an area of 13.2 hectares of land has been planned in Ganeshpur. The Metro in Varanasi will be a three-car unit train operating on a standard gauge track using Communication Train Control (CBTC) signalling technology with a 90-second operational headway.

Varanasi, India’s most popular spiritual and religious destination, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. This historic city, known for its cultural wealth and spiritual treasures, has long been plagued by traffic congestion. However, it is expected that the introduction of the Varanasi Metro project would provide significant respite from traffic congestion and bottlenecks. 

The proposed Varanasi Metro project will provide a dependable and efficient means of transportation, minimising the pressure on existing roadways and improving overall city connectivity. This modern and comfortable corridor will make it easier for residents and tourists to travel between important and key locations on a regular basis.

Project Details

Varanasi Metro, as envisaged, is a well-planned light rail transit system with two lines and 26 stations. The Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation Limited (UPMRCL) will build the metro line, which would connect important areas of the city. This project’s operational date has not been determined yet. The first corridor shall stretch around 19.35 kilometres from BHEL (Tarna, Shivpur) to Banaras Hindu University. The second corridor, on the other hand, shall span approximately 9.885 kilometres from Benia Bagh to Sarnath. The project is expected to be carried out as a 50:50 joint venture (JV) between the Government of India (GoI) and the Government of Uttar Pradesh (GoUP). In addition to their equity investment, the two governments have proposed additional funds to ensure the project’s financial viability.

RITES prepared the project’s first Detailed Project Report (DPR) in 2015, proposing a heavy-rail-based system. It has been projected that around 80% of the Phase 1 lines shall be underground. The state cabinet of Uttar Pradesh approved this DPR on April 18, 2016, and the central government approved it on May 23, 2016. The project was put on hold in 2017 due to its high costs and low predicted traffic, both of which were in contradiction to the Government of India’s new Metro Rail Policy. Since then, the project has been redesigned and repositioned as Metrolite or Light Metro Rail. After completing the route between BHEL and BHU, RITES submitted its report to the Uttar Pradesh government in December 2019.

Key Information & System Specifications

  • Line Length: 29.235 Km
  • Transit Type: Light Rail
  • Owner: Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation
  • No. of Lines: Two (Proposed)
  • No. of Stations: Twenty-Six (Proposed)
  • Estimated Cost: Approximately Rs. 17000 crores
  • Track Gauge: Standard Gauge (1,435 mm)
  • Average Speed: 35 Km/Hr 
  • Top Speed: 90 Km/Hr
  • Operational: 0 km
  • Under Construction: 0 km
  • Proposed: 29.235 km

Route Map

The ambitious Varanasi Metro project entails the construction and development of a comprehensive 29.23km metro line in India’s sacred city of Varanasi. This proposed light rail transportation system will consist of two corridors and 26 stations, twenty of which will be underground and the remaining six elevated.

Metro Stations

The BHEL to BHU route of the Varanasi Metro project is expected to include 17 proposed stations, with four above ground (reaching a maximum of around 3.845 km) and 13 underground (covering roughly 15.505 km). The second corridor of the Varanasi Metro, from Benia Bagh to Sarnath, is expected to comprise nine proposed stations, two above ground (to a maximum of about 1.923 km) and seven underground (to a maximum of about 7.962 km).

Varanasi Metro Phase 1 Routes (Proposed)

Line 1: BHEL – BHU (Banaras Hindu University)

Length: 19.35 km

Number of Stations: Seventeen (17)

Stations: BHEL, Tarna, Shivpur, Sangam Colony, Gilat Bazar, Bhojubeer, Collectorate, Nadesar, Varanasi Junction, Kashi Vidyapeeth, Rathyatra, Benia Bagh, Kashi Vishvanath, Bangali Tola, Ratnakar Park, Tulsi Manas Mandir and Banaras Hindu University

Line 2: Benia Bagh – Sarnath

Length: 9.885 km

Number of Stations: Nine (09)

Stations: Benia Bagh, Kotwali, Machoori Park, Kashi Bus Depot, Jalalipura, Punchikrshi, Abapur, Havelia and Sarnath\

Project Timeline & Important Dates

  • May 2016: Approval of the DPR (Detailed Project Report).
  • September 2017: DPR dropped due new metro rail policy. New Detailed Project Report to be developed by RITES.
  • December 2017: New Commissioning of the DPR under ‘New Metro Rail Policy’.
  • June 2018: Rejection and denial of the Varanasi Metro Rail Project due to lack of funds.
  • February 2019:  CM Yogi Adityanath allocated Rs. 150 crores in the state budget in 2019.
  • August 2020: Metro rail was found and considered infeasible; instead, light metro rail was proposed.
  • September 2020: Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the metro rail to be reviewed and assessed.
  • February 2021: The state government allocates Rs. 100 crores for the metro project.

Conclusion

Varanasi Metrolite is an urban Light Rail Transit (LRT) system with two lines and 26 stations proposed by the Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation Limited (UPMRCL) for Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. RITES prepared the project’s initial Detailed Project Report (DPR) in 2015, which envisioned a heavy-rail-based system. It planned for around 80% of Phase 1’s lines to be completed underground. The Uttar Pradesh state cabinet approved this DPR on April 18, 2016, and the Central Government approved the project on May 23, 2016. The project was put on hold in 2017 due to higher costs and low traffic forecasts that did not align with the Government of India’s new Metro Rail Policy. The project has since been recast/rebranded as a Light Metro Rail or Metrolite project.

RITES completed the study and finalized the route connecting BHEL and BHU in December 2019 and presented its report to the Uttar Pradesh government. The Varanasi Metro Project is a significant step forward in the development of the city. By providing efficient transport infrastructure, this modern transport system aims to revolutionise the way people commute within the city. Due to better and improved connectivity, reduced travel time, and enhanced accessibility, the metro will not only relieve traffic congestion but will also contribute to economic growth and cultural interchange within the holy city of Varanasi. The project is also expected to improve the city’s economic and social characteristics, increase commercial development, and improve the general quality of life for Varanasi residents. Additionally, the proposed Varanasi Metro Project has the potential to transform the city into a more connected, lively, and sustainable city for future generations.

Latest Update

The Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation (UPMRC) has plans to launch metro services in the tourist destinations of Ayodhya, Varanasi, and Mathura. Pursuant to the plan and concept, the services would be offered as ‘Metro lite,’ which will be a small rendition and miniature version of the metro serving only a portion of the city. The Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) system in these locations will not only alleviate traffic congestion but will also serve as a stimulus for tourism promotion.

Plan Details

Metro services would connect Vrindavan and Govardhan Parikrama Kshetra in Mathura. Similarly, the proposed service in Varanasi will connect all of the ghats as well as key institutions and destinations such as Banaras Hindu University (BHU). The Uttar Pradesh government also has plans to build a water metro system in Varanasi similar to the one in Kochi. 

With the monumental Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya slated to open in early 2024, the temple town is expected to receive an outpouring of pilgrims. The UPMRC is striving to improve access to the temple and other key urban attractions in the city. Additionally, the proposed metro light service has been planned to include and cover areas inside Panch Kosi and Chaudah Kosi Parikrama Kshetras. Followers of the Panch Kosi Parikrama take a sacred bath in the holy Saryu River and then travel to five destinations, each one kosh (3 km) apart from Ayodhya. Kardmeshwar, Shivpur, Rameshwar, Bhimchandi, and Kapildhara are among them. Similarly, Chaudah Kosi Parikrama entails walking 42 kilometres around the city. Uttar Pradesh already has metro networks operating in Lucknow, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, and Kanpur. The state government is seeking to expand services to include Agra, Gorakhpur, Meerut, Bareilly, Jhansi, and Prayagraj.

Metro Lite

Cities with a well-distributed geographical structure, even if they have a large population, may not have a sufficient number of corridors with sufficient density to justify metro investments. As a result, state governments have been encouraged to consider making Metro Lite the primary mode of mass transit in smaller cities. This system, which can be built and developed for roughly 40% of the cost of a high-capacity metro system, is more viable and sustainable due to lower capital, operation, and maintenance costs. Three Metro Lite Projects are currently at different stages of implementation. These include Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Sri Nagar in Jammu and Kashmir.


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