Public transport for Indian metropolis


Metro pricks moped

65 percent of the traffic in Nagpur is motorised two-wheelers. In order to save CO₂ and improve air quality, the metropolis is now focusing on expanding its public transport network. This major project has been underway since 2015. KfW is providing the lion's share of the financing for the Maha metro with a promotional loan of EUR 500 million.

Public transport for Indian metropolis
Set accents

With its gabled roofs made of red sheet metal, the completed ground-level Khapri station is reminiscent of a Victorian building.

Builder's dust has settled on top of the concrete orange that sits atop a pillar in the centre of Nagpur, a symbol of the “Orange City”. The metropolis earned its nickname due to its status as a famous orange-growing region. Looking beyond the homage to the orange, the skyline is punctuated by concrete pillars. Here the city is building the most spectacular station in Nagpur's new metro system, a stop known as “Zero Mile”. When the network starts running at the end of 2019, it should help the “Orange City” cultivate a modern image.

The Indian government has been stepping up the expansion of public transport systems for the past few years. Metro systems now run in nine cities, while 24 more networks are currently in the construction or planning stages. Home to 2.5 million residents, Nagpur is due to receive a metro system of a particularly high standard thanks to its green design, efficient planning, swift construction and competitive pricing.

When the first construction phase is complete, two lines with 20 stations each will go into operation, covering a total distance of around 40 kilometres. The total cost of the project is EUR 1.2 billion. KfW is responsible for the lion's share of the financing, providing a promotional loan of over EUR 500 million. The French development bank AFD has contributed EUR 130 million, while the remaining amount is split between the Indian government and Nagpur's home state of Maharashtra. It is one of the largest loans to be issued by KfW for a single project.

Public transport for Indian metropolis
With overview

Brijesh Dixit, Managing Director of Maha metro, is certain that his train will only be successful if people are finally convinced to use the metro – and thus refrain from motorised two-wheelers.

Densely packed lines of concrete pillars run down the centre of the city's main north-south and east-west thoroughfares. They are supporting the metro tracks, which tower over the houses in many areas. A section of eight kilometres is due to have two and, at some points, even four separate levels, with the railway line running above the street, the motorway running above the railway and the metro line running above them all.

The stations are also designed to provide impetus for urban development. With its gabled roofs made from red terracotta tiles, the completed ground-level Khapri station is reminiscent of a Victorian building. A glass shell surrounds the Airport South station, which is also ready for use. Meanwhile, Zero Mile is designed as a 90-metre, 20-storey skyscraper; the station will be on the fifth floor, with shops, hotels and offices above and below it. The name Zero Mile reflects the fact that Nagpur was thought to be the geographical heart of the British colonial empire in India (which also included Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar).

As impressive as the building plans are, the project's ecological and economic success will hang on “bringing people to the metro,” explains Brijesh Dixit, CEO of the public operating company, Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation. Maha-Metro, as the company is known for short, is also building the metro in Pune, a city that is home to five million people. Rail-based local transport is far from being a "no-brainer" in India. According to the metro's planning director Ramnath Subramaniam, the challenge is to make sure that “when people leave the house, they know how to get to their destination by public transport.”

Public transport for Indian metropolis
Main competitor

Mopeds dominate the streets. 65 percent of the traffic in Nagpur is motorised two-wheelers.

Motorised two-wheelers are the main competitor in urban traffic, with 20 million mopeds, scooters and motorbikes sold in India last year. They have become an affordable form of transport for single people, couples and families in the emerging middle classes.

In Nagpur, 65% of traffic is some form of two-wheeler. Public transport makes up just 15%. According to the ambitious goal, the metro system will help to increase this share to 35 or 40%. This will only happen if the stations are easily accessible. So, the stations are due to be served by bus lines – all of which will be purely electric in keeping with the overall concept – while special routes will be created around the stations for cyclists and pedestrians. The stations will also have bays for taxis, parking spaces for cars and two-wheelers, and charging stations for electric bikes. All of these plans are in line with a commitment to “adhering to the highest environmental and social standards,” says planning director Subramaniam. He explains that this commitment is “the unique thing about working with KfW.”

Read more under the image gallery.

Subramaniam goes on to explain that reducing the number of two-wheelers could do a lot to cut CO₂ emissions while also improving road safety, the use of resources, and air quality in the metropolis. After all, the metro will run primarily on solar energy. Photovoltaic systems on the station roofs and solar panels running along the routes are due to generate 65% of the power needed to run the network. Wastewater recycling, hanging gardens on the tracks' pillars, and 5000 trees planted to replace those removed during construction round off the package of ecological measures.

Maha-Metro is also taking new paths when it comes to financing. Income from ticket sales (a ticket for the first two kilometres will cost the equivalent of 12 cents) will cover the metro's running costs. Proceeds from business related to the metro will be used to pay interest and pay off loans. Maha-Metro will also profit from price rises for land in the area around the tracks and stations thanks to an agreement with the local authorities. The operating company will lease small shops inside the stations and sell the name rights to them. “We want to generate 60% of our total income from business away from ticket sales,” explains Subramaniam.

Construction site Maha-Metro
Use room

Concrete piers are erected at close intervals. They carry the railway line, which towers over the houses in many places.

Since 1 June 2015, builders have been working on the building site that spans the city in a three-shift model. “We are right on schedule,” says CEO Dixit, who is visibly pleased. And if things stay this way until the end of next year, then Maha-Metro will have succeeded in building an entire metro system in just four and a half years. The 10-figure project currently employs 8,500 staff, with as many as 7,000 of them building the tracks and stations. According to estimates, 1,000 of them will go on to work for Maha-Metro on a permanent basis.

Posters around Nagpur ask for local residents' understanding when it comes to traffic issues during the construction phase (“Today's pain is tomorrow's gain”), while others highlight the importance of the project with slogans like “Transforming Nagpur”. Since summer 2018, test runs, offered mainly to school children, have been helping to demonstrate the benefits of the metro. As part of this initiative, two trains painted in the brand colours of light green and orange and covered in images of tigers (Nagpur is near Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve) roll out of the depot and across a section of completed track. The two trains are on loan from Hyderabad metro. Maha-Metro has ordered its own trains from China and will receive 23 trains with three carriages each. The signalling technology for the two lines will be supplied by Siemens.


The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is the French development bank and an important partner of KfW in Financial Cooperation. By 2019 more than 100 joint projects had already been implemented. Both banks belong to the IDFC network of development banks.

As the metro awaits its opening, the company is already launching construction phase II. An initial financing concept is expected in April 2019. The network will be extended by a total of 50 kilometres from the four final stops on both lines. It is hoped that this will encourage commuters from the surrounding area to leave their two-wheelers at home. The team behind Maha-Metro are confident that the metro will help Nagpur to boom economically, while also adhering to ecological standards. KfW is also able to benefit from this process. The expansion of public transport has yet to take off in many corners of the globe.

Published on KfW Stories: Wednesday, 5 December 2018


All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.