New Delhi: The much-awaited India’s first pod taxi project has moved a step closer to reality after a high-level panel recommended inviting fresh bids for the same conforming to the strictest safety standards on the lines of those prescribed by an American body.
The projected Rs4,000 crore pod taxi scheme—also known as personal rapid transit (PRT)—is a dream project of road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been mandated to execute it on Delhi-Gurgaon pilot corridor (12.30km) from Delhi-Haryana border to Rajiv Chowk in Gurgaon on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.
“The committee recommends issuance of a fresh EOI (expression of interest) incorporating (automated people movers) APM standards and specifications, along with other general safety parameters with Niti Aayog recommendations," the five-member committee set up for technical and safety standards of PRT, headed by transport expert S.K. Dhramadhikari, said.
The ambitious project has been plagued by delays as government think-tank Niti Aayog raised some red flags, asking the highways ministry to direct initial bidders to prepare a 1km pilot stretch as all the technologies were unproved.
Subsequent delays were caused due to formation of the high-powered committee to lay down safety and other specifications. “We will be issuing bids very soon for the pod taxi project now, with all hurdles cleared. The safety and security concerns will be taken care of as per the recommendation of the committee. This will be a major step towards easing congestion on busy Dhaula Kuan-Manesar stretch and revolutionising transportation," Gadkari told PTI.
PRT is an advanced public transport using automated electric pod cars to provide a taxi-like demand responsive feeder and shuttle services for small groups of travellers and is a green mode of uninterrupted journey. The committee in its report, a copy of which is with PTI, also recommended framing of request for quotation (RFQ) based on discussions with interested players and stressed the need for evaluation, based on performance in the test sections.
The automated people mover (APM) standards in the US as recommended by the committee for the maiden PRT in India have been prepared by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and these constitute the minimum requirements for an acceptable level of safety and performance for the PRT. “The APM standards include minimum requirements for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the various sub-systems of an APM system and are in general relevant for a PRT," the committee said.
These include vehicle arrival audio and video visual warning system, platform sloping, evacuation of misalighted vehicles, surveillance/CCTV, audio communication, emergency call points and fire protection, among other advanced systems, it added. The pilot project, to be taken up on design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) basis, is meant for a 12.3km stretch from Delhi-Haryana border on NH 8 (near Ambience Mall) to Badshahpur via Rajiv Chowk, IFFCO and Sohna Road.
The model is in place in London’s Heathrow airport, Morgantown and Masdar city. Earlier, three global companies, including New Zealand’s Metrino Personal Rapid Transit that later called off its joint venture with Indian partner Gawar construction, were picked during initial bids for the project.
Metrino, along with PNC-SkyTran and Neel Metal Products Ltd, had bid for the pod taxi project last year. The companies were to build 1km of pilot stretch to showcase their technology. The standards approved will also play a role in guiding safety and other specifications for states interested in such projects, including Punjab.
Three bidders had made technical presentation to the government last year—Neel Metals Product Ltd, Ultra Personal Rapid Transport (technology partner), Gawar Construction MIPL—which later said that instead of Metrino, they are roping in LSD by MND Group, and PNC-SkyTran that provided details of specifications in the prototype being developed for commercial operation in Israel.
If all goes according to plan, the first phase will be linking the 70km stretch from Dhaula Kuan in Delhi to Manesar in Haryana to decongest national capital region (NCR), Gadkari said. PTI