New Delhi: New Zealand’s Metrino Personal Rapid Transit, one of the three international front runners chosen for India’s first pod taxi project—has decided to withdraw and called off its joint venture with an Indian partner it declined to name.

Responding to Mint queries sent on e-mail, president of Metro Global Projects Ltd —the technology partner for Metro India Project Ltd—Ollie Mikosza confirmed that Metrino had decided to withdraw. “For more than two years of my erstwhile partners in India claimed to have ready access to finance to bring Metrino’s Personal Rapid Transit into India. However, no financing was ever forthcoming," he said

“In parallel with this continued non-performance by my erstwhile partners, over the two years, I was faced with their escalating and increasingly unreasonable demands and restrictions," Mikosza said, adding that he had no choice but to terminate the association.

Mikosza, who tendered his resignation from Metrino India Pvt. Ltd in May 2017, asked his former partners to change the name Metrino India Pvt. Ltd (MIPL), given that the company has neither any links with nor any rights to the Metrino PRT technology.

In an e-mail sent in June to National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the nodal agency responsible for implementation of the pod taxi project in India, the company said the project was not in its “business interest" at present and that it was calling off the joint venture.

Queries emailed to NHAI and the ministry of transport and highways remained unanswered until press time.

Metrino, along with Ultra Global PRT (UK) and skyTran, a company created by the US space agency NASA, was among the three companies that had bid for transport minister Nitin Gadkari’s ambitious pod taxi project in India last year. All the three companies that won approval from the government to built 1km of pilot stretch to showcase their technology were to implement the projects by forming joint ventures with Indian companies.

Metrino’s withdrawal comes as a jolt to the project because its technology was the cheapest among the three under consideration.

According to proposals submitted by the three companies – the per kilometre construction cost for Metrino PRT was Rs50-60 crore, while for Ultra it is about Rs75 crore and for skyTran Rs90 crore.

Notably, the project has been delayed on several accounts. First government think tank NITI Aayog raised red flags, directing the road ministry to ask the bidders to prepare a 1km pilot stretch before the allocation of the project as all the technologies were still “unproven".

Later, a high-powered committee was formed under transport expert Dharam Adhikari, comprising an NHAI official, a retired railways safety commissioner and a retired railway board member to lay standards and specifications for PRT systems in the country. The committee is likely to present its report to the ministry in September.

A senior government official on condition of anonymity said, “Company felt the project was caught in red-tape and at present it would be a waste of time. They may pursue a proposal in future on their own."

The standards developed by this committee are going to play an important role as around six states in the country are in talks for pod taxis project in their regions. These include Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Bihar.

NITI Aayog during its deliberations with the company had observed that Ultra PRT’s technology is the only one which has been put to commercial use at present in London’s Heathrow Airport, while skyTran’s technology is still in the testing stage and Metrino’s prototype has been tested in Poland but is still not in commercial use.

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