Cyberabad dreams

Accomplish • Pulse #5 • 7 min
By Karen McHugh By NVS Reddy Managing Director of Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited

Ten million people. Five million vehicles. One of the largest public-private partnership transport projects in the world. Can the pioneering new metro of Hyderabad, in India, pave the way towards a shared mobility culture in a city teeming with private vehicles?

“All the top software companies – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Oracle, Microsoft – you name it, it’s in Hyderabad,” says NVS Reddy, Managing Director of A city bridging old customs and new, Hyderabad Hyderabad Metro. “In our western part of the city you’ll see a different world, you’ll see tall sky-scrapers and world class buildings.”

It’s clear that Hyderabad is a city that is going places. It’s one of India’s fastest growing cities and its connection to the IT industry has earned it the moniker ‘Cyberabad’. But with progress comes problems including more and more people taking to the roads. The ensuring gridlock sees air pollution at times reaching three times the safe level. Safety is also an ongoing issue on Hyderabad’s overcrowded roads, with 1,258 road accidents recorded in the city in the first half of 2019.

A city bridging old customs and new, Hyderabad combines a 450-year old culture with the logistical challenges of a modern metropolis. But as the suburbs expanded, its roads became a clamour of rickshaws, two-wheelers, cars plus an often-chaotic bus system. Hyderabad was in dire need of a better way to transport its citizens.

But how do you change the commute culture in a city that adds nearly half a million new vehicles to its roads every year? A new approach was needed that could convince the throngs of commuters that public transport was the answer.

In 2003, Hyderabad transport officials were already considering the option of a metro.Three years later global tenders were floated and a few years there- after, construction work began in earnest. Chosen to head the transformation effort was NVS Reddy, a public sector head with three and a half decades experience in senior government positions.




“We wanted to have a high-performance mass transit system which met Hyderabad’s fast-grow- ing population’s needs,” says Reddy. “My first challenge was implementation. The state gov- ernment did not have the kind of money required for this three-billion-dollar project. The chief minister asked me to think about an alternative. That’s how I hit upon the idea of a public-private partnership (PPP),” he says.

Risk allocation between government and private partners required careful attention but the PPP offered real advantages in terms of flexibility and efficiency, according to Reddy. “The combination of public and private actors meant we had the agility to progress swiftly and adapt plans and designs whenever necessary.”

Indian infrastructure giant Larsen & Toubro Limited was chosen as the private sector partner, with the public sector banks serving as the lenders for the project. Keolis was awarded the Operation and Maintenance contract in 2012, with the first segment opened to passengers in 2017, a second in 2018 and a third in 2019. The metro is expected to break even in its sixth or seventh year of full operations.

How is operating a public-private partnership in reality? “I joke that it’s like an Indian marriage, where divorce is not an option!” says Reddy. “PPPs are not always easy, especially for huge mass transit projects. By simply following the concession agreement, a PPP will not become a success. Keeping dialogue open and a proactive approach from the Government side is essential.”

• Energy efficiency is inherent in the design of Hyderabad metro. The elevated metro system has an open architecture cutting out the need for tunnel ventilation and air conditioning in the stations – good for Hyderabad’s carbon footprint.
• The Regenerative Braking System means that 35% of energy is generated while braking and is fed back into the electric grid and re-used. • Electric charging points are being introduced at metro stations in anticipation of an eventual changeover from fossil fuel vehicles, with a BRT corridor the next step for Hyderabad’s sustainable transport policy.


The main obstacle to the metro remains the private vehicle. “The problem lies in the image of public transport in most Indian cities. The majority of people travel by motorbikes and scooters, with the car reserved for the better off. But with about 1,500 extra vehicles per day, congestion has become a chronic problem on the roads,” says Reddy.

The city is making a conscious effort to encourage public transport, with the metro slashing journey times by half for commuters and being perceived as an increasingly viable option. “With the metro, the culture is changing,” says Reddy, who even took the unusual step of penning folk songs himself to promote it to the local people, which were then broadcast at city festivals. “If you are driving a car or two-wheeler you’re under tremendous stress, whereas the metro is much less stressful. That’s why more and more people are switching over.”

With about 400,000 daily riders and figures increasing continuously, numbers are roughly in line with expec- tations as commuters opt to travel by metro. And the metro is proving extremely popular among passengers, as Keolis’ recent survey revealed. In the few months fol- lowing its opening to the public, Hyderabad Metro achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 95%, making it the most popular public transport network among 13 cities surveyed.


Hyderabad Metro is connected to the main rail terminals and bus depots such as Secunderabad Railway terminal and Mahatma Gandhi bus station, a skywalk connecting the metro station to the platforms of the bus station.

Areas for bikes, electric bikes and for Uber and Ola ride-sharing for first and last mile connectivity are all being developed. Parking is also available at many metro stations for two-wheelers and cars, although more dedicated car-parks are still needed. “It has started slowly improving and it’ll change substantially in the next few years to become a seamless travel facility which contributes to reducing Hyderabad’s chronic congestion,” Reddy says.

Further multimodality challenges include introducing efficient feeder bus services to the metro and ensuring the timetabling works well between modes. In the meantime, private vehicle shuttle services have been introduced, with young entrepreneurs encouraged to bring in minibuses to bridge the gap.

The PPP was implemented under a design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) basis. Initially Keolis assisted in establishing the design of the metro and its operational strategy. It was system, telecommunications, ticketing systems and ticket machines, as well as the running and maintenance of the 57 metro trains themselves. Keolis also recruited and trained staff.


Hyderabad Metro and its stations play a part in what Reddy hopes will bring positive change for society, from renewed economic activity to improved public safety, which in turn will attract people to the metro.

“For me Hyderabad Metro is not simply a transpor- tation project. It’s an opportunity to redesign an Indian city as a people-friendly green city,” he says. Hyderabad pledged that with its metro would come
improved security, safety and a better quality of life. “People are already feeling the change.The quality of life will change, it’s just the beginning,” says Reddy.

Following on from the success of the metro, an airport line and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system connecting the financial district with the KPHB station in the west of the city are also in the works. It’s set to be India’s first BRT corridor featuring electric buses, which Reddy also hopes to fund through PPP. But once again this will be BRT with a twist as the BRT will run on elevated roads, which he hopes will inspire other cities facing similar challenges. “In Indian cities, BRT is very difficult at road level. Elevated BRT is rare throughout the world and a new concept for an Indian city. It will hopefully become a reference for others.”

Yet even before the introduction of BRT, the metro is already proving very popular in Hyderabad, a city with ambitious plans looking to intelligently improve its infrastructure amid rapid expansion. “I’m very proud of the city. Of course we need to learn a lot but I see a bright future for Hyderabad and other Indian cities thanks to mass transit. It’s just a matter of time.”

NVS Reddy

is at the helm of the Hyderabad Metro Rail in India, a project which he developed using a public-private partnership (PPP). Reddy has 36 years’ experience working in managerial roles in government sectors. His mandates over the years have been wide-ranging, and he has worked on various public developments from railway to road, including the major railway infrastructure project, Konkan Railway, as well as the implementation of four flyovers in Hyderabad city. Inspired by: the land value capture systems of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore metro, and the BRTS in South America.


“In Lyon, we are speeding up innovation in all its forms.”

As the authority in charge of France’s second-largest public transport network, SYTRAL has a particularly complex brief. It spans the whole Rhône department, which includes the dynamic city of Lyon, of course, as well as vast suburban areas, which also pose significant mobility challenges.

Pulse #4 7 min

Pontevedra, a pedestrian’s paradise!

Almost all of this Spanish town, home to a population of 83,000, has been made a car-free zone. Pedestrians have reclaimed the streets and quality of life is improving by the day. What lies behind the scheme’s success? Explanations by Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores, mayor of Pontevedra.

Pulse #4 6 min