Indian Smart City Metro

Upgrading underused rail lines to create metros was first done in the German and Austrian StadtSchnellbahnen or S-Bahn. Examples are Nuremberg S-Bahn or Dresden S-Bahn

In the UK the Manchester Metrolink was created mainly from freight-only lines which had been closed to passenger traffic since the 1960s

The process can now begin in India using its excellent electrified rail system


India has an excellent rail system. Eighty percent of its wide gauge lines are electrified. However, the system is used mainly for long distance trains which run at infrequent intervals. This leaves spare capacity for more frequent local services utilising the latest signal and rolling stock technology.

Growth in India is running at 7.2% and rising. Road congestion costs lives and money - Rs 1.47 lakh crore annually in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata alone. Delhi has the 4th highest air pollution in the world. Indian 'Tier 1' megacities are challenged in accommodating demand in a sustainable manner. 

Smart City Metros

However, the smaller Tier 2 and Tier 3 Indian Smart Cities can use their current rail lines to run Smart City Metros which will provide travel equity for all in a clean and low congestion manner. Metros will enable development in line with the UN Sustainability Goals using the ConnectedCity methodology which focuses growth in the walkable 15 minute neighbourhoods around rail stations with a good level of service. 

Modernising Signalling and Rail Traffic Management

The latest technology allows trains to safely run much closer together. In Europe ETCS (European Train Control System) is being rolled out to enable the introduction of ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System). Importantly, the standards for these systems are defined by a EU wide group of rail operators, so that different manufacturers have to produce equipment which is compatible, similar to the way that computer hardware manufacturers compete to make products on which Microsoft software runs.

Indian Signalling

Indian Railways has studied the global signalling market to develop KAVACH Automatic Train Protection system built upon standardised piece parts combined into a cost-effective product. KAVACH is being installed on 3,500+km of route and over 700 locomotives.

Indian urban population - 3 sizes of city

Map and data produced by Jas Bhalla

Tamil Nadu Railways

A ConnectedCity served by a Smart City Metro running on existing rail tracks

Smart City Metro Pilot

Blue Box - Pilot Metro line

Existing Situation




Proposed Metro Service

Pilot Smart City Metro using Electrified Single Track with New Passing Loops at Existing and Potential New Stations serving New Settlements

Yellow - 1km around existing station

Green - 1km around new station


Five passing loops

Passing loops at stations are most cost effective as one train is stationary. If the trains pass ‘at speed’ the loops have to be longer and therefore more expensive

Signalling upgrade as ECTS pilot to maximise efficiency


Existing stations upgraded

New stations with new settlements 


Providing rapid sustainable transport between college campuses, new housing and new employment sites

Finance - © International Union of Railways (UIC), Alstom, Roland Berger and University of Birmingham - Paris, 2023

Due to the large scale emissions that would be avoided from new rail projects in Low Income Countires (LICs) and Low to Medium Income Countries (LMICs), governments should consider rail as climate mitigation projects under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, generating carbon credits that would in turn be allowed to be sold to richer countries. Governments should also support the development of carbon finance market regulations specifically for land transport, that would standardize the calculations of avoided emissions from a modal shift to rail, which would expand climate funding sources for rail.

With long lifetimes of 30-35 years for rolling stock and up to 100 years for infrastructure, rail projects are discriminated against with standard methods of cost-benefit analysis used by IFIs. Such approaches must be updated, allowing rail projects to use lower depreciation rates so that their substantial future benefits can be better captured by financial models. Additionally, the wider socio-economic benefits of rail, though difficult to monetise, must be incorporated in appraisal processes. IFIs should also prioritise low carbon, efficient and resilient modes in future expansion of their lending pools, increasing funds allocated to rail projects, as well as support LICs and LMICs in making their railways more creditworthy.

De-risking cost-effective technologies can help reduce required project investments and improve project bankability. The railway sector should continue to progress in developing new solutions that lower operation and maintenance costs, which are particular challenges of the mode. Newe forms of traction, or digital train-based control systems, can also reduce the need for line-side infrastructure and with that lower overall infrastructure costs and make projects more attractive for financing.

An example of a modern metro - Alstom in India