Nov 11
More to Mauritius
More to Mauritius
A PICTURE speaks a thousand words. Haven’t we all come across the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci that that attracts millions to the Louvre in Paris?Over the last 503 years, tens of thousands of words have been penned simply to guess and analyse who Mona Lisa actually was, what her smile is conveying and why her arms are folded the way they are. That’s too much of an intrigue, right!
 
But the photograph above of two young men joyously peering through the wide glass panel of a train is no intrigue. The picture is from a Metro Express train in Mauritius and is representative of the joy of every Mauritian who commutes by this sophisticated urban railway system – new to their country. India and its multinational private conglomerate, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), has played the pivotal role in facilitating this joy and comfort to Mauritians.
 
While the Mauritius coast is dotted with serene white beaches, its inlands thrive with commercial spaces, cybercities, universities, bus interchanges involving commutation from urban residential areas – all of which results in a high traffic density of about 200 vehicles / km on arterial roads. That’s a lot for a country that’s less than half the size of Mumbai metropolitan region. Hence, the need for an urban transit system that is reliable, sustainable, promotes transit oriented development and facilitates a mode shift from private to public transport, was long overdue.
 
A DREAM TAKES SHAPE
 
Being a superb welfare state, the Mauritian government hired international consultants to conduct a feasibility study and to preliminary design and identify the alignment. Keeping in mind the Peak Hour Peak Direction Traffic, alignment constraints and viable economic rate of return, a Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) based urban transit system was found to be most suitable and sustainable.
 
With the need well in place, India decided to fund the project, estimated at about half a billion USD. This by way of a Line of Credit (LOC) along with a separate grant element. The Mauritian government availed of the offer and quickly set up Metro Express Ltd - its wholly owned subsidiary - to implement the project. In July 2017, L&T was awarded the USD 565 million project – right from design to commissioning – against stiff global competition.
 
The LRV system is to connect the capital, Port Louis with the towns of Beau-Bassin, Rose-Hill, Quatre-Bornes, Phoenix, Vacoas and Curepipe. There are to be 19 stations, two of them elevated – Curepipe and Rose Hill – and bus interchanges at Curepipe, Quatre Borne, and Rose Hill – thus facilitating multimodal seamless urban travel.
 
L&T, which has constructed - either in part or full - the Metro railways in Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Lucknow, Bengaluru and Kochi in India, and is constructing Metro railways in Riyadh, Doha and Dhaka in the overseas, soon got into the execution mode. Its approach to the Mauritius Metro Project was directed at faster execution, minimal disturbances to people, maximum local industry participation, modern and distinctive solution for the new-age transportation system.
 
PHASE-I 
 
The project features multiple track forms – ballasted, ballastless and embedded – for best-in-class urban design that mitigates noise and vibration and facilitates energy-efficient traction power supply. Despite all the challenges, L&T, true to its signature style, completed the Phase-I priority section of 12.56 km – Rose Hill to Victoria – in a record span of two years.
 
This section has seven stations and a sprawling depot at Richelieu that includes state of the art operation command center, simulators for rapid driver training, administrative building, maintenance workshop and stabling yards. The stations have been constructed in a fashion that allows a commuter to seamlessly switch over from a bus stop to Metro platforms. There are automated ticket vending and smart card recharge machines on station premises.
 
L&T procured 18 bi-directional trainsets – of seven coaches each - from Spain-based CAF. All the trains are equipped with an advanced signalling system and automatic vehicle location system (AVLS). They have low floors and are equipped with high-efficiency air-conditioning, so essential for the tropics. The trains have spacious seats overlooking wide glass panels. One train can comfortably accommodate 400 passengers.
 
The Phase-I stretch was jointly inaugurated on 3 October 2019 by the Prime Ministers of India and Mauritius, Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, respectively.
 
Commercial services were opened to passengers from 10 January 2020. There are now daily Metro services between Rose Hill and Victoria with the trains plying from 6 am – 7 pm (Sunday through Thursday) and 6 am – 10 pm (Friday through Saturday).
 
JOY ABOUNDS
 
Despite the speed and comfort, the fare structure is aligned to the existing bus fare, adding the very welcome aspect of affordability to the Metro’s list of benefits. It is a delightful sight to behold when a Metro train reaches a road junction and the automated signal system grants it priority, making the cars and buses to halt!
 
“The launching of the Metro Express sets us on a journey with the confidence that the future can be even more promising and brighter... I wish to heartily thank Larsen & Toubro for delivering the priority section of the Metro Express on time and as per schedule,” a visibly elated Mr Jugnauth had commented at the inauguration.
 
“Starting from a greenfield to the present status in the record span of two years, the Mauritius Metro Express has been one of the fastest executed transit systems by L&T,” Mr S N Subrahmanyan, CEO & MD of L&T, had remarked at the launch in the presence of Prime Ministers of both countries.
 
Today, Metro is the most popular mode of public commute in Mauritius. In fact, this October, it has crossed two million passenger trips, even though the commercial operations are yet to complete a year. Naturally, Mr Alan Ganoo, the Mauritian minister for land transport & light rail, is overjoyed.
 
“Traveling by metro has become part of the Mauritian culture. It is a modern, secure, 'reliable' mode of transport. The Port-Louis - Rose Hill trip takes less than 20 minutes. In the near future, more precisely by April 2021, we will go up to Quatre Bornes. As a result, we will bring more comfort to road users in Mauritius,” the minister observed.
 
With the successful commissioning of Phase-I, Metro Express Ltd has been selected as finalist for the New Civil Engineer Awards of Great Britain in the categories of Excellence in Project Management Engineering Culture, Leader in Collaboration and Impact in Rail. This annual competition rewards the most efficient, innovative, inspiring and influential companies in the field of civil engineering.
 
PHASE-II
 
While Mauritians are now enjoying their commute in the eco-friendly and efficient Metro, L&T is working overtime to complete Phase-II of the project. This phase will take the Metro further from Rose Hill to Curepipe – a distance of 13.44 km with 12 stations. Despite the COVID-induced global constraints of manpower and supplies, 35% of Phase-II work is already over and L&T is hopeful of completing the work by the deadline, September 2021.
 
“Mauritius Metro is being built to world-class standards by employing cutting-edge construction methods and state-of-the-art systems. The successful launch of Phase-I demonstrates L&T’s design and engineering capabilities by leveraging our global experience and establishes our credentials in the sector overseas,” says Mr Rajeev Jyoti, the Chief Executive for Railways Strategic Business Unit in L&T Construction.
 
Once the entire 26 km stretch of the Mauritius Metro – Curepipe to Victoria – becomes operational, by travelling in the Metro one will be able to visit Apravasi Ghat, Port Louis Postal Museum, Blue Penny Museum, Place D'Armes, Govt House and Caudan Waterfront in Port-Louis; Église Sacré Coeur Basilica in Beau-Bassin; Sir Gaëtan Duval Stadium in Rose-Hill; Quatre Bornes Market, MCB Eco-Building and La City Trianon in Quatre-Bornes; Mauritius Glass Gallery, ISKCON and Phoenix Mall (Jumbo) in Phoenix; IGCIC, Vacoas Market and Gymkhana/SMF Grounds in Vacoas; and the Curepipe Market.
 
While this will make it easy for Mauritians to go about their daily business, a globetrotter will be able to – easily and comfortably – explore the amazing island nation and its vibrant people. With the introduction of Metro Express, Mauritian government has further boosted its image of a welfare state and has set an example to other countries as regards new-age urban transport.
 
India can take pride in the fact that it has played a significant role in facilitating this initiative in a friendly country and that one of its very own private conglomerates is actually executing this momentous project.

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