Message in a Metro: Building Urban Rail Infrastructure and Image in Delhi, India


The world over, infrastructure mega projects have become more prevalent, even as evidence suggests that such projects often experience significant cost overruns while failing to fully deliver on their projected benefits. In this light, this article will argue that continued support for infrastructure mega projects stems from the way that such projects are presented to the public. Using the case of the development of a metro railway in Delhi, India, it shows that galvanizing public support and attracting patrons to a public transit system stems from creating an allā€round positive image that combines tangible variables with an intangible set of symbolic meanings. Of course, image is only an impression, and does not necessarily reflect reality. In this light, the final section of this article examines the broad physical and societal implications of the metro development in Delhi, and uncovers the driving forces behind the project. The article concludes that, in spite of the cultivation of a positive image, the specific metro form that was developed in Delhi to satisfy each of the special interest groups involved in its production might be specifically one that fails to suit the transportation needs of the city.