DPRs for phase-II of the Hyderabad Metro Rail project are under the government's consideration
- NVS Reddy, Managing Director, Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd
Hyderabad metro is one among the world’s largest PPP project in the metro sector. Under the stewardship of NVS Reddy, Managing Director, Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd, the project was successfully commissioned in November 2017. In an interview with CW, Reddy shares more on project, related challenges and policy changes during execution, lessons learnt and much more…
What sets Hyderabad Metro apart among similar urban rail transit projects in the country?
Hyderabad Metro Rail project is a paradigm shift in building Urban Mass Transit Systems with alternate sources of financing.
- NVS Reddy, Managing Director, Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd Hyderabad metro is one among the world’s largest PPP project in the metro sector. Under the stewardship of NVS Reddy, Managing Director, Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd, the project was successfully commissioned in November 2017. In an interview with CW, Reddy shares more on project, related challenges and policy changes during execution, lessons learnt and much more… What sets Hyderabad Metro apart among similar urban rail transit projects in the country? Hyderabad Metro Rail project is a paradigm shift in building Urban Mass Transit Systems with alternate sources of financing. It is the world’s largest Metro Rail project built in the PPP mode. Barring a handful of projects, almost all the Urban Transit systems across the globe are built with government finances. However, out of about Rs 22,000 crore CAPEX on the 69 km Hyderabad Metro Rail project, 90 per cent of it has been raised by the private sector Concessionaire L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Ltd (L&TMRHL) – a first in the world. A lot of financial and engineering innovation has gone into the making of this project with broad-based performance specifications providing the necessary leeway for the concessionaire to incorporate state-of-the-art technology. Further, it is not a simple mass transit project, but is used as an opportunity to facilitate redesigning of an Indian city as a people-friendly green city. What challenges were faced when the project was changed over to the PPP implementation model after initially having been conceptualised as a purely government-funded project? Innumerable challenges were faced in converting the Hyderabad Metro Rail project, which was originally conceptualised as a government funded project into the PPP mode. Preparation of bankable bid documents; incorporation of an appropriate risk/reward mechanism; balancing private sector objectives and public good; achievement of financial closure in the stipulated time of six months; and “ring fencing” the private sector concessionaire from a variety of obstructions were amongst the major challenges. My team members and I handled the prolonged agitations against the project by vested interests, religious groups, and lobbies, and facilitated the private sector concessionaire to execute the project. Since Hyderabad Metro was a brownfield project, how did you implement one of your main project objectives i.e., to also leverage it as once in a lifetime opportunity to redesign the urban landscape? As I mentioned earlier, we made use of this project as an urban redesign opportunity. Urban Rejuvenation works were carried out by Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMRL, the Government SPV) to improve the streetscape, pedestrian facilities/safety measures, greenery, and creation of quality public spaces, at all the Metro rail stations at the ground level. Sidewalks/intermediate footpaths with designer tiles and street furniture, service lanes, safety railing to segregate pedestrian pathways from the main carriageway, were created at and near the metro stations for a considerable length, which are now being replicated by other civic organisations in the other areas of Hyderabad city. While selecting the Hyderabad Metro project as the “Best Urban Mass Transit Project” in the Urban Mobility India Conference-2018, Government of India appreciated these urban rejuvenation measures of HMRL and advised all other metro-rail projects of the country to emulate these efforts. What major policy changes did you have to drive for the execution of the project? The most important policy change that we could secure from the government was the freedom for the state governments to choose the gauge (Standard gauge vis-a-vis Broad gauge, which was earlier made mandatory for the Metro Rail systems by Indian Railways) primarily on the basis of the presentations made by Dr E Sreedharan and me to the Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Shri Sharad Pawar on Metro Rail gauge issue in 2008. Without this change, it would have been practically impossible to implement metro-rail projects in the narrow roads of most of the Indian cities, with sharp curves and bends. This also enabled cost optimisation including the train sets (rolling stock). Successfully bringing about the mindset change in the political and bureaucratic circles; adoption of Transit oriented Development (ToD) Policy; land pooling for acquisition of depot lands; preparation and enactment of the Andhra Pradesh Tramways Act; and declaration of the private sector concessionaire as the Metro Rail Authority (MRA) under the Central Metro Act, are some of the major policy changes that we succeeded in bringing about in the implementation as well as operation & maintenance of the Hyderabad Metro Rail project. What benefits are the residents of Greater Hyderabad likely to realise over the medium to long term with the commissioning of the metro rail network? Hassle-free and comfortable travel in a world-class quality and safe transit system; substantial reduction in travel time, pollution levels and congestion on the city roads; spending quality time with family members; better productivity at the workplace; improved competitiveness and attractiveness of Hyderabad city will be some of the benefits for the residents of Greater Hyderabad with the commissioning of the metro-rail network. As a key member of the policymaking think tank in metro-rail planning in the government, what are the lessons learned that could be readily applied to future projects in Hyderabad as well as across India? Setting up of a SPV to act as a single window agency to implement/facilitate implementation of the project, the SPV being headed by a multi-faceted and capable officer with fixed tenure until the completion and commissioning of the project and operation of the line for two years; setting up of Project Monitoring Group (PMG)/Special Task Force (STF) headed by the chief secretary of the state to ensure inter departmental coordination/resolution of contentious issues; advance planning and acquisition of the required lands for depots, casting yards, and stations; creation of Right of Way (RoW) in advance; utilities mapping; mechanism to ensure the required support from Central and State Government agencies, are absolutely essential for implementation of infrastructure projects especially in urban areas. Further, a project leader requires tremendous guts to take timely bold and path-breaking decisions; a burning passion and commitment for the project to see that it becomes a signature Metro; and a lot of ingenuity to solve the problems, which will be encountered day-in and day-out in implementing mega projects. No Harvard, Stanford or MIT can teach as to how to implement complex projects in the Indian social milieu and system of working. The project leader has to develop his/her own management skills to handle the impediments, which are more socio-political than technical. What suggestions would you have for future metro projects, especially towards cost optimisation with fast-track implementation? Reasonable relaxation of specifications and standards for the civil structures, rolling stock, signalling and train control, power and communication systems; pragmatic downsizing of stations/station facilities; availability of low interest and long tenure debt instruments especially for the PPP projects, fiscal support/tax concessions by Central, State and Local governments will facilitate cost optimisation and fast track implementation of metro projects. Are there plans to fast-track the implementation of Phase-II so as to further expand metro rail coverage of Greater Hyderabad to bring about a cultural shift in urban transportation? With three corridors spanning over 69 km, Hyderabad Metro is already the second largest Metro rail network in the country, next only to Delhi Metro. DPRs for phase-II of the Hyderabad Metro Rail project are under consideration of the Government. Phase-II also envisages Airport Metro connectivity (31 km), which is an extension of the operational Corridor-III (blue line). Different options of funding are being explored to fast-track Hyderabad Metro Rail phase-II program