Louis Berger: Mass transit systems should be designed pandemic-proof

Louis Berger: Mass transit systems should be designed pandemic-proof

How has the independent engineers (EI) contributed towards ensure successful execution of the Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMRL) Project? What were the key challenges involved and main learnings? And why is it necessary for mass transit systems to be designed to be pandemic-proof in the future? Kshitish...

How has the independent engineers (EI) contributed towards ensure successful execution of the Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMRL) Project? What were the key challenges involved and main learnings? And why is it necessary for mass transit systems to be designed to be pandemic-proof in the future? Kshitish Nadgauda, Senior Vice President & Managing Director-Asia, Louis Berger, shares his perspective and experience. How did you go about effectively addressing the key challenges identified in the DPR and during the construction phase of the Hyderabad Metro Rail Project (HMRL)? Once the DPR was framed, and HMRL had developed with considerable effort and perseverance a high-level Manual of Specification and Standards (MSS) to capture the essential requirements of the DPR but allowing enough leeway for the Concessionaire to modify the design of the Metro System for optimal cost and performance while adapting to changing technological advancements, the Manual was the guiding specification for the project. In any case, the independent engineer (IE) had conducted a thorough review and analysis of the DPR against the Manual and the Concession Agreement (CA) soon after being appointed in February 2011 to ensure its compliance in true spirit. The key challenge for IE to adhere to the Manual was to ensure that all designs were checked reasonably in depth rather than being merely reviewed as was mandated by its role. While IE performed an independent role as far as HMRL and the Concessionaire were concerned, IE played an important role in ensuring that safety and quality were top priorities, so much so that HMRL had no reason to appoint a separate safety consultant for the construction and commissioning stage. IE pulled out all stops to ensure that services of the highest quality with impeccable thoroughness were provided, benefiting the project and both partners and credits both HMRL and the concessionaire in facilitating IE to discharge its role effectively. IE ensured that all tests as required as per the manual and scope of work as per good industry practice were indeed conducted. In your opinion, how did Louis Berger contribute to the successful delivery of the project? Louis Berger was appointed as the IE for the PPP project. By definition, the IE role entails a reduced level of design checking, inspection and supervision in comparison with the traditional PMC role. However, from the beginning, the IE team was an equal stakeholder in the best interest of the safety, quality and progress of the project, often going well beyond our call of duty as is the culture with Louis Berger. We fully subscribed to the ONE TEAM delivery approach. Safety is a top priority, and this commitment was amply demonstrated on the Hyderabad Metro rail project with decisive leadership shown by the company towards top-notch safety implementation on the project. With regards to Quality, without imposing on the concessionaire and without creating additional obligations, which might slow down the progress, the IE team proactively engaged in the inspection and testing of all components of the project, working closely with all stakeholders without any hindrance to the progress. The successful completion of this project with a good safety record and to the highest quality standards is the result of this ONE TEAM commitment. What were the main challenges faced on the project? Working in congested public corridors: it is always a challenge to work in our urban corridors with the high density of developments and constrained right-of-way. This project was no different. The ONE TEAM comprising HMRL, the concessionaire and IE worked collaboratively towards resolving hurdles posed by constraints within the right-of-way in order to mitigate potential delays. Existing conditions including utilities: Any public infrastructure project in densely developed urban settings will always encounter issues with existing utilities, especially since reliable as-built drawings of older utilities are often not available. The Hyderabad Metro Rail project was no exception. IE worked closely with the Concessionaire towards minimising delays due to the absence of such information. Railway crossings: Wherever the Metro crosses Indian Railway lines, it was mandatory for the Concessionaire to obtain from Indian Railways the approval of the design and details of such crossings in a timely manner. The schedule also had to allow for the proof-checking of the designs by RITES as required by Indian Railways. IE played a key role in working closely with the Concessionaire and HMRL towards minimising delays in obtaining approvals from Indian Railways. Apart from utilities, existing religious structures posed a special challenge that was overcome with the timely intervention of HMRL. Engineering challenges that were innovatively overcome – innovative designs, innovative construction techniques minimising public disruption/delays: There were several situations on the project that warranted innovation in design and construction techniques. For example, some routes entailed sharp curves and steep vertical gradients. IE worked closely with the Concessionaire towards mitigating the safety risks entailed with the use of the launching girder for the construction of the elevated viaducts in such sections. Similarly, IE worked closely with the Concessionaire and HMRL towards optimising the construction technique for the launching of segments close to the Secunderabad Main Station with the longest Railway-Over-Bridge (ROB) over the main Indian Railways lines, thus reducing construction time by almost a year. Another example of innovative ONE TEAM collaboration was the design of the monolithic concrete portal beam in lieu of structural steel portals along Corridor 2 where the Metro Line 2 crosses Line 1 in the interest of safety as well as optimisation. In hindsight, what are some of the main learnings from Phase-I of the project? During the initial phase, IE participated extensively in discussions on the detailed specifications for the various sub-systems but not in the selection of vendors and suppliers as per its mandate. This required considerable subsequent interaction with the OEM supplier to enable the Concessionaire to be compliant with specification requirements, especially for systems works. IE’s proactive involvement was thus beneficial for the project. Future assignments would be well served with such IE involvement. In addition, planning the works in a collaborative manner with all stakeholders including IE served the project and the concessionaire well. This applies to all aspects of the project including design, construction methodologies and techniques, inspection ad testing including test procedures and parameters. Long-lead items such as ROBs were also collaboratively planned. Systems works including signalling that are typically executed by a few overseas suppliers were also meticulously planned to work as ONE TEAM. Delays were mitigated through this ONE TEAM approach. As a leading advisory in the urban rail transit segment, how easy or difficult will the implementation of metro rail projects in a post-Covid-19 environment be? Mass transit has no doubt suffered a setback during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic due to social distancing requirements as well as concerns over ventilation. In addition, several business sectors have expressed their intent to maintain some form of “Working from Home” in the post-COVID-19 scenario. However, most urban areas, especially in India, will still require significant investment in mass transit since this would still be the most optimum mode of transport for the average commuter. It would therefore be necessary for mass transit systems to be designed to be pandemic-proof in the future, including provisions for social distancing and efficient ventilation such that the confined spaces are continuously replenished with fresh air. This would restore confidence in the metro in the traveling public.

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