Metro Rail Realignment

Metro Rail Realignment

The Second Metro Rail Conference was organised by FIRST Construction Council (FCC) in collaboration with CONSTRUCTION WORLD and Infrastructure Today magazines. In an unprecedented surge underscoring the vital role of metro systems in enhancing the quality of life and spurring economi...

The Second Metro Rail Conference was organised by FIRST Construction Council (FCC) in collaboration with CONSTRUCTION WORLD and Infrastructure Today magazines. In an unprecedented surge underscoring the vital role of metro systems in enhancing the quality of life and spurring economic growth in cities nationwide, India’s metro rail growth has expanded from 229 km across five cities in 2014 to a staggering 860 km across 20 cities by April 2023. Emphasising upon profitability of metro-rail systems at the conference, held at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Pratap Padode, Founder and President, FIRST Construction Council, said, “As per the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA), daily ridership across metro systems in India has surpassed the 10 million mark and is expected to exceed 12.5 million in a year or two.” Sharing his wealth of experience, Padma Vibhushan (‘Metro Man’) Dr Sreedharan, former MD, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said that the most important things for efficient ridership are an affordable fare structure, last-mile connectivity and sufficient parking space. He called upon Metro heads to ensure that projects are done on time and within the estimated cost; fares should be affordable and the operating cost should be reduced to the minimum. Highlighting the need to learn from Dr Sreedharan’s experiences, Sanjay Bhatia, Upa-Lokayukta of Maharashtra and former Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust, urged project heads to avoid reinventing the wheel. Emphasising upon the significance of PPPs for metro projects even while acknowledging execution challenges, he highlighted all current and future metro lines. Acknowledging both successes and failures in PPPs, KVB Reddy, MD, L&T (Hyderabad) Metro Rail, mentioned financing and day-to-day coordination with the government as challenges. He spoke of the dire need for a regulator to resolve disputes between government and private players and called upon the Centre and states to provide sovereign guarantees for private players. Technology: Speaking of the biggest trends in technology, Scott Crozier, Senior Vice President, Trimble, said that it is with reality capture solutions. Capturing the environment as it is on a regular basis creates a lot of data and the recent drive in data along with AI drives information and analytics so that construction projects can be done better, faster, safer, cheaper and greener, he said. Finance: With regard to financial sustainability, UJM Rao, Managing Director, Andhra Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation, said that cost-efficient light metro systems in Tier-2 and 3 cities with moderate ridership are cheaper by about 20 per cent in capex and 25 per cent in opex than conventional metros, making them financially viable to both operators as well as state governments. During his presentation, Karun Raj Singh Sareen, Partner, Major Projects, KPMG Advisory, said that there should be an emphasis on the 3 Ps – People, Profit and Planet – of sustainability. Elaborating upon challenges in Mumbai, Suyash Trivedi, Executive Director (Civil), Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation spoke of how tunnelling by itself is challenging but when done under a river body, it becomes even more difficult. Operations: Kumar Keshav, Director, Business Development, Deutsche Bahn RRTS Operations and former MD, UP Metro Rail, said that 60 per cent of the project is operation and maintenance in a 30-year lifecycle. Emphasising upon the ‘Make in India’ and carbon footprint reduction angle, Sunil Desai, Director, Dextra India, spoke of how glass fibre reinforcement (GFR) was earlier being imported but today there are seven to eight glass fibre rebar manufacturers in India. He added that most products today help reduce the carbon footprint and how one tonne of steel produces 1.8 tonne of CO2 whereas 1 MT of GFR produces 60 per cent less carbon emissions. Coming to fraud control, Anuj Goel, Head, Automatic Fare Collection (AFC), Mumbai Metro One, said that the AFC system is a major area from the revenue perspective and there should be no fraud by the operator or the system as fraud caused due to a bug in the software system may drain revenue. He felt that proper, timely internal audits could keep a check. Even while mentioning the role of innovative technologies [artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain], Sanjay Kumar, Director (Systems), Kochi Metro Rail, highlighting fragility of the system cautioned about cyber security vulnerabilities that could lead to inadvertent accidents. Highlighting how a lot of current urban transport planning is reactive, Suneet Maheshwari, Managing Partner, Udvik Infrastructure Advisors, mentioned his proposal to the government whereby asset ownership should stay with the government while the operations could be managed by the private sector to ensure that the asset is well-maintained. Regarding crowd management during peak hours, Rohit Yajnik, Head, Non-Fare Revenue and Branding, Mumbai Metro One, spoke of how people are monitored right from ticketing, AFC and up to the platform stage. He said that the system, in the last 10 years, has ensured a zero stampede record. “Non-fare revenue ensures that critical finance is available for all 365 days,” he said and continued, “If you can increase the revenue through non-fare, ticket prices will be in check and we will not pass on that burden to our commuters.” As for the finance challenge, Vijay Agrawal, Director, Equirus Capital, said, “A metro line takes around five to seven years for construction and 10 years minimum for a ridership breakeven operationally. So, technically a project would require a funding line of around 30 to 50 years as a metro is designed for 100 years of design life.” With regard to transit-oriented development (ToD), Jagan Shah, CEO, Infravision Foundation, said that the ToD model requires a systematic integration of different modes of transport with land users. He said that fortunately Delhi was already adopting a mixed-use policy, which created footfalls and traffic of users, which is critical for the ToD revenue model. Revathy Pradeep, Researcher, International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) discussing corporate park tie-ups with metro services said that it is feasible since almost 90 per cent of the total buses registered in India are private operators and a very high percentage of this comprises corporate buses and school buses. Also if corporate employee buses shifted to electric, it would mean a sizable decrease in our emission levels. “Ridership depends upon two factors: Time and cost. If both are favourable, there is no need to market it; commuters will automatically choose the metro,” said Harish Gupta, Executive Director (Operation and Maintenance), Navi Mumbai Maha Metro Operation Corporation, adding, “Why don’t we speed up the system to reduce journey time and why don’t we drastically reduce the fares to improve ridership?” Emphasising upon better planning of detailed project reports (DPRs), Vinod Yadav, Director, NCC and former Chairman, Railway Board, said that if better planned, the implementation time of projects would reduce and the results would be much better. Sharing insights from a multicity study on ridership demographics, Vishal Ramprasad, Programme Manager, Sustainable Cities and Transport, World Resources Institute (WRI), said that Metro riders are mostly 20 to 35 years of age and use it largely for work or to go to study. Highlighting the use of energy-efficient technologies, B Mangla Prasad, ED (System), Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation, spoke of energy saving in traction due to regenerative braking and inverter-based systems for air-conditioning. At a point in time when India’s metro network may become the world’s second largest in the next couple of years, surpassing the US, and when India is aiming for a 5,000-km metro route length by 2047 in 100 cities, both participants and sponsors, like Kirloskar Oil, NCC, JSW Steel, Tata Steel, Ultra Max, Kridhan and LivSyt, expressed their commitment to shaping the future of transportation. For full report, see CW website Key takeawaysAffordability: Efficient ridership depends on affordable fares, last-mile connectivity and sufficient parking space. Completing projects on time and within the estimated cost is key. Financing: There is a dire need for facilitation of longer tenor financing through provision of sovereign guarantees from governments, issuance of long-term low interest or zero-coupon bonds, etc, to reduce the interest burden and improve cash flows. Rising ridership: It surpassed 10 million and may exceed 12.5 million in coming years. PPPs: Despite challenges, including financing issues and coordination with the government, PPPs are significant for projects. Financial sustainability: Cost-efficient light metros in Tier-2 and 3 cities offer 20 per cent reduction in capex and 25 per cent reduction in opex compared to conventional metros. Energy conservation: Adoption of energy-efficient technologies such as solar, regenerative braking and inverter-based air-conditioning has led to significant energy savings in metro-rail operations. Need for metro-rail regulator: This would facilitate time-bound or expeditious settlement of claims, enable quick and equitable dispute resolution and look into timely fare fixation or enhancement. - R SRINIVASAN

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