21 September 2019

Interaction-Dr. E Sreedharan

The country should trust technocrats and give them a free hand to take decisions and keep them accountable

 

While there has been a lot going on the metro front, there is one gentleman who is conspicuous by his presence on almost every major metro project being undertaken in India, our very own Metro Man of India, Dr. Elattuvalapil Sreedharan. Despite his retirement from DMRC, he has been appointed as Principal Advisor for DMRC, Principal Adviser to U.P. Government and Principal Advisor to Govt. of A.P. He advises U.P. Government on Lucknow Metro (the fastest Metro project now going on in the country) Kanpur Metro and a Metro for Varanasi. Maharashtra Government avails his expertise for the longest and most difficult line No.3 project. He assists Kerala Government for the Kochi Metro and Light Metro Projects for Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. Dr. E. SREEDHARAN spoke to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES about his Metro journey, starting with the Delhi metro, its impact and his vision for India’s metro project drive.

 

 

The Delhi Metro is today called the lifeline of Delhi. Could you give us a brief overview of the project and its scope?

Phase I of Delhi Metro covering 65 kms with 57 stations at a cost of Rs.10,500 crores commenced on 1st October 1998 and was completed in April 2005, in about 6.1/2 years’ time. The 2nd phase of the Delhi Metro covering 125 kms with 84 stations at a cost of Rs.22,000 crores was completed in October 2010. While the 3rd phase covering 160 kms with 108 stations at a cost of Rs.41,000 crores is now in progress and expected to be completed by December 2017. Green signal has already been given for the 4th phase of Delhi Metro covering 102 kms.When the fourth phase is completed Delhi Metro will be the 5th largest Metro system in the world.

 

 

Delhi Metro today carries about 30 lakh passengers a day.

This is equivalent to almost 3 lakh vehicles off the road, with every commuter on the Delhi Metro saving about 56 minutes in an up and down journey. With the use of clean energy, itfurther avoids the import of about 3 lakh Tons of fossil fuel every year and prevents about 180 Tons of pollutants being let into the air every day. It has also been estimated that by carrying 30 lakh passengers daily in a safe and comfortable manner, Delhi Metro has in effect helped to prevent about 200 fatal accidents on the road every year.

Barring Kolkata Metro, Delhi Metro fares are amongst the lowest in the world and it has yet proved to be a financial success by being able to service and pay back loans comfortably with operational surpluses and without any government subsidies.

 

 

Key learning’s from your experience and how they can be applied to the forthcoming projects?

The key lesson to the nation from the Delhi Metro experience is that if there are no political and bureaucratic interferences, an empowered organisation with an enlightened leadership can change the face of the nation. The country should trust technocrats and give them a free hand to take decisions and at the same time keep them accountable. Another lesson is that our cities cannot survive without a modern, world class public transport system and Metros continue to remain a leading solution.
 

 

Outlook on the future of the metro project drive in India - expected long-term impacts and opportunities?

Developing a modern metro rail system in our cities is still a distant dream. While a country like China is completing almost 300 kms of Metro every year, we are still struggling to complete even 20 kms. Ideally every city with more than 2 million population needs a Metro system. But the Central Government’s support to the Metro revolution is half-hearted. Government of India expects State Governments to bear the major share of the financial burden for a Metro system and in our country all State Governments face resource crunch. How can the Metro revolution then take place?

A well designed policy to reduce the cost of Metros, ensure their timely completion and provide them sound management to make them financially sustainable is lacking. A key input for the same is standardisation, indigenisation and a sound legal framework. The Indian Railway Act is now 130 years old and we yet don’t have a sound Metro Act in the country. There is still lack of clarity whether a Metro is a Central subject or falls in the concurrent list.

While finding resources for execution of Metro projects remains a significant challenge, getting sound managerial and technical expertise to ensure timely completion of the Metro projects and ensuring that they remain financially sustainable are more pressing challenges.

 




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