11 July 2020

Interaction-Santosh Rai, Head Transport Sales, Hindustan Construction Company (HCC)

The opportunities in the metro rail construction in India are huge

HCC is a pioneer in the Indian infrastructure industry delivering world-class engineering and construction projects. HCC with its presence in multiple sectors is responsible for landmark projects that have defined the country's progress. The company has built some of the most remarkable transportation projects in India like the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, Bandra-Worli Sea Link, India's 1st and 2nd metro systems in Kolkata, Delhi and India's longest rail tunnel - Pir Panjal in Jammu & Kashmir to name a few. Over the last five decades, the company has delivered some of the best mass rapid transport systems, bridges and highways. SANTOSH RAI, HEAD–TRANSPORT SALES, HINDUSTAN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY (HCC) spoke to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES on his company’s contribution in the country’s metro rail movement and future opportunities.


Tell us about the role being currently played by your firm in the metro rail space? Which are the metro projects in which you are present, their current status, scope of work and cost, timeline for completion?

HCC has been a prominent player for Metro rail projects in India. We have built India’s first metro project - the Kolkata Metro. We have also been actively involved in the development of Phase I, Phase II and Phase III of the Delhi Metro. Currently we are executing three projects worth Rs.2000 crores in Phase III of Delhi Metro.

HCC has also been awarded the Rs.2500 Crore contract to build the Mumbai Metro Line III Pkg 2. The construction activity for this has already started.



What are the opportunities you are seeking in the metro space going forward? Tell us of the metro projects in which you are looking to contribute?

HCC keeps seeking opportunities in Metro space and there are several cities where metros are being planned and developed. HCC expertise in executing underground construction makes us the right partner for development of underground metro projects. Underground Metro is the best options for developing metro systems in cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, which face space crunch to construct elevated Metro projects. We would also like to work in developing cities like Lucknow, Srinagar, Guwahati etc.



Provide us a brief idea of the existing market opportunities and your strategy to tap those going forward?

The opportunities in the metro rail construction in India are huge. Currently, metro system in Mumbai is being planned and implemented in various phases. Similarly, metro is being planned in other cities such as Pune, Nagpur, Patna and Chandigarh. Our strategy is to focus on right kind of geographies and select projects on their merits. We also have to keep in mind the technical demands and other criteria which fit into our strategy.



Please details us regards to the challenges faced by company’s such as yours in metro rail construction

The challenges faced during the construction of metro rail largely depend on the mode of construction of the project. These projects are implemented on various forms which include complete design and build like Phase I of Delhi Metro and Mumbai Metro. In this form, there are various uncertainties such as varying geological conditions which throws up unforeseen hurdles, limited space in congested city environment, shifting of underground utilities and traffic diversions etc. But the good thing is that Metro clients design the contract in such a manner that it is easy to resolve such issues.

Another big challenge is getting land in densely populated areas to launch tunnel boring machines and make casting yards. Addressing land issue is a very time consuming process in our country.

Delhi Metro has set a very good example by making land available on time to the contractor so that the work can start and progresses seamlessly. This can only be done by taking the public at large in consensus even before starting the project.



What sort of support or policy changes are you expecting from the government with regards to metro rail projects execution.

The metro projects are not very different from other infrastructure projects, as far as policies are concerned. One of the teething issues that any infrastructure player faces today is the payment related to variations due to geological surprises. What we need is a mechanism in the contract to deal with such geological surprises which are way beyond the baseline geological reports provided at the time of tendering.

For example, International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) on which most of the EPC and turnkey projects contracts are based on, do not recommend going for EPC kind of projects for underground construction because of the uncertainty which contractor may face once the work starts. However if we have to execute the project on EPC basis then we should have a mechanism in place by which risk are properly shared rather than being shifted to the side of either parties.

One more policy support which we look for is the mechanism to deal with the change in the state laws & regulations. We execute Metro projects in various states which have different laws and regulations. Any change in the law can have financial implications of the project which should be answered properly by the client and also taken care by the government.

Underground Metro construction requires huge investment in machines and it is important that when such machines are imported, they should be given concession on import duty. Earlier such imports were custom duty free; but now they are not. It has big implication on the project cost as execution of only Mumbai Metro requires more than 20 machines; Delhi Metro used more than 30 machines at a time. This policy change would also motivate contractors to import and use latest technology for better and faster delivery of world class infrastructure.



Detail us with regards to the latest technologies like construction equipment, software, building materials etc your company has used in metro rail projects.

Being one of the major frontline players in the Metro sector, HCC uses the state of the art Tunnel boring machines. In Mumbai Metro we are using dual mode, double shield rock machines which are able to deal with both the rock environment as well as the soil environment (EPB). This latest TBM allows you to probe 50-100 meters ahead of the cutter head which gives you a lot of idea about the geology the TBM is going to face while drilling ahead.

We also utilise the technologies to monitor the real-time progress of the tunnel boring machines. Lot of new technologies is being used to carry out the building conditions survey and to do soil analysis beforehand to take remedial measures for smoother operations.

In the elevated metro projects now a lot of new launching techniques like full span launching to overhead launching are being used which reduce the cycle time to just 2 days only.



Future outlook for the industry and from a company perspective.

India needs a lot of infrastructure which itself speaks about the growth potential of Metro Sector. Also the amount of focus government is giving on infrastructure sector through highways, ports, railways, high speed rails, metro etc shows the potential of the infrastructure industry. It will be one of the most prominent industries in the next 10 years as leading players in this sector are gearing up for enhancing their capabilities to handle complex and demanding projects.

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