Saturday, September 26, 2020

Interaction- Brijesh Dixit, MD, MAHA METRO


We definitely expect the daily ridership to cross 100000 sooner than later this year



Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MAHA-METRO) is a joint venture of Government of India and Government of Maharashtra, with 50:50 equity. Currently MAHA-METRO is executing Nagpur and Pune Metro Rail Projects and is committed to provide a safe, reliable, efficient, affordable, commuter friendly and environmentally sustainable rapid public transport system for the citizens of Nagpur and Pune. BRIJESH DIXIT, MD, MAHA METRO spoke to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES on the Nagpur and Pune metro rail projects and its unique highlights.






Please brief us on the current status of the Nagpur & Pune metro rail projects? Also provide us details regards to the deadlines set and met for overall project completion. Also please brief us on the ridership, what are steps taken to enthuse people to travel by Nagpur metro.


Nagpur Metro Rail Project totaling 38.215 Km comprises two corridors (named Orange Line and Aqua Line i.e. North South Corridor and East-West Corridors respectively) 38 stations and 2 train coach maintenance Depots. Total completion cost of Nagpur Metro Project is `8860 Crore.


As on date, 25 km of Nagpur Metro is operational. The first section of 13.5 km of North South Orange Line was declared open for commercial operations by Honourable Prime Minister on 7th March, 2019 while the 11 Km of East West Aqua Line was declared open for commercial operation by Hon’ble Chief Minister, Maharashtra, Hon’ble Union Minister for Roads and Highways and Hon’ble Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing & Urban Affairs, Civil Aviation, Commerce & Industry on 28th January, 2020. How, the later 11 km was certified fit for commercial operations by Commissioner Metro Rail Safety as early as November 2019. It is instructive to note here that 25 km of Nagpur Metro Rail that is operational today (i.e. two third of the total project length) was completed in a record time of 50 months at the rate of 1 km for every two months, a new bench mark for first time metro rail construction in the country.


Currently overall physical progress of Nagpur Metro Rail Project stands at 88.20% and the entire project is set to be completed by end of the current year so that the same can be opened for commercial operations early next year. Nagpur Metro Project has completed all its milestones on or before time and in the process is also getting completed with 10% savings in the project cost over the DPR cost.


As regards Pune Metro Rail Project, its total route kilometer is 31.25 KM out of which 26.23 km section is elevated and 5.02 km is underground. Like Nagpur, Pune Metro is a two-corridor project, one from Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to Swargate (16.59 Km) and the second from Vanaz to Ramwadi (14.66 km). It has total 30 stations and two depots for upkeep and maintenance of metro coaches. The estimated landed completion cost of Pune Metro Project is `11,420 crores.


As on date total physical progress achieved on Pune Metro is close to 42%. Maha-Metro has committed the citizens of Pune & Pimpri-Chinchwad to make the year 2020 as the “Year of Metro Rail” for the city. Currently the priority corridor of Pune-metro along Pimpri- Phugewadi portion is chugging along fast for commencement of commercial operations in coming month. As the dawn of the new year (2020), Pune Metro Rail completed its own benchmark by reaching to the trial stage run in record time of 30 moths.


Also, the execution on Pune-Underground section, hallmark of the project is progressing at brisk pace. The underground work is being constructed using three Tunnel Boring Machines and out of its five stations two will be constructed using innovative NATM technology while other three are being constructed using conventional cut and cover system. Using innovations, Maha-Metro team has been able to ensure savings of `100 Crore in the underground construction work.



The entire elevated portion of Pune Metro rail is scheduled to progressively open by 2021 while the underground section shall be completed in 2020.




New lines for Nagpur metro have recently opened. How has the overall response to the metro transport in the city been? Also take us through the future development plans to provide more ease to commuters.


Let me posit first with all the enthusiasm to get the commuters initially on board the metro trains are both a logistical and psychological battle. This has been the experience of operational metro rails both in India and globally. At one level is getting past the entrenched habit of people of getting out of the psychological comfort zone of their own vehicles (read mostly two wheelers in the case of Nagpur) while at the other end, of providing the necessary first mile and last mile connectivity to ensure that pleasant metro experience is not marred by the not so pleasant experience of reaching metro stations and reaching homes/ offices/ leisure place/ markets after disembarking at metro stations.


Having said so, I am happy to say that experience of Maha-Metro in the so far opened sections have been rather positive and the commuter’s growth have shown a healthy uptrend not only on weekdays but also instructively on the weekends. Daily ridership is likely to get further shot in arm even in short term with the completion of balance stations of the sections opened so far in coming two months.  We definitely expect the daily ridership to cross 100000 sooner than later this year even before opening of the balance period. Several efforts have been taken to enhance the footfall and ridership and some of them are listed below-


  • Conscious effort to enhance the footfall by making metro stations destinations in themselves by making them commercial and institutional hubs.
  • Providing seamless connectivity with airport, railway stations, inter-state, intercity and intra city bus terminus and other such key areas generating traffic
  • Effectively integrating IPT (Intermediate Public Transport- Auto Rickshaws and E-Rikshaws) at stations, as well as creating infrastructure in form of pick up drop off bays for organized seamless movement.
  • Provisioning of feeder buses at all stations in partnership with municipal corporations as well as battery operated feeder buses in partnership with private sector operators.




Expected cost of the project, funds disbursed so far and additional funds sanctioned?


The estimated completion cost as per DPR of the Nagpur Metro Rail Project is `8680 crores. While it has completed physical progress in excess of 88% its financial progress so far is 81.09% as there is always a lag between physical and financial progress. The project is being executed with the equity funding from central and state government and soft debt from international financial agencies. No additional funds have been sanctioned as the project will be completed well within the original estimated cost. On the contrary, with introduction of many innovative measures, the project is expected to achieve a saving of 10% over the DPR cost.


The estimated completion cost as per DPR of the PuneMetro Rail Project is `11420 crores and it has achieved 38 per cent financial progress financially so far. Apart from equal equity contribution from central and state government, project has been sanctioned soft loan from two international funding agencies- 600 million Euros from EIB and 250 Million Euros from AFD France. Like Nagpur, Pune Metro project shall be completed within cost and Maha-Metro team is committed to bring at least 10% saving over the DPR cost.



What are the challenges specific to the metro project and how has it been overcome.


There were numerous challenges faced both at Nagpur and Pune. Challenges are part of large infrastructure project, but Maha-Metro Team has been able to squarely overcome them innovatively. While the Nagpur project as a whole presented many extra-ordinary challenges to planners, designers, executioners and managers, the task of taming the execution in reach- IV (Railway station to Prajapati Nagar) along the Central Avenue– an extraordinarily crowded road with commercial establishments on either sides – turned Achilles-heel for Project Managers. Along the busy road simmering with traffic always, the challenge was to ensure that not only traffic remained undisturbed, but also the speed of work was expedited.


Metro engineers had to contend with more than 50000 vehicles passing every day on this 17 km long stretch with 17 busy junctions in one of the oldest parts of the city dotting shops, commercial establishments and historical structures. At the beginning of the road was 100-year-old bridge Ramjhula (currently in reconstruction, after demolition some years back), landmarks like Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Hospital, frequented by thousands of patients every day and famed Poddareshwar Ram Mandir – a pilgrimage centre. Every year ShobhaYatra is organised by the Mandir and thousands witness this mega event. Constructing metro rail along such a busy road duly contending with humongous traffic kept engineers on tow and they had to resort to innumerable innovations to ensure safe and fast execution duly adhering to the desired quality.


Pune Project similarly has made engineers to innovate to tide over many challenges including constructing the metro in the densest old areas of the city. The biggest challenge faced by Pune have been in the areas of land acquisition, continuous scrutiny of stakeholders and frequent demands for change of the alignment. But the team Maha-Metro has amicably surpassed all the challenges and proceeded fast on the execution front.



Green initiatives taken for the Metro Rail project


The Nagpur and Pune Metro rail projects have been conceptualized and designed in such a way that they have rightly been given the tag of the Greenest Metro. Some of the initiatives that have made the two metro systems as Greenest metro as under-


Maha Metro has gone a step further by taking the following initiatives and making it one of the Greenest Metro’s.


  • Pioneered the integration of Solar Power right from the inception to meet 65% of total energy requirement, including traction power. -A global benchmark. So far more than 2 Lakh units have been exported and in the process Nagpur Metro has affected a saving of more than `1 Crore. Importantly the solar installations are grid connected net, -metered and done on RESCO model. Only solar panels being manufactured in India are being used to promote the “Make in India” initiative and building an Atmanirbhar Bharat. All these efforts are enabling 70% saving in the energy cost of operations helping substantially the long-term financial viability of the project.
  • Its operational stations have highest Platinum rating awarded by Green Building Council (IGBC). All stations, depots and administrative buildings are designed to achieve these norms progressively.
  • 100% Water Recycling and 100% Rainwater harvesting
  • Zero additional load on sewerage system - Bio digestors at all stations
  • Maha-Metro has adopted zero tolerance for “tree-felling” and has adopted the innovative tree-transplantation




Detail us regards to the latest technologies being used in the metro rail project.


We in Maha-Metro believe that construction of the metro rail projects now in the third decade of 21st century should use the latest technology and technological innovations to ensure project execution within cost and timeline and with the highest level of quality standards.


A case in point is indeed our adoption of country’s first and globally best practice of creating digital project management platform using 5-Dimensional Building Information Modelling (5D BIM) integrated with SAP ERP and supported by Owner’s Support Office (OSO) which is a dedicated team responsible for efficient utilization of the digital project management platform.


This unique 5D BIM solution of Maha Metro has already proven to be an effective platform for efficient monitoring of project execution, enabling execution of almost 25 km of metro network in just 50 months while saving 10% of the DPR Cost. All stages of metro project implementation right from planning, designing, construction, commissioning, handover operations & maintenance till closure could be visualized virtually through intelligent 3D Drawings with Time as 4th Dimension and Cost as 5th Dimension and then closely monitored helping in mitigating the key risk factors.


The platform is located in “War Room” in one office at Nagpur, where all decisions can be taken instantly on war footing.




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


In recent years, the central government has taken many measures to expedite construction of rail-based mass transit in the country. In this direction 2017 proved the seminal year when the Government of India came up with its maiden Metro Rail Policy, 2017 and Appraisal Guidelines for the Sanction of Metro Rail Projects 2017. Most significant policy change of 2017, was the admission that metro rail brings over all economic benefits to the city and as such the requirement of projects meeting the FIRR threshold of minimum 8.4% was abolished and was replaced with the threshold of Economic Internal Rate of Return of minimum 14%.  The policies of recent years of government have resulted in today metro rail being constructed in more than two dozen cities. In the coming year we need major policy enunciation with regard to development of light metro rail projects in Tier 2/ Tier 3 cities on the lines of Metro Neo project conceptualized by Maha-Metro for Nashik.



What is the impact of COVID-19 on the project implementation and metro services.


COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented crisis faced by the nation impacting lives and livelihood. As far as MahaMetro project is concerned execution of both its projects at Nagpur and Pune came to total stand-still due to the pan India lock-down measures enforced by central and state governments. Likewise, the operations of metro rail services had to be stopped and continue to be that way till their operation resumption is permitted by the government. Maha-Metro is in full readiness to resume services with full new SOP including safety and health measures fully complying with social distancing, thermal checking and personal hygiene norms. Also Maha-Metro is committed to use innovative technology to ensure touch free commuting by the citizens


Once in the first week of May city governments accorded the permission to Maha-Metro to resume construction activities at Nagpur and Pune, the projects faced another insurmountable challenge due to government assisted / facilitated reverse migration of migrant construction labor to their native place. At one point of time the number of contractors’ labor (a key project resource) dwindled in three figures both at Nagpur and Pune which severely impacted resumption of the work at desired speed. Since then contractors duly assisted by Maha-Metro have significantly improved the number of laborers which has gone beyond 3000 each at both Nagpur and Pune thereby ensuring take off of the construction work in right-trajectory. With number of labor likely to reach Pre-COVID-19 days in another fortnight, Maha-Metro is confident of fast-tracking full throttle construction activities to make good the time lost.


COVID-19 challenges were met with squarely and during the period utmost precaution was taken to ensure hygiene and good health of Maha-Metro executives, employees of General Consultants as well as workmen and labor of the contractors. Most prominent measures were all the needed precautions at work place, sites and labor camps to ensure “near zero spread of Coronavirus cases”. Also special drives were launched of contact tracing in case one odd case was detected but even a more radical approach aimed at 100% testing of Maha-Metro employees as preventive measures. Most prominent labor well fare measures taken was a totally new look work sites and labor camps with full mandatory precautions and ensuring payment for labor even during the lock-down.


Last but not the least Maha-Metro, which even otherwise has been at the forefront of adoption of frontier innovative technology in its working, used COVID-19 lock-down period as a God sent opportunity for total immersion in technology. Amongst the various technological tools successfully deployed to the fullest the more prominent were E-Office and multi-site video conferencing. Apart from ease of communication, and speed of decision taking such technology adoption has also been cost and time saving.





Apart from Nagpur and Pune Metro Rail projects, what status of other projects being executed by Maha Metro.


As mentioned earlier, Maha Metro has conceptualized innovative low cost high technology energy efficient Metro Neo project for Nashik. It is a unique, innovative efficient system of a rubber-tyred metro running on overhead traction on an elevated viaduct with all the features of a metro system and a significantly lower cost per km. The DPR of this project has been approved by Government of Maharashtra and is currently under sanction with Government of India. Also, Maha-metro has prepared the DPR of 29 km long light Metro project for Thane and post approval of Maharashtra government the same is under approval of central government. Another interesting project entrusted to Maha-Metro is Broad Gauge Metro or BG Metro (a Metro train service) to be run on Indian Railways Network to connect satellite towns of Wardha, Katol, Narkhed, Ramtek & Bhandara to Nagpur City. This will also act as a feeder service for Metro Rail System. The DPR for the project is currently under approval of Government of Maharashtra.


 Similarly, Maha Metro is preparing a Detailed Project Report for Metro Neo system at Warangal, Telangana. This is the first recognition by a State Government outside Maharashtra of Maha Metro’s capability. Finally, two lines totaling 43.8 km over 32 stations of Phase II project of Nagpur Metro is currently under scrutiny, and approval of central government after approval of the same by the State Government.




Future Plans and outlook on metro’s in India.


First two decades of 21st century have witnessed transformation of urban transport in major Indian cities by way of development of new metro eco-system in the country. However, Metro Rail has not come into the country too soon. In less than a decade India will be home to 600 million urban populations and in less than three decades from now out of projected 1. 5 billion populations, there will be more Indians living in cities than in villages. Soon by 2024 India is likely to supersede China as the most populous city in the world.


It is in this context, that the development of new metro eco-system must be seen. In the beginning of 21st century, all that the country had a small metro rail system in Kolkata. Then came 2002 when the first 8.5 km section of metro rail was opened in Delhi. The country has not looked back since then and in less than 18 years, today India has almost 700 km of operational metro rail in 18 cities. This is the largest development of metro rail anywhere in the world during the period outside China. And, this is just the beginning. During the decade ahead more than 1500 km of additional metro rail will be added in the country. Nearly 1000 km of that is already either in construction or in advanced stage of planning. This will make the India of tomorrow drastically different from the India of yesterday.


The new metro rail eco-system has a distinct role to play in ensuring that urban transport of the country is safe, fast, accessible, comfortable, affordable, eco-friendly, inclusive and sustainable. The metro rail based urban transport infrastructure must seamlessly integrate with other modes of public transport i.e. high-quality bus service, BRTS corridors where they fit in, Metro Neo type systems in 2/3 tier cities. The public transport as per the new system of development has to be such that which is preferred mode of even the affluent classes.


However, demand side issues also need to be taken up. There is a strong case for ensuring behavioural changes in making more and more people to take metro rail and other complementary public transport through policy prescriptions backed by concrete actions.


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