17 October 2018

Interaction- Dr. E. Sreedharan, Principal Adviser, DMRC, a.k.a. METRO MAN OF INDIA

The country needs a sound Metro policy

DR. E. SREEDHARAN, PRINCIPAL ADVISER, DMRC, a.k.a. METRO MAN OF INDIA in an exclusive interview to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES spoke about his current role and how India needs to bring about a metro revolution.


Which are the various metro projects you are currently involved in/overseeing in India?

On behalf of DMRC I am directly handling the 24 kms long Kochi Metro project. Work on this project started in June 2013 and 18 kms commissioned by July 2017. Remaining 6 kms are expected to be completed by June 2019.

Until February 2018, I was also handling the Light Metro Project at Trivandrum and Kozhikode. DMRC has since withdrawn from these two projects as the State Government is not taking sufficient interest and initiative.

I was the Advisor to Andhra Pradesh Government for the Vijayawada and Vishakhapatnam Metro projects. I have withdrawn from these two projects since January 2018.

I am assisting Uttar Pradesh Government in regard to Metro projects in Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Meerut, Agra, and Gorakhpur of which Lucknow project is progressing fast. The other projects are yet to be cleared by the Government of India.

The Line No.III of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation from Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ also takes my technical assistance whenever there is a problem. Apart from the above Metro projects, I am assisting the National Capital Region Transport Corporation in executing the rapid transport rail network from Delhi to Meerut, Alwar, and Panipat. Tenders for the Meerut line have been floated.

A Detailed Project Report for a High-speed Railway line 460 kms long with a speed potential of 350 kms per hour from Trivandrum to Kannur in Kerala State is under consideration of the Government of Kerala for which the Detailed Project Report was prepared by DMRC under my direction and supervision.



You recently commended the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) on the progress of Mumbai’s first underground Metro line III (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ). Your take on the challenges specific to this metro project and how have they been overcome?

The Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ underground Metro corridor, 33 kms long with 27 stations is the most difficult Metro line so far undertaken in this country. When completed it will change the travel style and pattern in Mumbai city. The project faces many technical challenges due to very adverse rock conditions, proximity to many heritage buildings and very old residential buildings which are even 100 years old and in precarious conditions. Keeping the surface traffic moving during the construction stage is another major challenge. There are innumerable utilities coming in the way of underground construction Not appreciating the difficult nature of the work, a section of the people regularly bring legal hurdles in the execution of this project.



Any other landmark metro projects in India and why?

A landmark Metro project eagerly awaited is a High-speed Airport Express from the City centre to the Airport in Bangalore (38 kms long) which can cover the distances in 25 to 30 minutes.



What are the key differences between metros in other countries compared to India?

There is hardly any difference in regard to technical specifications, safety standards, and quality service.



Your view on the current governments approach towards metro projects?

In addition to what has been stated under item 4, the country needs a sound Metro policy. The new Metro policy issued by the Ministry of Urban Development in August 2017 has not adequately addressed the problems and steps that are necessary to speed up a Metro revolution in the country. China is building Metros at the rate of 300 kms every year, whereas India’s performance is only 25 kms of which 18 kms is contributed by DMRC. For the size of this country and the number of cities to be covered, we have to build Metros at the rate of at least 200 kms per year for the next 15 years. I have suggested to the Government that an expert committee should be set up which will identify the country’s needs and draw up a roadmap for the next 15 years. A reliable and doable Metro policy, with GoI taking the lead, identifying funding routes, a common agency for laying technical and safety standards for all Metros – (now Indian Railways have this role with no domain knowledge) – suggesting fast routes for Land acquisition etc are urgently needed. Though the present Minister had agreed to set up such a committee, the same is not yet instituted.



Could you brief us on your future plans and outlook for FRNV?

I will be 86 in June this year. Due to my advancing age and wanting to spend more time for spirituality I have decided to gradually dis-engage myself from all professional activities. I am also looking around for a capable person who can take over the responsibilities of the FRNV.



Three main challenges plaguing the metro construction projects in India? Key insights we can learn from the construction of previous metro projects which can be implemented for the ongoing projects?

Three main challenges facing Metro construction in India are:-

  • Metro is not in the Union List but a State responsibility.

When the country’s constitution was adopted in November 1949 there was no topic as “Metro Rail” and therefore Metro rail does not figure either in the State list or in the Union list. Metro is essentially a rail-based transporting system - in fact, more technically advanced and complex than a normal Railway. Yet to treat it under the State list on the plea that it is an urban transport system is not correct or legally tenable. Under the Metro Act, Metro rail is treated as Railway which is under the Union list. Mumbai suburban system is essentially an urban transport system but it is treated as a Railway under the Union list. Therefore in all fairness and for technical considerations, Metro rail should be under the Union list or at least in the concurrent list. Now that many Metros are coming up in the country, it is necessary to amend the constitution to give Metro rail the Union status or at least a concurrent list status.

The Central Government today controls everything in regard to a Metro namely approval to the project, funding, safety, technical parameters and even in the management of Metro administrations. State Government contributes a larger share in funding Metro projects, but unfortunately, GoI wants to ring-fence their involvement and responsibilities. The Central Government has to, therefore, assume a more dominant role in regard to the funding of Metro.

Further GoI insists PPP in the execution of Metros knowing well PPP has never succeeded anywhere in the world – let alone in India. This stand delays sanctioning of Metro projects.

  • The absence of a sound and progressive Metro policy for the country.
  • Delays and difficulties in acquiring lands.

The corporate structure, funding pattern and work culture of Delhi Metro have convincingly proved that technocrats in charge of Metro projects if given full freedom and authority, can implement projects very successfully.

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