Interview with Dr Brijesh Dixit: “There is no hurdle which will impact the timely completion of the project”

“There is no hurdle which will impact the timely completion of the project”

A metro rail project is of utmost relevance for a city like Nagpur which is experiencing an ever-increasing volume of traffic. The 38 km metro system, being developed by Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MAHA-METRO), will deploy several advanced technologies and practices to improve project delivery as well as passenger comfort and safety. In an interview with Indian Infrastructure, Dr Brijesh Dixit, managing director, MAHA-METRO, talks about the progress of the Nagpur metro rail project, its unique features, financing requirements, training and skill development initiatives, etc…

What are the key features of metro rail projects being implemented by MAHA-METRO?

MAHA-METRO is a joint venture of the Government of India and the Maharashtra government, with 50:50 equity holding. The company was originally incorporated on February 18, 2015 as Nagpur Metro Rail Corporation Limited. Recently though, it has been reconstituted as Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited for the implementation of all metro rail projects in the state outside the Mumbai metropolitan region. Currently, MAHA-METRO is executing the Nagpur and Pune metro rail projects.

The Nagpur metro rail project covers a distance of 38.215 km and is divided into two corridors, the North-South corridor (19.658 km) and the East-West corridor (18.557 km) and has 36 stations. The estimated completion cost of the project is Rs 86.8 billion.

The Pune metro rail project covers a distance of 31.254 km, of which 26.235 km is elevated and 5.019 km is underground. The project is divided into two corridors, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation-Swargate corridor (16.589 km) and Vanaz-Ramwadi corridor (14.665 km), with 31 stations and two car maintenance depots. The total completion cost of the Pune metro rail project is likely to be Rs 114.2 billion.

What is the total project cost? What are the key sources of funds?

The estimated completion cost of the Nagpur metro project is Rs 86.8 billion. So far, about Rs 16.33 billion has been disbursed, which includes equity from the central government and the Maharashtra government, urban local body grants, pass-through assistance and the value of the land.

Further, the project will also receive funds from various multilateral agencies. A loan agreement of Euro 500 million (Rs 37.5 billion) was signed with Germany’s KfW on April 1, 2016. Another loan agreement of Euro 130 million (Rs 9.75 billion) was signed with AFD of France on November 17, 2016.

The process of tying up funds for the Pune metro project with international funding agencies is still in progress.

What are the current practices for fare collection?

The first phase of the Nagpur metro will be operational by November 2017 and a common mobility card will be introduced for fare collection, in association with the Nagpur Municipal Corporation, for seamless travel by commuters across various modes of transport. These are our efforts towards multimodal integration.

What are the rolling stock requirements? How are these being met?

MAHA-METRO’s rolling stock is of state-of-the-art ultra modern design, lightweight, made of stainless steel, runs on a microprocessor-controlled three-phase induction motor drive with regenerative braking and is suitable for communications-based train control (CBTC) conforming to Grade of Automation (GOA 2).

The technical features of the rolling stock include a three-car composition (driving motor car-trailer, car-driving motor car) with a stainless steel car body. The rolling stock will operate on a 25 kV AC single-phase, 50 Hz flexible overhead catenary system with power regeneration of over 30 per cent. The train will operate on a CBTC system and will be fitted with automatic doors equipped with obstacle detection features.

Further, the train will also offer several features for passenger comfort, safety and convenience. These include in-train Wi-Fi and charging points for mobiles and laptops, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, CCTV cameras and emergency alarms. Besides, the coaches will have wider windows for a better view, a digital route display system above each door of the coach to provide route information and LCD screens for passenger information and advertisements.

In addition, dedicated space will be provided for accommodating wheelchairs for differently abled passengers. The trains will have priority seating for ladies and senior citizens.

MAHA-METRO had invited proposals for the procurement of rolling stock through international competitive bidding ensuring that the best manufacturers worldwide could participate. Subsequently, the contract for the supply of rolling stock was awarded to China-based CRRC Corporation Limited.

What are the specific requirements for signalling and communication systems?

The advanced CBTC system with backup signalling based on interlocking and axle counters will be deployed for the Nagpur metro rail project. This signalling system incorporates cab signaling, continuous automatic train control system with various features including automatic train protection (ATP), automatic train operation (ATO) and automatic train supervision (ATS).

The CBTC system provides a design headway of 90 seconds and an operational headway of 120 seconds. The signalling system will be operated in GOA 2 mode and will be monitored from the operation control centre (OCC). The Nagpur metro will have two control centres (OCC and backup OCC). Both will have separate signalling systems and will be operated from the depot control centre which is to be provided in both depots separately.

The signalling contract has been awarded to a consortium of Siemens Automation Spain and Siemens India.

What is the current status and progress so far? What are the key milestones?

As of April 2017, about 40 per cent of the civil works on the metro project have been completed. Further, about 90 per cent of land has been acquired, and was made available to various civil contractors in 2016. The first 5.5 km section is proposed for commissioning in the second half of 2017, for which work is 85 per cent complete. Trials on the stretch are planned to be started from July 2017. Two rakes of three coaches each are proposed to be leased from L&T Metro Rail Hyderabad Limited.

What are the new technologies and innovations being adopted?

MAHA-METRO plans to meet a significant part of the energy requirement of the Nagpur metro through renewable sources. In this regard, it is installing rooftop solar panels over 100,000 square metres of rooftop area, through the renewable energy service company model. The 14 MW installation is expected to meet 65 per cent of the metro’s energy requirement. This will be the first of its kind internationally.

For superior project management, a digital project management platform using Bentley’s 5-Dimensional Building Information Modelling (5D-BIM),  ERP/SAP, Primavera etc., is being used to ensure project completion without cost and time overruns while maintaining world-class quality and safety and environmental protection.

Further, MAHA-METRO has set a target of generating about 30 per cent of the total revenues through non-fare box revenue sources. These include additional stamp duty, premium on extra floor space index through transit-oriented development, additional development charges, and real estate development at stations and depots. The company also targets the achievement of 10 per cent savings in project costs through the optimisation of designs, specifications and resources.

Besides, the project will promote multi modal integration, first and last-mile connectivity and non-motorised transport. We have roped in the State Bank of India for the installation of our AFC system and issue of co-branded common mobility card for seamless travel of commuters by various modes of transport which is a very innovative financial model.

In addition, a novel concept of Metro-Samvad has been adopted for direct communication with all stakeholders (including citizens) and to enlist “metro mitras” for their active participation in the project.

What are the key challenges? What steps is MAHA-METRO taking to address them?

As such, there is no hurdle which will impact the timely completion of the project.

What are the key initiatives being undertaken for manpower training and skill development?

MAHA-METRO is recruiting talented manpower from across the country. The training of experienced manpower is being carried out in house under the guidance of senior officers of the organisation. Besides, training is also being conducted at the various metro training institutes in Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai.

All experienced and fresh employees are also being imparted training in new technologies like 5D-BIM, file life cycle management systems and ERP-SAP systems, and this will also help utilise the latest available technologies. These training programmes will not only help develop the interpersonal skills of the employees but also help retain talent in the organisation.

An international BIM academy is proposed to be started at Nagpur in association with Bentley Systems to take care of training needs of using the 5D-BIM platform.

What will be the impact of the project on transportation in Nagpur?

Nagpur is witnessing rapid economic and infrastructural growth. The current modal share of public transport in the city is only 9 per cent due to the absence of reliable public transport. There are issues such as traffic congestion, pollution, road accidents, and high travel time and cost. These concerns call for the development of a metro rail system to serve the growing population across Nagpur city. The Nagpur metro promises to bring a safe, reliable, efficient, affordable, commuter-friendly, energy saving and environmentally sustainable rapid public transport system for the city.

What is the urban metro rail sector outlook for the next one to two years?

In the coming years, the country’s railway market will be the third largest in the world, accounting for 10 per cent of the global market, and of this, metro rail is expected to account for over 50 per cent. Owing to factors such as an increase in population and economic expansion, the electricity demand and supply gap in the country is expected to widen in the future. To tackle this situation, we need to develop eco-friendly cities with efficient public transportation systems. This will call for an expansion in metro rail networks across the country.