Interview with A.K. Garg: “The scale of challenges in Phase III was greater due to the sheer size of the project”

“The scale of challenges in Phase III was greater due to the sheer size of the project”

A.K. Garg has recently taken over as director, operations, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). In a recent interview with Indian Infrastructure, he highlights recent initiatives and upcoming plans of DMRC. Excerpts…

What were the key challenges in executing Phase III of the Delhi metro project?

Unlike Phases I and II, the scale of challenges in Phase III was greater due to the sheer size of the project. In Delhi, there are two key challenges – land acquisition and diversion of utilities. To address these challenges, even before we started the work, we took stock of the situation, prepared a route map and identified areas that could pose a challenge. We then tried to avoid such routes as much as possible, but as you know, in some cases it becomes inevitable. Also, in Phase III we are laying our network in different parts of the city, each of which offers a different set of challenges. What we have also come to understand is that while people prefer to have a metro network close to their residence, they are vary of crowds, presence of autorickshaws and the traffic hassle associated with a metro station. We had to strike a balance on that front.

What are the key steps taken by DMRC for crowd management?

Our objective is to provide adequate infrastructure to deal with crowds. We use our survey report to estimate the expected number of footfalls at a particular station and plan the infrastructure accordingly. This includes the width of the staircase, concourse areas, platform, etc. And then once the stretch is operational, based on the actual footfalls, we keep the provision to extend services and expand infrastructure.

One of the major initiatives for better crowd management is the deployment of ticket vending machines at metro stations. Many people have appreciated this initiative. Though we have commuters who are not accustomed to this, with time and increased awareness, this will be sorted out. A ticket vending machine provides the option of choosing the trip destination, highlights changeovers and tenders the correct change. We have observed that the queues at vending machines are not as long as they used to be when we had ticket counters.

An online card recharge system is another equally effective initiative for better crowd management. We have provided a number of options to recharge metro cards. One can use a debit card, a credit card, or a mobile wallet to recharge metro cards. The only thing one is required to do then is to place the metro card at the automatic top-up machine at the metro station for a couple of minutes and follow easy instructions to credit the amount to the metro card. One can also recharge cards straight away using the DMRC app.

What are your plans to integrate metro cards with city bus transportation services?

The project is under implementation. Machines are being installed in buses by DTC, the interface is ready, and, in fact, it is operational on many buses. Our role was to program the module and we have completed that task. The target before the Delhi Transport Corporation is to cover the entire fleet in the coming months.

Metro station maintenance is a huge challenge. What is DMRC’s strategy for the upkeep of stations in the very short window available?

Station maintenance is a huge challenge. The window of operation is very small (between 11 p.m. and 5.30 a.m.) and the magnitude of work is huge. Fortunately, we have people who are on the job and are able to deliver this, day in and day out. We have also decided to delay our services by two hours on the Magenta line on Sundays to ensure better maintenance services. This exception is only for the new lines.

What are DMRC’s ongoing and upcoming solar power initiatives?

We have been taking a number of initiatives related to solar power. First, we provided solar panels on the rooftops of our stations in Dwarka, and have since repeated this initiative at a number of metro stations. The total capacity stands at 24 MWp. We also have a contract with the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Project, Madhya Pradesh where 750 MWp of solar power capacity is expected to come up by year end. We plan to draw 100 MWp from that plant.

What are the areas that need improvement? What are DMRC’s future plans?

You will always find areas that need improvement. We have had some instances of equipment failure. While all this results in the interruption of train services, the impact has not been severe so far. The delay has been for a maximum of 15-30 minutes. The challenge is to get the system up and running as quickly as possible. We are looking into minute details of every such failure and are duty-bound to improve our services.

Phase III work is almost over and we are now looking at Phase IV. At the moment, the proposal is awaiting government sanction.