Interview with Kumar Keshav

“We give topmost priority to the safety, security and protection of our commuters” 

The Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation (UPMRC) has made rapid headway on various projects. It is currently implementing some key projects in the state, including the Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra and Gorakhpur metros. In a recent interview with Indian Infrastructure, Kumar Keshav, managing director, UPMRC, talked about the progress and key features of various metro rail projects in Uttar Pradesh. Excerpts…

How has been the Lucknow metro’s journey so far? What have been the key highlights?

The Lucknow metro has become an inseparable part of the city’s identity. Recently, it completed two years of commercial operations on the entire North-South corridor. The Lucknow metro has been performing quite well since its inception. The metro started commercial operations on September 5, 2017 for the 8.5 km priority section from Transport Nagar to Charbagh, with eight elevated metro stations. We achieved the milestone of a cumulative ridership of 1 million within 70 days of operations. Metro services were gradually extended from the priority section to the entire North-South corridor on March 8, 2019. On February 27, 2021, we accomplished yet another commendable feat by touching a ridership figure of 30 million commuters. Currently, Lucknow Metro is ferrying about 42,000 passengers per day on an average, that is, 65-70 per cent of pre-Covid levels. Lucknow metro has been bestowed with many international and national awards for its safest train operations, green practices and exemplary leadership. The Lost and Found Cell is a unique feature of the Lucknow metro. So far, the Lucknow metro has safely returned cash worth over Rs 800,000, 355 cell phones, 52 laptops and other valuable items to their rightful owners.

How has the Lucknow Metro project improved mobility in the city? 

The Lucknow metro project has improved mobility in the city by connecting prominent residential areas, commercial centres, marketplaces, educational institutions and most importantly the rail, road and air transport terminals. The metro connects the Railway Junction, the Charbagh and Badshahnagar railway stations, Alambagh bus stand and the Chaudhary Charan Singh Airport. With time, the Lucknow metro has become the city’s lifeline by providing a safe, secure, convenient, hassle-free and eco-friendly mode of public transportation. Meanwhile, the East-West corridor of the Lucknow metro’s Phase 1B is also on the table. It will connect Charbagh to Vasant Kunj and adjoining areas in between. It will also cover all the major densely populated places of old Lucknow.

How difficult has the Covid-19 lockdown been for UPMRC and its ongoing projects?

The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented time which has created a global humanitarian and economic crisis. Nevertheless, the crisis has not shaken our morale and last year, UPMRC steadfastly resumed the ongoing civil construction work of the priority section of the Kanpur metro project, albeit with necessary precautions and mandatory safety measures, in line with the guidelines issued by the governments and the local administration. The initial crisis of labour shortage was overcome by setting up a labour colony and adequate medical care facility at the casting yard. This proved to be decisive in winning the confidence of the labour workforce, which crossed the 1,000-mark in just 50 days of resumption of civil works from April 29, 2020. Work was resumed after the restrictions were relaxed by the government and consequently, the local administration, for resuming civil works within closed premises. We have been in strict compliance with the advisories issued by the government health departments to serve the people during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. Adequate training was imparted to the front-line operational staff to mitigate the challenges arising due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Likewise, expert training was arranged for all the staff to serve the commuters post the lockdown. The whole UPMRC team was familiarised with new skills to render utmost care in the new scenario. We have drawn out a detailed business continuity plan and relevant standard operating procedures, especially for this purpose.

The Lucknow metro has added another feather to its cap by becoming the first metro in India to start the sanitisation of metro train coaches with ultraviolet (UV) rays. We give topmost priority to the safety, security and protection of our commuters. Giving a boost to the Make in India mission, the Lucknow metro, in consultation with an Indian firm, has developed a UV sanitisation apparatus, which works on the UV Germicidal Irradiation disinfection method. The apparatus, certified by the Defence Research and Development Organisation in October 2020, sanitises the entire coach in seven minutes. It is the same apparatus that is being used by the medical industry to sanitise operation theatres and medical equipment. The best part of this initiative is that it is highly economical and reduces the cost to about 1 per cent of the total cost.

What is the progress on the Kanpur and Agra metro projects?

On November 15, 2019, the Uttar Pradesh government launched the civil construction work for the Kanpur metro’s 9 km priority section between IIT Kanpur and Moti Jheel. This section will have nine elevated stations. The project achieved its first big milestone by erecting the first Pier Cap on March 2, 2020. This milestone was achieved about three months earlier than the Lucknow metro project. The 32.5 km Kanpur metro project has two corridors and is expected to be completed in five years. The trial run of the priority corridor is expected in November 2021 and the commencement of revenue operations on the priority corridor is expected by January 2022. Under the priority corridor, double T-girders are being used for preparing the base of the concourse level of the elevated metro stations, which is a first in India. It will help in reducing the construction time and enhancing the aesthetic beauty of the civil structure. UPMRC commenced the erection of double T-girders on July 25, 2020 and in a record time of 7.5 months it has been able to complete the installation of these girders at all the nine stations. Piling for the entire priority corridor has also been completed. Currently, about 340 of the total 622 U-girders have been erected. Finishing works are also in progress and metro stations are taking shape gradually. The civil structure of the first station (IIT Kanpur) has also been completed.  With regard to the Agra metro project, it has two corridors connecting all the key points and important tourist places in the city. The first corridor spans 14 km between Sikandra and Taj East Gate with 13 stations (six elevated and seven underground). The second corridor spans about 15.4 km between Agra Cantt and Kalindi Vihar with 14 stations, all of which are elevated. The total estimated cost of the project is Rs 83.8 billion. Under the first corridor, a 6 km long priority stretch has been marked between Taj East Gate and Jama Masjid, comprising three elevated and three underground stations. The civil construction work of the Agra metro project is being carried out at a fast pace and around 320 piles have been placed, while 9 piers have already been erected. After getting final approval from the Supreme Court, the civil construction work of the priority corridor was inaugurated on December 7, 2020. Currently, civil work is being executed on a 3 km long elevated stretch of the priority corridor comprising three stations (Taj East Gate, Basai and Fatehabad).

What are some of the unique features of rolling stock for the Kanpur and Agra metro projects?

UPMRC has awarded a combined tender for rolling stock and signalling systems to build and deliver 201 metro cars and an advanced signalling solution for the Agra and Kanpur metro projects to Bombardier Transportation. A total of 67 three-car train sets will be procured. Of these, 39 trains will be deployed on the Kanpur metro, while the remaining 28 trains will serve the Agra metro. The trains are being manufactured in Savli, Gujarat, in line with the government’s Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat initiatives. Delivery of the first metro train set is expected by August-September 2021. The rolling stock will have a modern design, will be lightweight (it will be made of stainless steel), with a 750V DC drive, variable voltage variable frequency control and regenerative braking. The trains will be equipped with an advanced microprocessor-based control management system and operate with the latest communications-based train control technology. The rolling stock will have a maximum design speed of 90 km per hour and an operational speed of 80 km per hour. Each train will have a passenger carrying capacity of almost 970 passengers. The trains will have a dedicated space for wheelchairs and seats reserved for senior citizens, differently abled and women. Besides, the trains will be equipped with LED lights to reduce energy consumption with USB charging ports for charging of mobile phones. Energy efficient HVAC heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units will also be installed for passenger comfort, apart from digital route maps for route and station identification. Separate LCD screens will be installed in order to display advertisements and special/emergency messages.

What is the status of the proposed metro rail project in Gorakhpur?

The Uttar Pradesh government’s Metrolite project has been proposed in Gorakhpur, the DPR of which has been approved by the state government and has been sent to the central government for approval. Two metro corridors covering a distance of 28.93 km have been proposed under the project. The 15 km long first corridor, comprising 14 stations, is proposed from Shyam Nagar to Madan Mohan Malviya Engineering College while the second corridor from BRD Medical College to Naushad Chauraha will be 13.23 km long and have 12 stations. Both of these corridors will be elevated. The estimated cost of this project is Rs 46.72 billion and the estimated time for completion is four years.

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