05 June 2020

Interaction - Dr E Sreedharan, Principle Advisor, DMRC

Indian metros are better than metros of many other countries

DR. E. SREEDHARAN, PRINCIPAL ADVISER, DMRC, a.k.a. METRO MAN OF INDIA is still a busy man. He is also overseeing Kochi Metro on behalf of DMRC fully. He is advising and monitoring metros of Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Meerut and Gorakhpur. If all that is not enough, Sreedharan is also guiding the Regional Rapid Transit System Organisation in Delhi for the RRTS lines from Meerut to Delhi and Delhi to Panipat. The METRO MAN 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?


Apart from my link with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation as its Principal Adviser, I am overseeing Kochi Metro on behalf of DMRC fully. (Total 24 .5 km, 18 km completed by Nov. 2017, another 6 kms. will be ready by June 2019).  As Principal Adviser to Govt. of U.P., I am advising and monitoring metros of Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Meerut and Gorakhpur. 



Of these, phase-I of Lucknow Metro 23.5 km is now fully commissioned, work on Kanpur Metro already started, Central government’s  approval for Agra Metro just received. I am also advising J & K Govt. on the coming Metros at Jammu and Srinagar. I am also consultant to the underground Metro line No.3 of Mumbai from Seepz to Colaba (23 km). Apart from the above, Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) Organisation in Delhi is taking my help for RRTS lines from Meerut to Delhi and Delhi to Panipat.




With a lot of Metro projects coming up, how will they be changing the shape of the cities and reduce the strain on the current intra city transport facilities?


You are mistaken.  For the size of a country like India, where presently there are 18 cities with more than 3 million population and another 20 cities with more than 2 million population, the pace of metro construction is deplorably slow. Whereas a country like China is building metros at the rate of 300 Kms per year.  India’s performance is only 25 kms. Although metros are in progress in 13 cities of India and sanction has been accorded recently for 4 more, the pace of completion is disappointing (except in Delhi). Metros are environmentally   free, more safe, more reliable, punctual and very comfortable yet the Govt. is slow to realise the benefits of metros for our cities.




Your take on the challenges specific to this metro project and how have they been overcome?


The main challenges can be listed as follows:


  • Even though it’s a rail based transport, technically more advanced and sophisticated, Govt of India considers metros as State subject, whereas Railway is a Central subject.  And yet, GoI controls all technical parameters, safety certification, powers to sanction a metro and even participating  in all joint metros but do not take the responsibility for loss incurred also for repayment of loans taken by the metros.


  • Govt. does not have a long term vision and a policy (the metro policy issued in Aug. 2017 is very short sighted and restrictive) in regard to raising funds for metro construction, how to meet operational losses or to build up the managerial and technical organisation to complete metro projects in time and within the estimated cost, with the result, except for the metros being handled by DMRC and LMRC, there are severe cost overruns and time overruns.


  • GoI considers private participation fully or in part in all metros knowing well that all PPP metro projects in the country have so far failed.


  • There is no effort on the part of GoI to reduce the unit cost of metro through tax concessions and higher equity participation.




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


Technically Indian metros are as good or even better than metros of many other countries.  Our cost of metros is only ½ to 2/3 of the costs in other countries.   The fare structure we have adopted is also very low compared to other countries.




Three main challenges plaguing the metro construction projects in India?


We have not still learned that metro is a highly sophisticated and technical project.  Technical backgrounds and experience in handling railway works are necessary for timely completion of metro projects.  But what we see is that State Govts appoints IAS Officers as Managing Directors of metro projects and in all such metros, there is enormous time overrun.  Whereas, metro projects being handled by Technocrats such as in Delhi, Lucknow, Nagpur, Kochi etc are getting completed on time and within estimated cost.




Could you brief us on your future plans?


I have crossed the age of 86 years.  I want to withdraw from all professional activities and devote my time for spirituality but the demands from various quarters do not seem to be abating.  I have therefore decided, so long as society needs my services, I would continue to work with a spirit of “Loksangraha”.

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