Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Dec 23, 2002
Logistics - Railways
All set for Delhi Metro flag-off
R. C. Acharya
Will the Delhi Metro rail services, to be flagged off on Tuesday, live up to its hype?
EVERTYTHING appears set for the flagging off Metro rail services in Delhi on Tuesday. The 8-km section of the Shahdra-Tis Hazari Metro line is to be opened for traffic by the Prime Minister, ushering in an era of fast, efficient, cheap and, above all, pollution-free transport system for the much-harassed commuters of the National Capital Region (NCR).
The full system, when operational, would stretch 31 km underground, 64 km elevated and 104 km on surface. The first phase consists of three corridors Line 1 of 17 km elevated and 28 km surface level section from Shahdra to Barwala; Line 2 of 11 km underground and 11 km surface level (cut and cover) from Delhi University to Central Secretariat; and Line 3, proposed originally from Trinagar to Nangloi but now changed to Connaught Place to Dwarka. Estimated to cost over Rs 5,000 crore, it is the first stage, from Shahdra to ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminal) of the Line 1, which is being commissioned on Tuesday.
Over the years, while the Railway suburban services to expand in other Metros such as Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai, and the major cities of Bangalore, and Hyderabad, effectively meeting the fast rising demand for urban mass transport, political bickerings and the lethargy of the bureaucracy kept the development of commuter services in the NCR away from the priority list. Thus, the brave attempt by the Northern Railway by creating a Circular Railway did not make tracks, because of lack of co-ordination with the Delhi government.
Over the last half a century Delhi's population has grown from a mere 0.6 million to a whopping 14 million. Unlike Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai, which have grown practically along the alignment of the main line track, Delhi has grown on all sides. The Northern Railways continued to expand its suburban train services (EMUs; Electrical Multiple Units) along its five mainline, long-distance corridors. However, once they reach New Delhi, Delhi Main, Sarai Rohilla or Nizamuddin stations, commuters are once again at the mercy of the road transport. The latter became the preferred mode of travel and continued its exponential growth till it became a source of many problems pollution, accidents and so on.
Following a series of studies by RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Services), a consultancy arm of the India Railways, the DMRC was created in May 1995 and clearance given for the first phase of work in August 1996. Thirty per cent of the project cost is to be financed by equity, subscribed to equally by the Central and State governments, and the two have also agreed to give interest-free subordinate loans to cover the cost of land acquisition, expected to be about 8 per cent of the total cost of the project.
The lion's share of 56 per cent of the project cost is being provided by the Japanese Government through a soft loan by the JBIC (Japan Bank of International Cooperation), while property development at the highly lucrative sites around the Metro stations is expected to generate the remaining 6 per cent of the project cost.
With a consortium of multinational companies, leaders in various fields, involved, the project is slated for timely completion. After the first stage of Shahdra to Tis-Hazari, the next 4.7 km section to the Trinagar section is due for opening in September 2003; the 8.8 km Trinagar-Rithala section in March 2004; the 4 km Vishwa Vidyalaya-ISBT section and the 5.5 km Rithwala-Barwala in December 2004; and the 7 km underground ISBT-Central Secretariat section in September 2005.
While Alcatel of France is putting up the automatic fare collection system, the automatic train control is by a consortium of Alstom Transport Ltd. (India), Alstom (France), Alcatel (Portugal), and Sumitomo of Japan. One of the most critical operation underground tunnelling is being undertaken with the help of a fully automated and high performance boring machine, by a joint venture of five companies Dyckerhoff Widmann AG (Germany), Larsen Toubro (India), Samsung Corporation (Korea), Shimizu Corporation (Japan), and Ircon International (India). The first lot of rolling stock, again by a joint venture of Mitsubishi Corporation, Koros, and Mitsubishi Electric of Japan, has been extensively tested is to make the maiden run on Tuesday with a large party of VIPs.
The power supply system with the SCADA, to keep tabs on maintenance requirements, a key factor in the efficient and safe functioning of a Metro system is the responsibility of Cobra and Eliop, both of Spain, and Ircon (Indian Railways Construction Organisation), a consultancy and project supervision arm of the Indian Railways.
Kumangi of Japan, Skanska of Sweden, Itochu of Japan and HCC of India are providing inputs in the design and construction for completing the Vishwa Vidyalaya-ISBT section on schedule, while the overall supervision vests with a consortium of five companies lead by Pacific Consultants International.
One of the key factors in a hassle-free and timely progress of the civil works by the scores of contractors has been a team of lawyers that has ensured that no stay was granted by any of the 27 courts in Delhi to stall take over of land. Stays wherever granted, mostly for no appearance, were promptly got vacated and land for Lines 1 and 2 has been fully acquired. Of the some 400 cases filed, only about 100 are pending mostly for enhancement of the value of the land.
The first phase is itself expected to carry about two million commuters by 2006, but with the population soon to reach 15 million, the target of over 12 million commuter trips daily is a long way off. Hopefully, the politics will not come in the way of bringing a world class transport system for this vast Metro.
(The author is former Member Mechanical Railway Board.)
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