Exclusive interaction with Dr. Brijesh Dixit, Managing Director, Maha Metro

Maha Metro offers multiple business opportunities in the projects
Naomi Pandya Posted on: 2020-10-26 13:48:00 Viewer: 11,790 Comments: 0 Country: India City: Nagpur

Exclusive interaction with Dr. Brijesh Dixit, Managing Director, Maha Metro Dr. Brijesh Dixit, Managing Director, Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation

Under the strong leadership of Dr. Brijesh Dixit, Maharashtra Government is expanding mass rapid transit systems in various cities of the state apart from Mumbai. Dr. Dixit is working in the capacity of Managing Director of Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (Maha Metro) and having the responsibility to implement state-of-the-art rapid transit system in Nagpur, Pune and Nashik. In a recent interaction with Urban Transport News, Dr. Dixit tells how Maha Metro is setting records and creating international benchmarks for sustainable transport solutions in various cities in this pandemic times.

Congratulations on winning `Construction World Person of the Year 2020 Award’. Kindly brief us about the significance of this award for Maha Metro.

Being adjudged “Construction World Person of the Year- Public Sector 2020” is an immensely gratifying and humbling experience.

The award is a recognition to the hard work of the entire Maha-Metro team which from the very beginning has set the target of developing Metro Rail in cities of Nagpur and Pune within the cost, and in the stipulated time-frame. This is actualized with the highest quality output and in the process has created many international benchmarks. This recognition further emboldens the team to keep charging with enthusiasm to complete the two projects in a manner that we create more and more milestones and benchmarks.

What is the current progress of the Nagpur Metro Rail project and when the first phase will be made fully operational?

Nagpur Metro project is at an advanced stage of completion. Twenty-five km of the project i.e. two-third of the total project length was completed in a record 50 months period, with 1 km being constructed every two months. After stoppage of the passenger services during COVID-19 induced lock-down, operations have since recommenced on this stretch duly following all the COVID-19 safety protocol.

As regards the full first phase completion, currently the physical and financial progress of Nagpur Metro project stands at 89% and 82% respectively. The work on the balance portion of the project in Reach II (Orange Line) and Reach IV (Aqua Line) had few months setbacks due to outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent lock-down measures announced by the government. Nonetheless, the work is now progressing at a brisk pace, and the full project is likely to get operational by the end of 2021.

Kindly tell our readers about the current progress of the Pune Metro Rail project and the deadline set to commission the priority section of the project.

Pune Metro Project consists of two corridors totalling 33.28 km route length (including five km underground section), 30 stations and two Metro Coach Maintenance Depots. The physical progress and financial progress of the project currently stands at 45% and 39% respectively. Often infrastructure projects in the country are majorly impacted with the problems related to the land acquisition, but 85% of the land required for Pune project has been acquired amicably and in record time and the balance 15% will be acquired shortly.

 Pune Metro project like other infrastructure projects in the country also suffered during the lock-down period after the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. But once the permission to resume the work was received from government authorities, Pune Metro construction work immediately recommenced with the labour available in-situ.

Indubitably, the work was initially slowed down due to the flight of migrant labour to their native places. But with the extraordinary effort of Maha-Metro and its contractors, total labour available on the project site today has reached a larger number compared to the pre-COVID-19 days. This has given impetus to speedy execution of priority section work i.e. PCMC-Phugewadi (Line-1) and Vanaz to Garware College (Line-2). Nonetheless, due to lockdown impact, the completion of priority section will be delayed somewhat with the Line 1 priority section likely to be completed by March 2021 and that of Line 2 by June 2021.

Are there any new updates on the manufacturing of Rolling Stock trains for the Pune Metro Rail Project? Kindly highlight the salient features of the Rolling Stock train to be supplied by Titagarh Firema SpA?

In a leap for “Make in India’’ policy and a major push to “Atma- Nirbhar Bharat”, Maha-Metro through international competitive bidding has awarded the contract for manufacturing and supply of 102 aluminum-bodied metro coaches for the Pune Metro project to Titagarh Firema, an Italian subsidiary of Titagarh, a Kolkata based Indian company in the field of railway coaches and wagons. While the first three trains will be manufactured in Italy, balance trains will be manufactured in India. This is the first time that “new generation” “aluminum body coaches” (that are lighter, more energy-efficient and have a better aesthetic than the steel coaches) shall be manufactured in the country. It is an epoch-making game-changer in the filed of metro-rail in the country.

The most critical aspect of the freezing design of the coaches has since been completed and the car body for the first train is in the final stage of manufacturing and its outfitting and equipment assembly will start from 15th Nov 2020. Subsequently, the testing of the train shall be done, and the first train is likely to be dispatched from Italy to Pune, by the last week of April 2021.   

Pune Metro trains will be 3-car train formation (DMC-TC-DMC) with a length of 67.8 km with eventual extendibility possibility to 6 car trains. The maximum design speed of these trains is 95 kmph with a maximum operational speed of 85 kmph. Maximum passenger capacity per train will be 978 (with seating 140 and 838 standee @ 8 persons per sq. km)

What is the current status of Metro-Neo projects proposed for Nashik in Maharashtra and Warangal in Telangana?

The current status of Metro projects at Nasik and Warangal are as follows:

  • Greater Nasik Metro Project - Nasik is a relatively smaller city/town with forecasted ridership lesser than that of Nagpur & Pune. Considering the same, Maha Metro formulated a lighter metro system named “Metro Neo” which is rubber-tyred metro running on overhead traction on an elevated viaduct with all the features associated with a Metro System. Metro-Neo has ideally suited for Tier 2/3 cities, with 5000-15000 PHPDT, limited ROW availability and sharp curves along the ROW

This is an innovative Mass Rapid Transit System providing low-cost, energy-efficient and eco-friendly urban transport solution, for Tier 2/3 cities. Detailed Project Report (DPR) estimated at 2100.60 Cr, for Nasik City (33 Km, with 30 Stations) of Metro-Neo System has been approved by the Govt. of Maharashtra and the project is awaiting approval from the Govt. of India. Also, technical specifications of the Metro-Neo have been frozen based on the recommendation of a committee headed by MD Maha-Metro and the same are under approval of the Railway Board.

  • Warangal Metro Neo Project – Impressed with the potential of the Metro-Neo system developed by Maha-Metro, the Government of Telangana has entrusted Maha Metro with the tank of preparation of DPR of Metro Neo for the fast-growing city of Warangal on the similar lines of Nashik City. Currently, the preparation of this DPR is in progress.

How is 'Maha Metro' overcoming the new challenges arisen due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the country? Kindly elaborate us some steps taken for the safety of site workers.

The unprecedented global pandemic COVID 19 coupled with consequent lock-down was a dampener for the infrastructure projects in the country. It also impacted both Nagpur and Pune, Metro rail projects which faced many challenges, and extraordinary efforts were required to ensure that the work is resumed duly ensuring full safety of the workforce. Some of the challenges and the measures taken to overcome them are as under:

  • The very first challenge at the outbreak of COVID-19 was to ensure full health and safety of Maha-Metro officials, that of its contractors and contractors labour staying in various labour camps at Nagpur and Pune. Providing facilities as per the new COVID-19 period protocol (masks, sanitizers, adequate social distancing and full hygienic conditions) were provided on priority. Doctors were made available for periodic medical check-up and daily thermal checks. Through all these measures, it was ensured that staff and labour in offices, worksites and labour camps remained safe.
  • Once the permission to resume the work was received, Maha-Metro faced the unprecedented challenge of flight of labour to their native places first due to panic and later as facilitated by the government. At one point of time labour strength at both Nagpur and Pune reduced below 1000 each and only urgent works could be taken up with the in-situ available labour. Thereafter began the humungous effort on the part of Maha-Metro and its contractors to bring the labour back. Maha-Metro officials wrote letters to various collectors of districts in states like West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. Contractor’s officials visited concerned states and brought the labour back duly motivating them with train, flight and bus tickets and giving advance cash incentives. As a result, today the labour available both at Nagpur and Pune exceeds that of the numbers before COVID-19 days and works have resumed at a brisk pace.
  • Despite the best efforts of Maha-Metro and its partner institutions, there have been few cases of staff and labour getting caught in the cobweb of COVID-19. Maha-Metro administration going beyond the call of normal duty has ensured that practically entire team that got affected is nursed back to health and back on work and to their family.
  • Lastly having received permission from the government to resume the operations, Metro services at Nagpur have resumed with full COVID-19 safety protocols. And it is heartening to note that commuters are slowly but surely returning to the metro rail.

What are the different prospects of business opportunities in the metro projects being undertaken by Maha Metro?

Maha Metro offers multiple business opportunities in the projects undertaken by it. In fact, the opportunities range from being part of the project construction to indirect employment. Some aspects are mentioned below:

  • Economic Growth Propellant– It shall accelerate the economic growth of Nagpur, Pune and the state. This aspect is already getting recognized by global research agencies. Anecdotal evidence also suggests a substantial increase in air travel, hotel bookings and enquiry for investments in both the cities after the launch of the metro project.
  • Orderly Urbanization– It shall facilitate orderly urbanization and better-integrated land use mobility integration in Nagpur and Pune whose population is growing fast. This will generate business opportunities of its own.
  • Urban Rejuvenation and Creating New City Centre– World-class stations designed by international architects with substantial commercial development shall rejuvenate urban spaces and they in themselves will be new growth centres.
  • Employment Benefits– The Nagpur project has given approximately 30,000 jobs during construction and will provide similar level of employment (direct/ indirect) during the operational phase. Pune project is likely to provide employment generation of a similar level
  • Throw Forward Benefit– There will be an immense benefit of the project because as per globally evidenced data X dollar investment in metro rail construction pump-primes city, state & country economy with 4X through the forward & backward linkages.

What are your thoughts on Government of India's "Atma-Nirbhar Bharat" initiative and how is Maha Metro finding itself fit for this mission?

“Atma-Nirbhar Bharat’’ and its precursor “Make in India’’ policy both have significant implications for Metro Rail Projects in the country. A large number of cities in the country are now developing metro rail projects and it is the demand of the time that full indigenization is achieved in the shortest possible time.

 Nagpur Metro Project was sanctioned way back in 2014 and even Pune Metro Project was sanctioned in 2016 while the “Make in India Policy” was unveiled only in June 2017. Despite that Maha-Metro has retrofitted the two projects in such a manner that it is compliant to the “Make-in India’’ guidelines.

Maha Metro has ensured overall project domestic content at more than 70%. In the civil portion, indigenization is 95% against 80% policy mandate with sole import exception being the import of Head Hardened Rail and Fasteners not manufactured in the country. This has been ensured in both Nagpur and Pune projects

Also as explained earlier in a leap for make in India policy, MAHA -Metro, through international competitive bidding awarded the contract for the supply of 102 modern aluminum-bodied metro coaches for the Pune Metro project to Titagarh Firema, an Italian subsidiary of, Titagarh, a Kolkata based Indian company in the field of railway coaches and wagons. The bulk of these coaches shall be manufactured in the MAHA -Metro Nagpur factory. This is the first time that new generation “aluminum body coaches”, (that are lighter, more energy-efficient and have a better aesthetic than steel coaches) shall be manufactured in the country. It is an epoch-making game-changer in the field of metro rail in the country.

Any other things you want to share with our readers.

It is my proud privilege to extend my warm greetings to readers, share information on Maha Metro as well as on the future of urban transport in the country. It is consensus estimate of various committees that within next one decade, i.e. by 2030 more than 600 million Indians will be staying in cities and they will be contributing to three fourth to the GDP of the country up from two-third today. If we extend the horizon year to 25 years from now, more than 60 per cent of the country’s population will be urban. 

In view of the above, clean non-polluting urban transport will be the most critical requirement in years to come. This means more and more cities will need to create Metro-Rail and Metro-Neo infrastructure. By the very nature creation of such infrastructure will need a lot of money and it will not be possible to charge the market-related fare from commuters. This will necessitate that project innovation are made to reduce the construction cost, optimize the O & M cost and maximize non-farebox revenue.

 It is here that the Maha-Metro has a proven track record of constructing metro rail at a cost 10% lesser than DPR cost, operating it with 25 staff per km (a new global benchmark), using cheap self-generated solar power to the maximum (65% of total energy requirement including traction) and finally having 60% of its total revenues from non-fare box revenues will be the trendsetter for future.

To cap it all innovative Metro-Neo conceptualized by Maha-Metro for Nashik will prove to be a precursor for similar cost effective and energy-efficient systems in other tiers 2/3 cities reducing the need for much costlier metro rail systems till the city population and PHPDT along key corridors make it absolutely must to graduate to Metro Rail systems.

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