Exclusive Interview: Alain Spohr, Managing Director (India & South Asia), Alstom India

Mamta Shah Posted on: 2020-08-27 00:00:00 Viewer: 2,756 Comments: 0 Country: India City:

Exclusive Interview: Alain Spohr, Managing Director (India & South Asia), Alstom India Alain Spohr, Alstom India

Mr. Alain Spohr. Managing Director, India & South Asia, Alstom Transport India talks about the role of Alstom towards the development of major railway and urban transport infrastructure sectors in India in an exclusive interview with the Urban Transport News team.

At the outset, please accept our heartiest congratulations on delivering twenty-four state-of-art and super-power Electric Locomotives to the Indian Railways at Madhepura Electric Locomotive Factory, Bihar, India. Please give some lights on this first high-value strategic project signed by Alstom in India?

Thank you. Yes, it is indeed a proud moment for all of us at Alstom, as the country’s fastest and the most powerful electric locomotive built by us is being inducted into the Indian Railways’ freight service. In spite of the challenges posed by Covid-19, we have been able to successfully manufacture and deliver 24 units to Indian Railways in the last couple of months. And as we speak, all the 24 e-locos have been deployed for commercial operations.

This year, Alstom has started deliveries of the 12000 HP WAG-12 electric locomotives to Indian Railways, which is all set to revolutionize freight logistics in the country. Built by Alstom, certified by the Ministry of Railways and Commissioner of Railway Safety (RDSO), these are the highest-powered locomotives that will run on Indian rails. As per the plan, we will deliver 75 units in FY 20/21. Starting next fiscal, we will deliver 100 units annually.

As part of the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) project in the Railway sector, the Ministry of Railways (Indian Railways) and Alstom came together in 2015 to transform the heavy freight transportation landscape of the country. An agreement worth Euro 3.5 billion was signed to manufacture 800 fully electric super-powered double-section locomotives and its associated maintenance over a period of 11 years. This joint venture is one of the strongest realizations of Make-in-India vision in the railways' sector with a strong impetus on indigenous manufacturing with over 85% localization.

The entry of WAG 12 (e-loco) will allow faster and safer movement of heavier freight trains capable of hauling 6,000 tonnes at a top speed of 120 kmph. Planned to be deployed for operations on Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs), these e-locos will increase the average speed of freight trains in India by at least 20-25 kmph.  Equipped with Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBT) based propulsion technology, it would lead to considerable savings in energy consumption due to the use of regenerative braking. Additionally, this move will not only bring down operational costs but also reduce the congestion faced by Indian Railways.

Designed at Alstom’s Engineering Centre in Bengaluru, all e-locos are being manufactured at India’s largest integrated greenfield manufacturing facility at Madhepura in Bihar. Spread across 250 acres, with a production capacity of 120 locomotives per annum, this industrial site is built to international standards of safety and quality. This project will create more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the country - primarily in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra. It is also defined by its highly localized supplier base.

As part of this project, two maintenance depots have been set up at Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh state) and Nagpur (Maharashtra state). Work is underway for the construction of the maintenance depot in Nagpur. Saharanpur depot is fully functional. Equipped with ultramodern features, these depots will have a substantial role in maintaining India’s most advanced freight locomotives at significantly lower costs. Saharanpur depot also has a ‘Training Centre’ equipped with a loco simulator and smart classrooms being used for skill development of railway employees. To date, more than 500 loco pilots from Indian Railways have been trained and going forward, 500 will be trained annually.

Globally, Alstom is associated with almost every prominent Railway organization, and Indian Railways is one of the largest Railway entities in the world. The joint venture combines innovation with responsibility and together we are committed to delivering safe, reliable, and efficient solutions. We are excited to be part of this revolutionary journey of Indian Railways.

How long have you been in the engineering and transport infrastructure industry? Tell us about your journey in this industry and your role in the Alstom in brief.

I have been with Alstom for over three decades now and moved to India about 17 years back. I have worked in various roles across different verticals within the company which gave me immense opportunity to learn and grow within the company. Now, as the Managing Director of Alstom India and South Asia, I am entrusted with the responsibility to strengthen the company’s presence in the region and to ensure the best quality and timely completion of all on-going projects.

I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, so engineering marvels always interest me. My inclination towards the transportation sector grew when I started realizing the importance of this sector. It touches everyone’s life and yet there was so much more that needed to be done to improve its condition to meet the needs of modern society.  Localizing technology, improving efficiencies while reducing cost and developing green and smarter mobility solutions have always interested me and here in India, I got a chance to work closely with bright minds on all these aspects.

Please share some insights on Alstom’s journey so far in India. When did Alstom start the manufacturing in India for Railway & Metro Rail projects and what were the main factors for going ahead with a unit in India?

Alstom has been associated with India’s progress since the 1990s. As the country underwent various phases of economic reforms, we worked towards providing much-needed technological expertise. Being a multi-specialist in rail transport, we brought experience, knowledge, and required expertise which differentiated us from the rest. While Alstom’s operations in India dates to the 1990s, our manufacturing journey in India started with the Chennai metro order in 2010. This contract led to the birth of the SriCity facility in November 2013 and was a game-changer for the business as it was instrumental in establishing our presence as a rolling stock manufacturer in the country. With SriCity, we wanted to build a state-of-the-art rolling stock manufacturing facility that would cater to not just domestic but international projects.

In 2014, we delivered the first metro trainset to Chennai Metro. At that point in time, the facility manufactured just 3-4 cars a month which was quickly ramped up to 20 cars a month. We are now doubling our production capacity. All metro projects that we have worked on have given us the expertise to deliver custom-built solutions as well as on-time.

Today, I can proudly say that almost all metro lines in India have ‘a bit of Alstom’ in them. We have had the privilege of partnering in India’s dream to introduce metro rail as a safe & efficient mode of transportation in several Indian cities catering to millions of passengers. As part of the domestic project pipeline, we have manufactured and supplied rolling stock to Chennai Metro, Kochi Metro, and Lucknow Metro. And the latest to our Rolling Stock portfolio is Mumbai Metro Line 3. We have also undertaken Signalling, Telecom and Power supply projects for various metro corporations including – Delhi, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Chennai Kochi, Mumbai L2 & 7, Jaipur, Nagpur etc.

India is always held strategic importance for Alstom’s operations. The domestic market has immense potential to grow and all factors of production—talent, material, facilities and policies—are also very supportive. For us, this is an exciting time to be present in the fast-growing Indian market. In India, Alstom combines local presence and knowledge with global resources. This guarantees greater proximity with our customers and enables the company to design solutions best suited to their technical, economic and environmental needs. We have set up an Engineering Centre of Excellence in Bengaluru, and this coupled with a strong manufacturing base as well as localized supply chains, has uniquely positioned us to serve customers across the globe. This engineering centre is the second largest one for Alstom, outside of France.

Alstom India also caters to international market requirements by delivering engineering, components and fully built trainsets for various countries across the globe. Sydney Metro’s NW line was our first manufacturing export project from Sri City, and a follow-up order from Sydney for their new lines is a testimony of the confidence that global customers have on Alstom’s Indian manufacturing capabilities.

The export projects from Sri City factory include:

a) Sydney Metro North West Line, Australia: 22 units X 6 car each Metropolis train (Delivered)

b) MRéseau express métropolitain (REM), Montreal, Canada: 106 units X 2 car each completely automatic light-metro system.

c) Sydney Metro City and Southwest, Australia: 23 units X 6 car fully automated Metropolis trains.

Fueling our metro journey, SriCity is a ‘factory of the future’ and can build at least four variants of metro trainsets simultaneously. With the growing demand, we are doubling the capacity of this factory to manufacture ~40 cars per month (480 cars per annum). The supply chain is more than 85% localised, thereby, determined to stay focused on the ‘Make in India’ mission.

Alstom is the market leader in the latest CBTC signalling technology for Urban metro projects in India. In 2018 & 2019, all signalling tenders floated by Indian metro operators were bagged by Alstom. Today, most of the metro corporations—Bengaluru, Jaipur, Kochi, Lucknow, Pune and Mumbai L3 are equipped with the latest generation of CBTC signalling technology. Majorly, the scope of the signalling contract includes unattended train operation (UTO), computer-based interlocking and centralised train supervision; an integrated telecom solution comprising of CCTV, passenger information, passenger announcement and Gigabit network; platform screen doors, as well as the electrical and mechanical supervisory control and data acquisition system (E&M SCADA). The company is also executing electrification, signalling and telecommunications system for over 343 km along the Eastern phase of the ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor which is a key step in transforming the freight services in the country. As part of the contract, Alstom is building the sub-stations and providing one of the world’s largest Operations Control Centres, in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.

'Make in India’ program launched by the Govt. of India with the vision to evolve and transform India into a powerful economy of the world, achieve significant growth in GDP and enable India to be a global power. How is Alstom contributing to the Make in India campaign?

‘Make in India’ initiative has given the much-required stimulus to the country’s manufacturing sector. For the country to continue to strengthen its position globally, manufacturing sector will play an important role. We commend the government for its effort to boost this sector. One of the reasons this program has been so successful is due to the Government’s openness to collaborate with companies to help build the country’s capabilities. This has given manufacturers like ours an opportunity to partner with India and make our contribution in its growth story.

From ‘Designing in India’ to ‘Make in India’, our entire business proposition has been based on localization. We always intended to bring global knowledge and work with local talent to build a strong presence in the country. Be it our extensive manufacturing footprint – 4 manufacturing facilities, our talent base (6500++ employees and growing) or the strong project references (Kochi, Chennai, Lucknow, Sydney, Mumbai Line 3 and Montreal etc.), we are deeply committed to the vision of Make in India.

We have always had localization at the heart of our operations. For example, at Sri City all electrical components used in metros are manufactured in our facility in Coimbatore and the remaining equipments sourced from suppliers within the country

The modern state-of-the-art metro train sets with gen-next signaling system integrated across the network for Kochi & Lucknow have been 100% Made in India, designed in Bengaluru and manufactured in Sri City plant.

The Joint Venture between Alstom & Indian Railways is also one of the strongest endorsements of our Make-in-India journey. A highly localized supplier base has been put in place for execution and technology transfer to build local engineering capabilities. Almost 90% of the components used to manufacture these locomotives are being sourced from India.

Alstom as an organization is committed to harness the manufacturing and engineering capabilities resting within the country. We are confident to reach greater heights by aligning our business goals with the country’s vision.

Alstom had been awarded a contract worth approx. €315 million to supply 248 metro coaches for Mumbai Metro Line-3. What is the current development in this project and when the first train set is expected to deliver to MMRC?

Alstom won the Mumbai Metro Line 3 (Aqua line) project worth €452 million, which includes design & supply of 248 metro cars, along with executing the power supply contract and equipping the line with the latest generation of CBTC signalling technology (Urbalis 400). This is our biggest rolling stock mandate in India till date, which will have trains that can accommodate 3000 passengers in a single trip. Urbalis 400 is our proprietary technology that results in increasing average capacity by 30% in manned services and unattended train operations (UTO). It also helps to reduce energy consumption by 30%. We started manufacturing the Metropolis trainsets, earlier this year, at our world-class rolling stock manufacturing facility in Sri City (Andhra Pradesh). As per the plan, the first metro train will be delivered before the end of this financial year.

Designed on the theme of ‘Dynamic Fluidism’, the metro draws its inspiration from the city. The metro train prioritizes a high interior density layout to maximize space efficiency. The trainsets are custom-designed for Mumbai and will be able to accommodate at least 3000 people in a single trip, easing daily commute. The Aqua Line trainsets will also feature a host of safety elements including CCTV cameras, smoke detectors, emergency intercoms, fire extinguishers with wider detrainment doors to quickly evacuate passengers in case of an emergency etc., The inclusive design of trainsets will also serve the specially-abled individuals with ease of travel and includes dedicated space for a wheelchair in every car.

The scope of the signaling contract includes unattended train operation (UTO), computer-based interlocking and centralized train supervision; an integrated telecom solution comprising of CCTV, passenger information, passenger announcement and Gigabit network; platform screen doors, as well as the electrical and mechanical supervisory control and data acquisition system (E&M SCADA).

Ministry of Railways had taken a decision to buy complete train sets from the external Rolling Stock manufacturers under its “Mission Raftar” plan. How do you see this business opportunity for Alstom?

Alstom offers a complete range of equipment and services, from high-speed trains, metros, trams and e-buses to integrated systems, infrastructure, signalling and digital mobility solutions. Our ambition is to partner with all transportation stakeholders in meeting tomorrow’s mobility challenges. Alstom supports Indian Railways’ move to introduce modern technology Rolling Stock at a maximum speed of 160 km/h, with reduced maintenance and enhanced safety. Many countries, including Japan, Germany, US and Canada have successfully managed such railroad privatization. The first move of privatizing 151 trains will add to this effort by bringing world-class travel experience to Indian passengers. While the tendering for this project is at initial stages, Alstom will be interested in exploring this opportunity, as we have innovative solutions for enhanced passenger experience along with the right product expertise to address the Indian market.

Alstom has been associated with India’s progress for many decades now and has a long-standing reputation for providing highly innovative and sustainable solutions for meeting the country’s transport requirements. In line with the Make-in-India policy and the Prime Minister’s recent call for Atmanirbharta (Self-reliance), Alstom has indigenous production for metro trainsets, electric locomotives, electrical traction and control equipment. Alstom also has a strong track record of running several projects successfully across India. With 4 domestic factories, we are geared to address the Rolling Stock and component needs of Indian Railways.

What’s your take on Govt. of India’s decision to run a light rail transit system ‘Metrolite’ in upcoming metro rail projects in tier II and tier III cities?

We feel this is a good decision, but definitely needs a well laid out plan for implementation. We agree with the Finance Minister when she says that connectivity is the lifeblood of the economy. Improving intercity connectivity is critical for the formation of smart cities and realization of the USD 5 trillion economy target set forth by the government. 

The metro rail system being developed at present is of high capacity which is required for bigger cities with very high ridership and Peak Hour Peak Direction Traffic (PHPDT). Seeing the success of metro rail in the country, several other cities with a lower projection of ridership are also aspiring for the rail-based mass rapid transit system, which could be fulfilled by Light Urban Rail Transit System called "Metrolite" with lesser capacity at a much lesser cost. The traditional Metro network, which requires huge capital investment, may not be viable in smaller cities where the ridership is less.  In these cities, Metrolite service can act as a feeder service. Not only will the Metrolite be an economical alternative but also a sustainable one. This service is likely to reduce the use of private vehicles which will lower the pollution and overall congestion in these cities. Considering that this would require lesser investment, this mode of commute would also work out much economical for the end-user without compromising on the comfort of traveling on a metro train. 

What are the Alstom’s on-going projects in India and what are the goals for the next five years?

Alstom has established a strong presence in India and is proud to be part of Indian Railway’s modernization efforts. The projects Alstom is currently working on play a very crucial role in transforming Indian Railways and moving a step closer to the goal of Green Railways and subsequently reducing the carbon footprint.

All our projects have a longer project lifecycle of 5 to 10 years (and sometimes more), depending on the scope of work involved. Other than the ambitious electric locomotive project, we are also executing an Electrification, Signaling and telecommunications system for over 343 km along with the Eastern phase of the ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor which is a significant step in transforming the freight services in the country. As part of the contract, Alstom is building the sub-stations and providing the control centre. The control centre situated at Allahabad is the World’s second-largest Operations Control Centre for the entire route length of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor. The Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) will not just enable safer and timely movement of freight across the country but will also reduce the traffic on the corridor for passenger trains. The technological solutions offered by Alstom will help Indian Railways regain lost market share for freight transport and will also provide additional capacity.

In-line with the Government of India’s Make-in-India initiative, we have been investing heavily in the country to produce world-class rolling stock and components and delivering engineering services to various global sites.

Domestic - ROLLING STOCK PROJECTS

-  Chennai Metro (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Kochi Metro (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Lucknow Metro(Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Mumbai Metro Line 3 (Under construction)

Domestic - INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

-  Chennai Metro Trackwork (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Delhi Metro Phase III Trackwork (Package CT-1B) (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Kochi Metro Receiving Sub-station (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Kochi Metro Power Supply 3rd rail 750 VDC (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Mumbai Metro Line 3 25 KV OCS 

-  Pune Line 1 & 2 25 KV OCS 

-  Bangalore 3rd Rail EP2CC 

-  Jaipur Metro - Power supply and Overhead catenary systems

Domestic - SIGNALING PROJECTS

-  Signaling & Telecommunication system for Kochi Metro (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Signaling & Telecommunication system Mumbai L3

-  Signaling & Telecommunication system L2&L7

-  Signaling System Pune Line 1 & 2 

-  Signaling System Lucknow Metro N-S Corridor (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Bengaluru Metro Phase I DTG Signaling (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Bengaluru Metro Phase II – DTG Signaling   

-  Jaipur Metro Phase I Sig (Completed and revenue operations have started)

-  Jaipur Metro Phase Sig Extension   

-  Delhi Metro Line 1 & Line 2 (Completed and revenue operations have started)

Alstom is also executing electrification, signalling and telecommunications systems for over 343 km along the Eastern phase of the ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor which is a key step in transforming the freight services in the country. As part of the contract, Alstom is building the sub-stations and providing the control centre. The control centre situated at Allahabad is one of the world’s largest Operations Control Centres for Railways. The Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) will not just enable safer and timely movement of freight across the country but will also reduce the traffic on the corridor for passenger trains.

As you are aware, as part of the e-loco project, we have also set up one of India’s largest greenfield facilities in Madhepura. This project also includes setting-up of two maintenance depots at Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh state) and Nagpur (Maharashtra state).

Alstom in India not only caters to domestic needs, but also delivers engineering, components and fully built trainsets for various countries across the globe.

Alstom’s SriCity (Andhra Pradesh) factory is a state-of-the-art manufacturing unit for Urban Rolling Stock. The export projects from this factory include-

Sydney metro North West Line, Australia: 22 units X 6 car each Metropolis train

MRéseau express métropolitain (REM), Montreal, Canada: 106 units X 2 car each completely automatic light-metro system

Sydney Metro City and Southwest, Australia: 23 units X 6 car fully automated Metropolis trains

Alstom’s factory in Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) is a modern facility for rolling stock components that specialises in designing, manufacturing and testing traction and electrical components. This factory exports to many countries including France, Belgium, Italy and Poland.

The engineering centre is Bengaluru (Karnataka) is the largest one for Alstom, outside of France, and delivers projects for many global sites.

What are your views on the Govt. of India’s move in terms of ease of doing business for the private sector?

The government has undertaken commendable initiatives to encourage private sector participation. Their focus on leveraging technology and boosting transport infrastructure coupled with efforts to reduce emissions are laudable. Efforts to improve finance, safety and technology in the railways mainline as well as urban mobility sectors, resulted in achieving zero casualties last year. Measures like the correction in GST, decision to allow private trains were some of the other measures taken by the government and the Indian Railways, which was very well received.  The government’s intent to reward innovation, investments and entrepreneurship is in the right direction.

However, paying attention to a few areas such as bringing about standardization of rolling stock for metros can enable in speeding up manufacturing processes and enhance resource optimization. This can bring about cost optimization and faster project incorporation.

Also, government intervention promotes and protects localization and Make-in-India will aid domestic manufacturers. This will help companies that have invested heavily to align with Make- in-India to achieve a level playing field to counter import-oriented competition to contribute to Nation building.

We observe that International funding sometimes comes with conditions that are not in line with localization. ‘Make-In-India’ is one of the flagship emblematic programs of the country, based on which companies like Alstom have invested and built significant capacity and capability in India. The government’s push in this direction will enable heavily invested domestic players to contribute significantly in the days to come.

Any other information, you want to share with Urban Transport News with respect to recent technology development in urban transport sectors and how Alstom is well placed to capitalize on this?

Sustainability is going to be the biggest game-changer going forward. That is the reason our teams across locations are working extensively on emission-free solutions. Hydrogen fuel cell trains could be the next big thing. Alstom has performed ten days of tests of the Coradia iLint hydrogen fuel cell train on the 65 kilometres of the line between Groningen and Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands. The tests follow 18 successful months of passenger service in Germany, where a total of 41 Coradia iLint has already been ordered. The latest tests make the Netherland the second country in Europe where the train has proven itself to be an emissions-free solution for non-electrified lines. Our hydrogen trains are mature in terms of availability and reliability, providing the same performance as traditional regional trains, but with the benefit of low noise and zero emissions. It is also easy to integrate into an existing fleet and is compliant with all safety regulations. This could be a technology that India can look forward to adapting in the coming years.

What is your take on our publications i.e. Urban Transport Infrastructure Journal and Urban Transport News e-portal? Is there anything about the publications you think we could do better?

The Urban Transport Infrastructure Journal has been doing a great job of informing its readers about the latest happenings and trends in the transport infrastructure sector. At the same time, the publication and its e-portal have been investing enough time and effort in doing in-depth stories to unravel unique stories that would have gone unnoticed otherwise. My heartiest wishes to the great teamwork and kudos for their commendable job!





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