Pradeep Kumar Kharola, MD, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL), tells Shashidhar Nanjundaiah that efficiency-of commute and technology-is the key mantra for the city's metro rail system, another "reach" of which will be operational soon.
How do you see Bangalore Metro as an enabler for investors in Bangalore?
Over the past two decades, our cities have emerged as engines of growth. In these concentrated spaces, it is important to bring together the factors of production. Human resources are a vital factor of production. This is where efficient transport availability for the industry's human resource plays a key role. By saving time and conserving energy, the overall cost of production comes down, therefore boosting efficiencies of the industry. Bangalore's strengths are IT and HR. By making HR more efficient, metro rail enables better efficiencies for the industry itself. While it is difficult to quantify how much time and resources people will save as a result of using the metro rail, commuting in this efficient way brings down input costs for the industry.
Bangalore Metro has adopted efficient technologies, keeping pace with the modern systems.
Apart from several technologies we have adopted, the most important system in efficiency is energy cost. When a train brakes, it generates energy to induce the braking. Our trains convert this energy into electricity, thereby 'recycling' or re-generating it back into the rail system. We save in the range of 30 per cent of electricity this way-when fully operational, up to 30 per cent of the energy required to run the trains will come from the braking effort.
As a corporate entity, how have the state's systems supported Bangalore Metro?
The corporation depends completely on government support both in financial and other ways. The state government supports BMRCL through its various agencies.
Constructing anything in a running city is one of the biggest challenges, and the state government and its agencies have extended their full support: the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has been critical for shifting utilities and coordinating operations. The traffic police has had to divert and regulate traffic at various places. The Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) has been acquiring land for us. Utility shifting-which is a huge challenge-has been a particularly successful example of collaboration for us. The role of the water supply board, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has been instrumental in supplying water at stations and other locations, but also at the project phase since a large part of the utilities run parallel or across our alignments. The Indian Railways has also cooperated-they have to part with their land since we have to sometimes cross under or over their existing tracks and alignments.
We have an effective coordination mechanism using the High Power Committee, headed by the Chief Secretary. This Committee meets very frequently-and makes all decisions that need to cut across agencies and departments. The good part is all the agencies and concerned departments have been honouring these decisions.
How much has Bangalore's rocky terrain been a challenge?
Rocky land underground may actually help the foundations for over-ground construction. It is a big challenge when it comes to our underground construction. The challenge gets compounded as the subsoil strata rocks are not uniform-they are a mix of soft and hard rock. That makes it difficult for engineers and machines. This is one of the reasons that tunnels are still underway constructions. Four tunnel boring machines are at work as we speak.
How has the experience been for you with the private contractors and procurement? Metro projects including this one are prone to timeline revisions. Why?
The experience with the private sector has been quite good. But such relationships come in a package, and not everything is always like a fairy tale. Sometimes there is a delay in execution of work or in procurement of machinery-or in handing over land to the contractor. Such issues do occur on both sides.
A project of this magnitude entails the synchronic working of 1000-plus activities. Even if there is slippage on one activity, the entire chain gets affected, and that is the challenge. We have had to revise timelines. The first phase, which was targeted for completion in December 2013, has now been rescheduled for completion in mid-2015. Meanwhile, the 10 km-long Reach 3 (Peenya-Malleshwaram to the north of the city) of the phase is ready for operation. Now a series of certifications are awaited, starting with the Speed Certificate. The Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Lucknow, has already conducted tests for the Oscillation Trial, which entails mounting various instruments and making the train run under very difficult conditions. Once we obtain the Speed Certificate, we're then ready for the Safety Certificate from the Commission of Rail Safety. So the operational stage is not far off. We're also gearing up by providing finishing touches to the stations.
BMRCL is a 50:50 special purpose vehicle (SPV) between the central and Karnataka governments. RITES, US-based Parsons Brinckerhoff, Japan's Oriental Consultants, and France-based SYSTRA are lead consultants to the project. The 42.3 km corridors use 'third-rail' energy traction system and will connect 40 stations when completed.