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Airport Express shut down despite best technologies available

Airport Express shut down despite best technologies available

Delhi Metro Airport line’s recent and ongoing shutdown has raised several questions on whether the right technology and equipment is being used in our rail and metro rail systems. Experts say yes, but…

Our Experts

Amit Ramteke, Regional Manager, Interfleet-India, a wholly owned subsidiary of Interfleet Technology, UK and a member of the SNC Lavalin Group. Interfleet provides world class rolling stock engineering, rail systems engineering and rail safety consultancy services to the metro rail, monorail and railway sector in India

Srinath Manda, Program Manager, Transportation & Logistics Practice, Frost & Sullivan – South Asia, Middle East and North Africa. F&S provides analysis and expertise to infrastructure and other sectors

Do our rail systems, and in particular metro rail systems, enjoy credible and sustainable technology and project expertise?

Metro rail systems in India are being built with modern sustainable technology. Recently a cable stayed bridge which is the portion of the Mumbai Metro Line 1 alignment which passes over the Western Express Highway [WEH] has been completed. The bridge has been built 21 m above the road level and features cable-stayed pillars of 39 m height. The construction was undertaken using the balanced-cantilever method with minimum disruption to road traffic on the WEH. This is an example where world class project expertise is being deployed for execution of metro projects in India.

With regards to sustainable urban transport, Delhi Metro earned carbon credits through United Nations Clean Development Mechanism. By deliberately choosing technology such as regenerative braking through which excess electrical energy can be fed back to the grid, urban transport solutions in India are now aspiring to be truly sustainable. Most of the other metro and monorail systems under design or construction currently in India will also be using such technology.

Indian Railways has been successfully constructing and operating several challe­nging projects within urban rail (such as in Mumbai) and in difficult terrains (such as Konkan Railway, Kashmir Railway etc). This shows that Indian Railways has credible and sustainable technology and project expertise in general rail systems. However, metro rail is still a novice in comparison, even though it is a significantly old and established system across developed nations. Hence, it is still too early to com­ment whether or not we possess credible and sustainable technology and project expertise in metro rail.

Do you believe that superior technology is available in civil, electrical, electronic, mechanical and instrumentation that the Railways and our Metro Rail systems should be using?

Metro rail systems in India are being built to world class standards. Delhi Metro would certainly compare to the best metros in the world such as those in London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo etc. The trains are modern in design with stainless steel or aluminium bodyshell, controlled through modern signalling systems such as Automatic Train Control (ATC) with safety features such as Automatic Train Protection (ATP) and better ride quality as a result of modern suspension design. The interior of the trains are also fitted with features such as Passenger Information Systems (PIS) and CCTV for passenger security.
While Delhi Metro has 25kV AC overhead traction power supply, Bangalore Metro, the other partially operational modern metro in India, has 750V DC third-rail traction power supply. Each type has certain advantages and disadvantages but the technology and expertise is available in India.

Other modern technologies such as Platform Screen Doors (PSD), Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) systems are also being deployed for enhanced passenger safety and for revenue protection.

The next level of superior technology should be seen in use on metro rail systems in India soon, as Delhi Metro is looking to procure trains which will have Unattended Train Operation (UTO), the highest level of fully automated train running. The state-of-the-art of technology in this uses Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) for moving block signalling, which significantly increases operating efficiency and system capacity without compromising on safety. Similar systems which are currently operational elsewhere in the world are those in Dubai, Vancouver (Canada Line) and a few others.


Although Metro Rail is a new concept in India, several countries across the world have been using it for many decades, and hence there are several superior technologies available for adoption in each segment (civil, electrical, electronic, mechanical and instrume­ntation) of such projects. Urban rail projects across the world have demonstrated high standards of construction and performance. Few notable examples include Dubai Metro, Kuala Lumpur Airport Express, and Shanghai Maglev Train apart from world’s most reputed metro rail systems in Paris, New York and London.

Engaging our organisations and experts and getting them involved in such exemplary projects as an integral part of India’s metro rail projects, and/or abiding with their recommended standards in construction and oper­ation of our projects, would definitely improve the situation.

Do you believe the Delhi Metro Airport Line on July 8 is a learning process that checks and balances that should be in place between PPP partners to ensure the project is foolproof?

Delhi Airport Metro Express line project can be considered as a learning experience in the execution of major PPP projects, not just in metro rail systems, but in various other segments of transportation industry in India as well. It is unlikely that the partnering consortium did not put in place sufficient guidelines for defining and evaluating the quality standards in the project. Hence, the current issue of the line shut down due to safety concerns, and for repairs and maintenance could have been avoided if all the participating organisations had executed their part according to the defined standards, as this type of project warrants all partners to execute their job in cohesion and through mutual support and trust. In addition, an objective and foolproof approach to evaluate each other’s quality compliance in order to ensure overall project’s success is a primary need. Whether such cohesive execution and compliance with standards was adhered to by all parties is a matter of debate considering the current imbroglio. But this case will definitely be a guide for others in similar projects across the country and highlights the need for focused approach and adherence to quality standards

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