Fast-tracking Metro – Exclusive Interview with Santosh Yadav, MD, NMRC

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INTRO: Having won laurels for a slew of development activities he undertook, first as GDA Vice-Chairman and then as YEIDA CEO, dynamic bureaucrat Santosh Kumar Yadav is back to do wonders in the NCR region. The 1995-batch IAS officer of UP cadre, who was appointed Managing Director of the Noida Metro Rail Corporation towards the end of April this year, is aggressively pushing various works and is confident of running the first NMRC train well ahead of schedule. In this elaborate interview with Realty & More Editor Palash Roy, Yadav details the works which he has taken up on war-footing, his innovative plans for the proposed stations, the revolutionary ‘One City, One Ticket’ concept, City Bus plan, fare structure, and various clearances that NMRC is trying to get expedited. The biggest disclosure the senior bureaucrat made in this exclusive conversation was about the NMRC’s plan to get into real estate development in a big way. As part of its alternative revenue source, the vibrant MD has decided to develop 50 hectares of land parcels that NMRC possesses along the Metro route.

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Palash Roy: It is a little over two months that you took charge as the MD of NMRC. What can be counted as your main achievement during this short period?

Santosh Yadav: In the last two months, the pace of construction has been the highest compared to any project anywhere in the country. As per all the MoUs, the 30-km Noida-Greater Noida Metro line with 21 stations is expected to be complete by April 2018. The DMRC launches 110 U-Girders in a month and we launched 200, which is almost the double. We’ll make the super structure ready by August-September 2017, which is six-seven months ahead of schedule. We will start running the train by the end of next year, which will be four months ahead of schedule.

PR: Will the early completion also mean reduction in the cost of the project?

SY: Yes,it will reduce the cost also. The per-kilometer cost of this Metro stretch will be the cheapest among any of the Metro Rail project executed in the country.

PR: Has all the required land for the project been acquired?

SY: A total of 30 hectares of land was required and 100 per cent of it is with us. Nowhere, at no point, the work is stopped. Everywhere it is running.

PR: What is the update on Noida-Greater Noida Metro link getting a place in the PM’s priority list?_MG_8576

SY: Look, the project cost is Rs 5,200 crore. Twenty per cent of this has to come from the Government of India. We have taken loan from the NCR Planning Board for 30 per cent of the cost and the rest 50 per cent is coming from state agencies – Noida, Greater Noida Authorities and the Government of Uttar Pradesh.The two Authorities have been giving the money as per schedule and that is why the project is running. The loan which we have taken from the NCR Planning Board has a rider that it can be availed only when the Project Investment Board of the Government of India clears it. For PIB, all the formalities are complete. I have personally gone to the Urban Development Ministry at least five times. We also spoke to UP Chief Secretary, who is the Chairman of the NMRC. He is writing a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office to keep the project in the priority list of the PM so that PIB clearance is done on priority and we get the money.

PR: So, a lot depends on how the Government of India acts in this regard?

SY: Yes, because our 50 per cent money is held up because of PIB. The UD Ministry takes comments from nine ministries, which include Railway, Revenue, Civil Aviationan Niti Aayog, etc. As per my information, everybody has given positive comments on this.

PR: What is the update on VAT payment? Who is going to pay the VAT levied on NMRC as some reports say that NMRC has refused to pay the VAT?

SY: Last year we paid Rs 16-crore VAT and during the whole project period we are required to pay Rs 321 crore. The DPR (Detailed Project Report) of this project approved by the UP Cabinet said that all the taxes which will be levied on NMRC will either be exempted or reimbursed by the state Government. But the line department, which is Trade Tax department, hasn’t issued the corresponding orders to the concerned authorities in Noida. The ST Department in Noida has to get an order to this effect from the Principal Secretary, Sales Tax, UP. Last week there was a meeting at the Chief Secretary’s office regarding this and soon the issue will be resolved. Either it will be exempted or reimbursed.

PR: There are certain proposed stations where there is no inhabitance now. Will these stations be functional when the Metro starts or will they start functioning at a later date?

SY: We will start those stations also where there is no population now, but with skeleton staff. Normally, there are two inlets and two outlets in a station but we’ll start with one each. There are two schools of thought. One says let there be inhabitance, then there will be demand for infrastructure and then you provide the infrastructure. I am of the view that once you provide infrastructure, the development will start at a brisk pace. My thinking is that the Metro will spur development.

PR: Is it decided that PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) will be responsible for the security of this Metro stretch?

SY: In a way it has been decided by the Government that 49 battalion PAC will look after the security of this 30-kilometer stretch. We are expecting orders to this effect soon.

PR: What is the ‘One City, One Ticket’ concept?

SY: This is a very revolutionary concept. As the MD of Noida Metro, I am practically responsible for transportation in Noida and Greater Noida. I am supposed to run City Bus, the feeder bus for this Metro, and city bus for the whole of Noida and Greater Noida towns and connecting both. I have to ply around 400 buses for both the towns and for feeder routes. So, we sensed an opportunity and decided to introduce a smart card which can be used in city bus, shopping malls, food courts, various bill payments, Noida Authority payments and so on. Before we open this line, we will issue the card.

PR: Will you be tying up with companies for technology and with banks?

SY: Yes, we are looking for technology partners. We are in talks with financial institutions. I have already had a meeting with them. RFP (Request for Proposal) has been floated. The bank has to bear all the cost. We are also expecting some royalty as we see a huge potential in such kind of a smart card.

PR: By when will the City Bus service start?_MG_8569

SY: The first tranche of ultra-modern 50 buses will start plying from August 15 this year.  After anyear of thorough study, the Urban Mass Transport Institute of India has prepared a detailed route plan and identified 27 routes. Plying 400 buses on these 27 routes will take care of the requirement of both the towns. The initial 50 buses will be plying on six routes in Noida, Greater Noida, and between both the towns. These are city buses but they will also pass through Metro stations thereby feeding the Metro Rail populations.

PR: Why has NMRC been given the responsibility of running city bus service?

SY: The NMRC has been given the mandate for entire transportation, apart from the Metro, which means running city buses in Noida, Greater Noida and between the two townsand also city buses encompassing all Metro stations.

PR: Are all the required environmental clearances in place?

SY: The National Green Tribunal passed an order which said that Noida Metro will have to seek the State Environment Agency clearancefollowing which we immediately applied for the same to SEA in Lucknow. We are going to present our case, our facts to them. Undeniably, we are going for all the required clearances.

PR: What is your response to the allegations that environmental norms have not been adhered to and also that water used in the project is borewell-dug?

SY: This is totally preposterous. Those who are saying this haven’t read our DPR, which has been approved by the Government and every norm has been followed. And, we have to take money from the Government of India so why would we flout any norm?We have to get Rs 1,100 crore from the Government. If we violate any norm, it will not give us a single pie. Moreover, the construction pattern is almost common in all the Metros throughout the country, be it Kochi Metro, Chennai Metro, Bangalore Metro, Nagpur Metro or Delhi Metro. The same is being done here. All these allegations are baseless.

PR: Are you taking environmental safeguard measures?

SY: We have taken enough safeguards. Before starting work on the project, RITES has done a detailed survey regarding environmental safeguards and we have followed the recommendations.

PR: Any special environmental initiatives which you have taken?

SY: Yes, all the 21 stations will have slated roofs instead of flat as in case of other Metro stations. We are going to install solar panels in all the stations and 10 megawatts power will be generated through these solar panels. This will be sufficient to light all the stations, all the air conditioners, all parking area lights. And after all these,we will still be left with extra power. There will be a 22-hectares depot in Greater Noida, the boundary of which is four kilometers. On each depot boundaries we are putting iron angles on which solar panels will be placed. For all these, we have tweaked our designs.

PR: Recently there was a case of fake placement drive being run on a fake NMRC website?

SY: We also came to know of this on receiving a complaint. Then, we asked the police to take severe action. I’m told that Gangsters Act is being slapped on the culprits so that nobody dares to do such act in future. We are putting disclaimers on our website. Let me also tell you that the NMRC is not going to do any recruitment per say. It will be done by the DMRC.

PR: Has the fare structure been decided?

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SY: No, not yet! It is a bit early to decide on that as our commercial operations will start by next year-end. But this much we have decided that our fares will not be in the multiples of one rupee or two rupees. It will in the multiples of five rupees.

PR: Have you thought of any alternative revenue generation models?

SY: Yes!If the running cost is Rs 100, then roughly Rs 60-65 comes from fares and the rest Rs 35 one has to garner from other sources. So we have thought of few alternative revenue sources and we will keep them adding. Apart from the traditional non-ticket revenue, we will get into real estate development in a big way. We have received 50 hectares of land, 35 hectare from the Noida Authority and 15 hectare from the Greater Noida Authority. We will be developing these land parcels along the Metro route. As per the potential, at some place we will come up with a group housing society, at some other place we will have commercial complex and elsewhere we’ll develop institutional hub.

PR: Will NMRC do the construction as well or will it be outsourced?

SY: We are open to both. If a group housing society wants to construct on its own, we will lease the land to it. If they want us to develop, we will do so and charge them.

PR: What else have you planned for revenue generation?

SY: Soon, we are coming up with a policy for naming stations. We will invite bids for this and the winner can prefix or suffix its name with the stations. If there is a group housing or commercial complex along the Metro stations and if they want, we will give skywalks from station to their places. This they will have to construct at their own cost. If they want us to construct, the NMRC will do that for a fee and the advertisement rights on these skywalks will rest with us. Also, we will charge money from them as we are giving value to the project. We will also invite bids for advertisements on all the Metro pillars, stations and parking slots. We’ll invite private parties to lay optic fibre cables on the deck on which the Metro runs and we’ll charge money for that.Besides, we are studying what all have been the best practices for revenue generation globally.

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QUOTES:

“We will start running the train by the end of next year, which will be four months ahead of schedule”.

“A total of 30 hectares of land was required and 100 per cent of it is with us. Nowhere, at no point, the work is stopped”.

“The two Authorities have been giving the money as per schedule and that is why the project is running”.

“The DPR of this project said that all the taxes which will be levied on NMRC will either be exempted or reimbursed by the state Government”.

“I am of the view that once you provide infrastructure, the development will start at a brisk pace. My thinking is that the Metro will spur development”.

“I am supposed to run City Bus…The first tranche of ultra-modern 50 buses will start plying from August 15 this year”.

“We have to get Rs 1,100 crore from the Government. If we violate any norm, it will not give us a single pie”.

“Our fares will not be in the multiples of one rupee or two rupees. It will in the multiples of five rupees”.

“At some place we will come up with a group housing society, at some other place we will have commercial complex and elsewhere we’ll develop institutional hub”.