That Delhi realty has been riding to prosperity on the back of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is stating a veritable truism. And the promises are getting bigger. Completing 12 years on December 24,2014 DMRC now has a daily ridership of 27 lakh commuters using 2,800 trains that run with almost 99 per cent punctuality. Mangu Singh, Managing Director DMRC, spoke to Realty and More Editor Palash Roy on his organisation’s plans, prospects and challenges. The 1981 – batch Indian Railways Services of Engineers (IRSE) officer is looking forward to 2016 which he says will be a very important and crucial year for DMRC.
PR. What are the main focus points of your blueprint for 2015?
MS. Our primary focus is not on 2015, it is 2016 when the Phase Ill expansion of Metro Rail is expected to be completed. Having said that, in 2015, we will open two sections- Faridabad and Badli-and a small section in ITO. We will also be ready with the Kashmere Gate lineCentral Secretariat to Kashmere Gate, beyond ITO. So these are the three main things in 2015, while the balance is the entire phase Ill in 2016.
PR.When will be the ITO station be up and running?
MS.We are almost ready from our side. It will now depend on certifications, successful trial runs, etc.
PR. By when the Badarpur-Faridabad line be operational?
MS. The work from our side shall be complete by March 2015. And we intend to open it after all processes by May 2015.
PR. By when do you expect the Noida-Greater Noida link to be completed?
MS. It will take three-and-a-half years. Most critical is the coach, the rolling stock. The day you get ahead, it takes about one year to place the order, one year for the bidding. Another two and- a-half years at least to supply the coaches, so that’s three and half years. So it will be done by first part of 2018, or if you are lucky and all goes well maybe by 2017-end.
PR. With 2016 being the big year for DMRC, what are the positives and the challenges you face in the phase Ill expansion?
MS. Right now we have overcome almost all the challenges, like initial deployment with the contractors, availability of equipment, machines required etc. The only problem now is land, although 95-96 per cent of the land is in our possession there are few small stretches where the land is not yet available but which is very necessary for completion of the project.
I think by all standards the quantum of the work in phase Ill, which started from the moment I took over, was huge. In fact the phase Ill is phase I plus phase II put together, that much is the volume of work. I am happy that the major issue of settling the tender, such huge volume of issuing work tenders has been finalised very smoothly and successfully without any major issue anywhere. The mobilisation of resources, contractors, developing the organisation to undertake such work, etc., I think these were the major challenges and then taking care of the rapidly increasing ridership in the Metro Rail, which is around 27 lakh per day. So while these two are very challenging, keeping the system working is another big challenge with 2,800 trains running everyday with almost 99 percent punctuality.
PR. You had recently written to Delhi Chief Secretary on the non availability of land? What was the response?
MS. They are active. Also you must appreciate that 95-96 percent of the land has been given. And in the areas where the land has not been given, there are certain issues which are very difficult to resolve. But the Government is very active now and I hope that we will get the land very soon.
PR. Recently you had come out with an option of revenue generation where a company has wrapped a train with its branding. Are you planning more such other revenue generation options?
MS. This wrapping of trains is not a new concept. It has been in use by many for long. Rapid Metro Gurgaon, our own Airport Metro line where Reliance has used it. We have not been very enthusiastic on this in the beginning. We were apprehensive that on removing the wrapping films, the finishing of the coaches may get damaged. But that was our apprehension. But now with improved technology, removal of the films doesn’t damage the coaches and no marks are left on the coaches. To start with we have restricted this to not more than 10 per cent of the total trains. We will decide the future course of action after running it for some time. Wrapping all trains may not bring that kind of revenue, it will lose the value.
PR. Are there any other revenue-generation options you are planning?
MS. Yes, we are coming out with an option where a party is allowed to prefix or suffix its name to a Metro station. To start with we have identified a few stations in Naida and Gurgaon. But these are only the big areas like advertisement, retailing, naming stations, some advertisements on Metro Cards …
PR. Which stations have been selected so far for semi-naming?
MS. Stations which have been selected for seminaming rights in Gurgaon are HUDA City Centre, IFFCO Chowk, MG Road and Guru Dronacharya Metro stations. For Naida stations offered by DMRC for semi-naming rights Naida City Centre, Golf Course, Botanical Garden, Naida Sector 18 and Vaishali Metro stations. These rights will be for a period of 10 years.
PR. Are there any other revenue generation options you are planning?
MS. Approximately around 20 per cent of the total revenue is non-ticket sale revenue.
PR. What is the status of the Vijaywada Metro Rail project which you are undertaking?
MS. Right now we are only preparing the Detailed Project Report (DPR). Once the DPR is made, the government has to take a decision on investment, decide on funding. It appears that the government there is very keen that DMRC is involved in the execution also but that will come subsequently. The first stage is only the preparation of DPR. We expect to complete the DPR by March-end.
PR. The National Green Tribunal (NGT} has asked DMRC to file a status report on rain water harvesting at Metro stations. Have the report been filed?
MS. We have filed the report. If they ask for any further details, we will provide that too.l will just say one thing, there are certain people who are asking for what’s
more than reasonable, for example, our viaduct on roads. If the viaduct was not there on roads, where was the water going? It was again going to the drains only. All these norms are applicable for a particular plot where you are constructing a building then it is mandatory that you shall capture rainwater and harvest. This shall not be applicable on the road. But at the same time, we have gone in for rainwater harvesting even along the viaduct too. We have done that, but there are certain difficulties. Once we construct the rainwater harvesting system the road does not belong to us, it goes back to the concerned agencies. And there are these pits in the middle of the road, and if something goes wrong subsequently, it doesn’t function properly, it becomes very difficult for us to do the rectification work. These are certain difficulties but as far as the DMRC is concerned about the environment, we have taken large number of steps during our construction phase to save the groundwater, like recharging the water into the ground. We have done many such things without any statutory obligation. We have rejuvenated a dried pond in the Kamala Nehru Park, near Vishwavidyalaya in phase I. Whatever water was extracted, we put it back there. We have done this on our own. We even supply water to Chandrawal Water Works for treatment and supply to the city. On our own we have done a lot, we have done a lot of rainwater harvesting on our own. But there are certain areas where these are not possible.
PR. There are allegations that Alstom Transport India paid bribes to get certain contracts from DMRC and there are cases against the company in UK?
MS. As per the media reports, it appears that this relates to a contract awarded in 2002. Other than that charges have been framed. We do not have any information. The case has been registered in UK against Alstom people. As far as we are concerned, our tendering process is very transparent, and passes through various layers. So if at all some investigation needs to be done, it is to trail the money, to find out where the money has gone, whether body in DMRC had taken any till now nobody asked any related to the investigation that there.
PR. Are you conducting any internal probe on this?
MS. We have reviewed. We have seen the document, we don’t find anything as such.
PR. In phase Ill also there is case pertaining to a Rs 4,000-crore contract awarded to Hyudai Rotem. It is alleged that the company has concealed a fact that it had been earlier debarred by an agency- the Airports Authority of India. What are you doing on that?
MS. The decision is to take a legal opinion in this case. It is a case where there is no allegation of any corruption or anything like that. They have concealed certain facts which they were supposed to reveal, and therefore what action is to be taken against them at this stage? It is very important that any action that may be taken, should not result into a punishment for no fault of ours. DMRC or the public at large should not suffer. So considering all these, a legal opinion is being sought and appropriate action will be taken.
MS. See, security is primarily the responsibility of the security agencies. DMRC can only provide the technical and infrastructure support. So DMRC on that count is providing whatever support is required, like the number of cameras, lighting systems, x-ray machines, and such support. So whatever is required, we will do that. These
things are audited time to time by agencies and we discuss if any additional thing is required from our side and we perform that.
PR. How big a challenge has been employee retention, because it has been seen that people get trained at DMRC and move on for greener pastures?
MS. Yes, but we take it positively. We keep provision for that. If our employees are getting better avenues outside, we don’t crib. Let them go and flourish. There is no issue on that. But yes there is an initial lock-in period, a bond amount. In fact we are very positive and assisting other Metros, if somebody wants to go there we allow them. For example, the entire top management of the Lucknow Metro is from DMRC only.