An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Brijesh Dixit, Managing Director, Maha-Metro

Context: Construction works at Nagpur and Pune Metro projects are proceeding at brisk pace. Despite the setback due to COVID-19 lockdown period, works on the both Metro projects is progressing well along with safety measures. In this regard, We reached out to Maha Metro Team for an Exclusive insight into the progress of ongoing works on the metro projects and the Impact of Covid-19 on these projects.

Interview Insights:

Firstly, congratulations for resuming Metro operations in Nagpur. What are the safety precautions and guidelines Maha Metro has set for the passengers and staff at the stations and inside the trains?

Nagpur Metro utilized seven-month lockdown period to formulate full proof strategy to ensure COVID-19 risk free commuting experience for citizens and to provide safe working experience for metro frontline staff. This precautions and guidelines forming part of the strategy were operationalized the moment the train operations recommenced on 16th October after seven-month. The fulcrum of the strategy revolves around segregations of incoming and outgoing passengers, mandatory wearing of mask, compulsory thermal scanning before entering the stations, adequate social distancing at station gates, within station premises and within trains, provisioning of sanitizers at prominent places and most importantly ensuring largely a touch free environment for both commuters and metro staff. The above strategy has been complemented with continuous commuter education through COVID-19 safeguard protocols placards and frequent announcements regarding safeguards needed at stations and inside trains. Frequent and aggressive cleaning and sanitization of stations and trains, encouraging commuters to opt for digital payment mechanism and sanitization of cash collected using UV rays are other measures. Seats at the stations and inside trains have been properly marked to ensure social distancing. Maha-Metro volunteers gently nudge the citizens to maintain all COVID-19 related safety protocol and monitor adherence to the measures.



What is the current status of Metro projects in Nagpur and Pune and when will the next phase of Nagpur and first phase of Pune Metro become operational?

As regards Nagpur project, Maha-Metro completed 25 km i.e. two third of the total project length within record time of 50 months, at the rate of 1 km completion every two month. The routes currently operational are Orange line (Sitabuldi Interchange to Khapri Metro Station) and Aqua Line (Sitabuldi Interchange to Lokmanya Nagar Metro Station). Along these routes during the lockdown period MahaMetro increased total number of operational stations from 12 to 16 there by giving a fillip to increase the ridership.

“Currently the project work is proceeding at brisk pace in the remaining two sections of Reach-2 and Reach-4. Till the end of November 2020, the project had achieved physical and financial progress more than 90% and 85% respectively. The entire project stretch, despite the setback due to COVID-19 lockdown period will be completed and operationalized by December 2021.”

The proposal for two-line 43.80 km stretch of Phase II of Nagpur metro, post approval of Government of Maharashtra and submission to Government of India on 19th March 2020 is currently awaiting central government sanction. Maha-Metro team is in readiness to start the execution work expeditiously the moment the central government sanction is received.

Excavation works through New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) on northern side of underground Swargate Metro Station

The work on two-line 33.28 long (including five km underground section), 30 stations and two depots are progressing fast. The physical and financial progress of the project currently exceeds 45% and 40% respectively. Land acquisition is a major bottleneck of infrastructure projects in the country, but 85% of the land for Pune project has been acquired amicably in record time and the balance 15% will be acquired shortly. This has given impetus to the speedy execution of priority section work i. e. PCMCPhugewadi (Line-1) and Vanaz to Garware College (Line-2). Due to lockdown impact the completion of priority section will be delayed somewhat with the Line 1 priority section likely to be completed by March 2021 and that of Line 2 by June 2021. Overall elevated section will be completed by March 2022 and the underground section will be completed in early 2023.



What kind of challenges Maha Metro has faced during lockdown for construction of Metro projects in Nagpur and Pune and what are the plans Maha Metro implemented to manage the works for both projects?

The unexpected and unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 and consequential lockdown brought humungous challenges to both Nagpur and Pune project. First was complete stoppage of work for nearly forty days under governmental orders. Second, and more important was to protect the life and health of Maha-Metro staff and more than 6000 contractor’s labourers in labour camps in two cities. The third challenge was the government facilitated flight of migrant labour to their native place which coincided with the permission to resume project work. Fourth was the challenge to resume critical works with labour available in-situ. Last was the challenge of bringing the migrant labour back from their native places.

The first and most obvious response of Maha-Metro was to bring out COVID-19 safety protocol and to ensure supply of food, other necessities, thermal checking, mask, and better hygiene to labour. Another key response was to ensure safety of worksites and work done during the period of lockdown.

Once the permission to resume work was received at Nagpur and Pune both received government permission to resume work at Nagpur and Pune both Maha Metro and its contractors took various measures to restore the labour strength. Firstly, effort was made to start critical work with the available labour who were paid wages even for the lockdown period. Secondly, efforts were made to draft local labour to the worksite wherever possible. Thirdly, contractors started taking measures to re-contact their labour. Maha-Metro did its own bit by writing letters to district magistrates to native states of labour to facilitate their return back All these measures have ensured that both Nagpur and Pune projects now have more labour than the pre-COVID-19 peak.

Nonetheless, despite following full safety and protocol and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for execution team, there was some impact as despite best efforts some labourers, contractors staff, Maha-Metro and General Consultants staff got infected with COVID-19.

But Maha Metro has ensured that COVID-19 and lockdown impact is limited and is committed to ensure that in coming months the work progress is fast-tracked and that the projects are still completed with minimal loss of time.



As the pandemic has hit timelines for several projects, can you please share the revised timelines for delivery of coaches for Nagpur and Pune Metro by the CRRC and Titagarh Wagons, respectively?

Due to pandemic the timelines of delivery time schedule of metro coaches for Nagpur and Pune has not been significantly impacted. Out of total train sets comprising 69 coaches contracted for Nagpur, China Rail Rolling Corporation (CRRC) the coach manufactural has already delivered 19 trainsets comprising 57 coaches. Balance 4 sets will be delivered by the end January 2021.

“Maha-Metro in a leap for “Make in India” policy and a major push to “Atma-Nirbhar Bharat” through international competitive bidding has awarded the contract to manufacturing and supply 102 aluminium body coaches to Titagarh an Italian subsidiary of Titagarh a Kolkata based Indian company in the field of railway coaches and wagons.”

Bulk of these coaches (which are lighter, more energy efficient and have better aesthetic than the steel coaches) shall be manufactured in India for the first time.

Front view of Nagpur Metro Train

Lockdown has had limited impact on the work progress of Pune metro coaches’ contract as during the lockdown the most critical aspect of freezing the design of coaches was completed. Currently the first train set is in the process of getting manufactured and assembled post which it will be despatched from Italy to Pune by April 2020. The entire work schedule has been revised to ensure e completion of supply of total 102 coaches as per original schedule.



Can you please also share details about the status of implementation of the ‘Metro-Neo’ system for Nashik city and Broad-Gauge Metro which will connect Nagpur with districts of Bhandara, Wardha, Ramtek and Narkhed? What are the features making these projects one of the unique projects in India?

Both Metro Neo and Broad Gauge are nation first initiatives.

Metro-Neo was first conceived by Maha-Metro (after studying globally operational best practices) as an innovative urban mobility solution for Nashik which provides commuters travelling experience at par with conventional metro but is substantially cost effective. The 2-line 33 km 30 stations Metro-Neo Project for Nashik at DPR estimated cost of INR 2100 crore after approval of Government of Maharashtra is currently under the sanction of the central government.

Importantly, on 9th November, in “20th Urban Mobility India Conference, 2020” the “Standard Specifications” of MetroNeo were unveiled by Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, Honourable Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) for general adoption in tier-2/3 cities of the country.

These specifications were earlier approved by Ministry of Railways (Railway Board) and MoHUA. Maha-Metro expects the sanction of central government for Nashik Metro-Neo project shortly Broad Gauge Metro costing INR 333.60 Crore is another nation first project conceptualized by Maha-Metro. It is aimed to provide fast, convenient, comfortable, ecofriendly, and affordable urban mobility solution that ensures high-speed connectivity to satellite downs of Narkhed, Wardha, Bhandara and Ramtek to Nagpur. It is a unique project where metro type coaches will run on Indian railways track. Recently, the Broad-Gauge Metro project has been cleared by the government of Maharashtra and is being sent to central government for sanction.



Now, many states in the country are planning to launch a single card for use in all modes of transport in the cities, is there any MahaMetro plans for introduction of Common Mobility Card for the state?

Maha Metro has launched Maha Card in unique PPP with State Bank of India in which apart from saving INR 250 Crore in project cost, it has also saved ten years maintenance cost and in addition Maha-Metro will receive royalty during the period. Maha-Metro card is being used across the systems including buses and is compliant to the “one nation one card” concept being propagated by MoHUA.



Any additional information about Maha Metro’s Metro projects you would like to share with us?

Maha-metro is mandated to develop Metro Rail Projects in cities of Maharashtra outside Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The most important challenge before it is to complete Nagpur Metro Project in all respects by 2021 and completion of Pune Metro project by 2023.

“Simultaneously, Maha-Metro is also in readiness to begin construction of Nagpur Metro Phase II and Metro-Neo Nashik without losing time once these projects are sanctioned, It is also our expectation that sooner we will have responsibility of expansion of Pune Metro Rail project also. In addition to Nagpur, Pune, and Nashik, DPR for 29 km long 2-line Light Ring Metro for Thane prepared by Maha-Metro has been approved by the Maharashtra Government and the project currently is under sanction of the Central Government.”

Also duly recognizing the efforts of Maha-Metro in conceiving Metro-Neo, the innovative, cost-effective, energy efficient urban mobility solution for tier-2/3 cities, the Government of Telangana has entrusted Maha Metro with the task of preparation of DPR of Metro Neo for the city of Warangal on the similar lines of Nashik City. Currently. This DPR is in advanced stage of preparation in consultation of Telangana Government.


This Interview is a part of our December 2020 Magazine: Subscribe to our Magazine Today!

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