An Exclusive Interview with Shri Rajeev Jyoti, Chief Executive – Railway Business at Larsen & Toubro

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Context: L&T is working overtime to complete Phase-II of the Mauritius Metro project. Despite the COVID-19 challenges, L&T is hopeful of completing the project by the expected deadline with enhanced pace of work. In this regard, We reached out to the L&T Team for an Exclusive insight into the progress of ongoing works on the metro project and role of India in introducing Metro Rail in Mauritius.

Interview Insights:

What is the current construction status of Mauritius Metro’s Phase-II? What are the expected timelines L&T has set up for completing this project?

Phase 1 of the project connects Rosehill Interchange to Victoria, a distance of 12 km (30 tkm) connecting seven stations. It also involves a sprawling depot at Richelieu that includes a state-of-the-art Operation and Control Centre, Simulator facilities, an administrative building, and a Light and Heavy Maintenance shop.

“ The project is one of the largest Government of India funded project in recent times that has met the objectives of early delivery, and one that showcases India as source of specialised technologies. ”

Having completed Phase 1 well within the scheduled date (inaugurated on 4th Oct 2019 and in commercial operation since Dec 2019), Phase 2 is progressing rapidly in all locations. Notably, this includes 100% of all procurement activities completed including all of the 18 Light Rail Vehicles (LRV), Track Components, OHL and Traction components, despite the disruption brought about by Covid19.

Phase 2 in turn consists of 2 phases viz, 2A and 2B. Phase 2A is nearing completion and is planned to commence operations by mid-2021. Multiple activities across fronts are being implemented in Phase 2B as well. However, RoW in certain densely populated sections continues to be a challenge.

 


 

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the ongoing construction works for the Metro project in Mauritius? What are the major challenges being faced by L&T’s staff and workers during these days and how they are managing work at the sites while following safety precautions?

Unfortunately, against our wishes, the coronavirus also impacted Mauritius, resulting in a 57-day national confinement. This forced the team at Mauritius metro express project to reorient and realign themselves to cover lost ground. Scenario Planning initiatives during the lockdown played a key role in achieving our targets in all possible areas, by looking at different permutations and combinations based on possible outcomes.

Even during the lockdown, the team planned to keep the ball rolling upon entering unlock mode by preparing elaborate ‘Back to work procedures and guidelines’, detailing the rules and regulations to be strictly adhered to by employees, workmen, subcontractors and other external stakeholders. Managing agitated workers was a key challenge as they wanted to return to their families in India.

Considering that the borders were closed, we reached out to them for moral support, and handled the delicate situation carefully by convincing them to focus on work and the task ahead. The result was a positive fallout, and an endearing sense of solidarity and belonging that bound the team together. Our excellent stakeholder relationships and support from the Ministry of Health, Police and the PM’s office ensured that permits for 100% of the workforce were in place when the lockdown was lifted on 21st May.

The result of our pre-planning exercise was evident as supply chains were not disrupted and we were equipped with sufficient stock of raw materials and tools. The advance planning for material requirement and importation ensured that no further time was lost in shopping for new orders, that could otherwise take anywhere between 30 to 60 days. Most importantly, we ensured that our staff and workmen felt safe and free to work, resulting in 70% delivery execution, and effective management of deadlines.

 


 

As we know India is Mauritius’ largest trading partner and has been the largest exporter of goods and services to Mauritius since 2007. How India and Mauritius are further boosting their relationship through this project? What is the role of India in introducing Metro Rail in Mauritius?

India is one of the largest trading partners and exporter of goods and services to Mauritius since 2007. Government of India in May 2016 agreed to provide a Special Economic Package (SEP) of USD 353 million (Lines of Credit) for the execution of five priority projects for the Government of Mauritius (GOM), of which Metro Express Project was USD 275 million. The Metro Express project is also supported by a separate grant of almost the same value as the allotted Lines of Credit. 

Passengers Riding Metro Express

This project marks a new high in Indo-Mauritian relations that will bring huge economic advantages and offer opportunities in engineering and technical skill development for the island nation. Overall, the transportation system has been well received by the public and the media. Besides, such projects enhance India’s perception as an innovation hub with expertise in such specialised technologies. The Current operating headway is 15 minutes during peak hours and around 6,600 vehicle trips have run till date, transporting approximately 2.16 million passengers.

While inaugurating the first phase of the metro, Prime Minister of Mauritius Hon. Mr. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth had acclaimed L&T’s role in realising a three-decade old ‘Mauritian dream of a modern transport system’ by ‘delivering the priority section of the Metro Express on time and as per schedule.’ Similar feelings were echoed by Mauritian dignitaries and citizens alike.

 


 

Besides Mauritius, can you please share with us details about L&T’s projects in the other International Rail and Metro markets?

L&T assumes strengths in the construction of tunnels, viaducts, stations, and depots in the Mass transit Sector. Over the past decade, we have been building capabilities in areas like Ballastless track work and bolstering AC/ DC Metro Traction works through Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad Metro. This has given us a decisive advantage in Systems Works areas of Mass Transit Systems as well. Buoyed by the success on home territory, L&T ventured overseas into the Middle East market.

In 2013, L&T was chosen for the construction of the Riyadh Metro Line 3 (41 km) along with Ansaldo STS, Salini- Impregilo with Rolling stock supplied by Bombardier. The design and build contract included implementation of the complete metro system spanning construction of bridges, tunnels, elevated and underground stations and depots. Close to the heels of Riyadh Metro Order, in 2014, L&T along with JV partners won Design Build of Gold Line Tunnel Civil Works for Doha Metro where L&T, along with JV members constructed 22km of tunnels (11 rkm twin tube) and 10 underground stations with architectural finishes and MEP works.

Following this, in 2015, L&T secured Track works order for Riyadh Metro Lines 1 & 2, involving Design Build of Direct Fixation Resilient Track System. The project involved 113 tkm of ballastless tracks, including 6 tkm of Resilient Track in NATM section, 46 tkm on Viaduct, 36 tkm in At grade sections and 25 tkm of ‘Twin Block’ based Slab track spread across 3 depots. With the expertise gained, L&T was well placed to capitalize on new opportunities in Integrated Transit Systems. 2017 brought us our first major International breakthrough, entirely executed by L&T, through Mauritius Metro Express.

L&T People Working on Phase II of Metro Express, Mauritius

The GoI LOC funded USD half a billion-project entailed 26km Integrated Light Rail Transit Project, including supply of Rolling Stock, Signalling & Telecom, Automatic Fare Collection, Trackworks, Electric traction Power and construction of viaducts and bridges.

“ This Mauritius Metro project gave us an opportunity to deliver from Track to Train, making L&T the first Indian company to execute an integrated LRT project overseas. ”

Again in 2018, L&T won a major Design & Build order worth USD half a billion, JICA funded, Dhaka Metro’s first upcoming metro line. The scope involved CBTC based Signaling and Train Control, LTE based Telecom, Ballastless Trackwork, Electrification Works including DC Overhead Traction over 20km of Operational sections and Auxiliary Systems like AFC and Platform Screen doors. These key wins establish us as a full range System Integrator in the Metro domain, just like we have established ourselves in the Railway domain through DFC. In the realm of Urban Transit Infrastructure in India, L&T continues to be a reliable partner for both Civil & Systems works for metro systems in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Lucknow, Kochi and Ahmedabad.

 


 

Now coming to India, what kind of new technologies and expertise which you will be adopting during construction for the country’s first High Speed Rail and RRTS projects? Can you please share with us the construction timelines set for both these projects by the L&T or the Project Operator?

Rapid Regional Transit System (RRTS) is different from a metro rail system, as it caters to passengers looking to travel relatively longer distances with fewer stops and quicker. The first in progress is the Delhi – Meerut RRTS route (82.15km), a vital line jointly funded by ADB and AIIB. In RRTS, L&T has bagged significant orders in both civil works and track works.

In civil works, L&T is constructing over 50% of the elevated structures, including associated stations through Pkg. 3 (33 km elevated viaduct covering 7 stations, awarded March 2020), and Pkg. 7 (12km of elevated section with 5 stations), awarded in November 2020.

From a Systems standpoint, in Sept 2020, L&T won an order for the manufacturing, supply, and installation of Ballast-less Tracks for the entire Delhi- Meerut RRTS section (from Sarai Kale Khan to Modi Puram including Jangpura Stabling Yard, Duhai and Modipuram Depots).

The RRTS is designed for speeds of up to 180 KMPH, with the average operational speed of 100 KMPH which is almost three times faster than that of metros. As a result, the Precast Ballastlesss Slab Track (PORR Austria type) are manufactured in a sophisticated factory-controlled setup and have significantly low maintenance requirements and maintain complex geometric parameters to enable higher speed and an increased service life.

India’s first High Speed Rail Project, the 508 km Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor (MAHSR) has seen rapid tender finalisation in the past few months. Mega packages, hitherto unseen in infrastructure domain have been won by L&T. This includes major Viaduct C4 Pkg (237 km) and C6 pkg for (87.5 km).

We will attempt to replicate our success in other upcoming packages in Track and E&M domain that would soon come up for bidding starting early next year. A High-speed Rail moving at 350 kmph, has technology intensive traction systems, sophisticated cab signalling, GSM-R based Wireless network and Slab tracks whose accuracy is closely linked to the quality of the supporting structure which in turn enhances the ride quality. It involves massive ramp up in construction technologies in the way Viaducts are constructed, and installed, from project planning to logistics – all which enables a thrust towards ‘Make in India’.

 


 

From Design, Engineering, Procurement to Complete Construction of the infrastructure, can you please share with us the updated footprint of L&T for Rail and Metro projects in India? Please inform us about the role of L&T in transforming the Railway & Metro industry?

On the design and engineering front, we have assimilated in house talent across multiple domains like track alignment, traction power simulations, interface design, ballastless Track works, signalling design, and are in the forefront in using latest engineering application and software like Bentley Rail Track, Staad, MIDAS, Bentley Concept Station etc.

Metro Express Mauritius

With such strengths, we are able to deliver across value engineering propositions professionally. Besides, LiDAR based pre-bid engineering survey and integration with BIM has become the norm in most of our projects. Here, we capture terrain data digitally and integrate it with BIM – all of which allow alignment / ROW hindrance detection early enough to implement corresponding mitigation measures.

On the civil front, L&T has been a pioneer in employing stateof-the-art precast technology for faster completion of projects across several urban transit projects.

Concrete elements such as viaduct segments, full span U girders, full span box girders, along with advanced launching techniques through launching girders contribute to ‘Scale and Speed’ of execution.

 


 

Any additional information you would like to share with our readers?

L&T has been amongst the first in the Indian industry to use Linear Project Management Tools like ‘TILOS’ to strengthen Project Management and enable effective visualization of such large linear projects. We have been at the helm of harnessing digital solutions for enhancing operational efficiency, including safety aspects that are specific to linear projects.

On the National Skill Development Front, we are the first Indian private company to train manpower in the railway and Urban Transit domain, with the requisite theoretical and practical onthe-job training to address Track and OHE requirements.

Our Competency Centre in Kanchipuram produces some of the finest ‘Front Line Supervisors’. At L&T, safe work practices are paramount to our business. Railway and Urban Transit projects being linear in nature, are typically spread across many kms, with multitude of discrete risks that are both location and task specific.

Instilling a safe work culture and creating awareness among the workforce is crucial for the successful completion of the project. Therefore, risk identification and mitigation are a continuous process involving multiple teams across various stretches of the project.

Such challenges make safety a key priority for the leadership team. The nature of the business very often has us treading challenging terrains, but there lies the thrill in taking these challenges head on and driving the business forward to new frontiers.

 


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

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