Rail Analysis: India has many mega railway and metro projects in different stages of development today. How has the sector evolved in the past decade?
Mr. KVB Reddy: It is imperative that an efficient transport system is crucial for the overall socio-economic development of any country. The transport network of India is one of the large-scale networks in the world. With the rapid urbanization, transportation has also evolved based on changing necessities with a futuristic outlook. With its pace, the country is all set to transform its urban transport mobility in upcoming 5-10 years.
In the modern era of urbanisation, we have witnessed for the first time private players being invited to run the rail services. This has led to lot of focus on technology adoption, upgradation, making the rail sector cleaner, faster, and greener. Recent advancements include the plan for end-to-end railway electrification, automatic block signalling with traffic management systems, high-density network (HDN), highly utilized network, and focus on the overall safety systems as per National Rail Plan to align with the Vision 2024 of the Indian Railway with 100% railway electrification to meet carbon neutrality by 2030.
The adoption of smart mobility technologies and advanced solutions are changing the entire ecosystem of urban transport.
On the metro rail front, we saw the introduction of some of the key Metro projects in Kochi, Jaipur, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Pune, Nagpur, and Lucknow, while metro routes in Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata got further expanded.
Around 702-km of the conventional metro is operational and another 1,016-km of metro and RRTS projects are under construction in 27 cities. There has been a shift in focus towards Tier 2 cities with new metro rail constructions having started in cities like Surat, Indore, Kanpur, Bhopal, Patna, etc.
The government has also taken up metro rail feasibility studies across cities with over two million population. Government initiatives like Atma-Nirbhar Bharat and Make in India have significant implications for Metro Rail Projects. As a sustainable mode of urban transportation, Metro Rail has received a tremendous thrust on the adoption of new technologies in every aspect of the project, right from the concept stage to commissioning. In fact, our Indian metro rail systems are comparable with the best networks in the world in terms of technology adoption. We must appreciate the visionary road map by the government of India to provide world-class infrastructure to the population making urban transportation more inclusive.
Rail Analysis: How has the railways and metro sector progressed in terms of accelerating the adoption of digitisation? What has been the cost vs benefit behind the adoption of software technologies for these sectors?
Mr. KVB Reddy: There is a tremendous thrust on the adoption of new technologies in every aspect of the project, right from the concept stage to commissioning. In fact, our Indian metro system today is at par with any other metro system in the world. Whether it is the signalling system (CBTC System), modern light weight aluminium built rolling stock, or the adaptation of BIM. Right from the project stage to asset management, we are focused on digitisation. Digitised passenger information systems, fare collection systems including proximity smart card / QR based ticketing systems enhance the passenger convenience. In the railway’s sectortoo, there has been a lot of emphasis on modernisation and upgradation of technology and there is a continuous object-oriented approach in achieving these objectives. In the past decade or so, there has been a tremendous emphasis on upgradation. There has been a rapid increase in the pace of electrification as well as upgradation of signalling systems and digitisation of asset maintenance. Recently, the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) has awarded works for the implementation of an asset management system for locomotive maintenance (SLAM).
The SLAM will be deployed all over the maintenance sheds for proper digitisation of asset maintenance. Apart from that, the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) is getting commissioned in a phased manner, which is a boon for overall traffic development. Certainly, there has been a lot of emphases to keep up with the world.
To put a figure to cost-effectiveness is difficult. But, certainly, the adoption of technology is a win-win for operators as well as users of the transport system. You see even today, the biggest example of computerisation is the passenger reservation system of IR, it has made the life of travellers easy and systems and procedures simple.
On the project side, in the metro, utilisation of Digital twin or BIM (Building Information Modelling) is gaining traction, because of its ability to provide wider and faster access to comprehensible and integrated information. It is a Cloud- based system, which makes work efficient and fast. It minimises mistakes and clashes and improves overall efficiency. Offering a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility, a BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle. It also offers a high level of collaboration by different stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle of a facility to insert, extract, update, or modify information in the BIM to support and reflect the roles of that stakeholder nowadays, every upcoming metro project is ensuring 100 percent BIM implementation.
By adopting digitalisation across its operations & maintenance, asset management, autonomous trains, automated maintenance, smart manufacturing, and services for mobility, Railways and Urban Mass Rapid Transit system are on the right track for future growth.
Talking about the cost vs benefit behind the adoption of software technologies, I believe Indian metro rail projects are in the very early stages of adoption of digital initiatives. The ambitious metro rail projects in India have opened vast opportunities for digital technology.
Usage of combined tools in innovative ways with context-based solutions to accelerate digital adoption and also improve project performance would definitely lead to massive benefits, which would far outweigh the underlying cost.
Rail Analysis: What are some of the sustainable methods used for design and construction of the metro project to ensure energy and water conservation and the other efficient measures undertaken?
Mr. KVB Reddy: The fast-growing urban mass rapid transit sector in India is transforming the dynamics of how people used to travel. The conscious adoption of new sustainable technologies and eco-friendly design and construction of these projects offer great potential to reduce the impact of the construction and management of works from an environmental, economic, and social viewpoint. The metro by itself is an efficient transit system on account of steel- to-steel friction being low and due to the use of electricity as fuel. Taking the example of Hyderabad Metro Rail, we are putting the metro train itself to our advantage by adopting a state-of-the-art converter inverter-based propulsion system.
This system has the capability of pumping back energy to the source, i.e., electric grid during braking mode. Moreover, our metro trains have a 25kV AC system which has greater receptibility for regenerated energy. With this system in place, we pump back over 35% of the energy received by way of regenerative braking. Additionally, when we constructed our metro stations with their alignment made in such a way that when a metro train enters the station it faces a rising gradient, and when it leaves, it is a falling gradient, thus giving a natural advantage for braking as well as acceleration.
Apart from the energy regenerated, which is almost 25 million units per annum of regeneration, we have also opted for solar power and have started almost 8.3 Mwp ofsolar plant capacity in our depots as well as stations—which gives us about 10 million units per annum. This amounts to almost 15 percent ofour total energy consumption. And there is still scope—we want to take it further up to 15 mw.
This apart, every station and depot have water-harvesting pits. In depots, our train wash plant uses recycled water. In fact, 20 of our stations are LEED Platinum certified by IGBC. Our project planners have placed a lot of emphasis on sustainability, clean energy, and energy conservation, and this is certainly giving us good results.
Rail Analysis: After Unlock 2.0, is the ridership back to pre-Covid levels? What are some of the steps your team is taking in metro station premises and inside trains for the health and safety of commuters during the ongoing pandemic?
Mr. KVB Reddy: The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic had an all-pervasive devastating impact across the globe. Hyderabad Metro Rail was shut down for 169 days due to covid-induced lockdown. In line with the unlock-4.0, Hyderabad Metro Rail resumed its services from 7th September 2020 amidst all covid safety protocols in place. We have also braced the second wave of COVID-19 with Telangana State undergoing night curfews and lockdowns between April and Jun 2021.
During this period Hyderabad Metro Rail continued its services, however with truncated operations. However, now that Hyderabad Metro Rail is operating in full steam, we are witnessing steady growth in passenger footfall. In November 2021, we have served on an average passenger footfall of about 2.4 Lac daily (3.5 Lac Passenger Journey).
After the unlock, Hyderabad Metro Rail was ready with all COVID-19 safety protocols in place for passengers and its staff. It has continuously ramped up its drive even further to ensure a safe metro journey, which includes regular communications to sensitize passengers about safety norms, daily, frequent sanitisation of metro premises and metro trains, and more focus on the contactless mode of ticket purchase to avoid queues.
To ensure the safety of passengers, we have been utilizing various platforms to increase awareness about the pandemic precautions or Do’s and Don’ts during Metro travel. A timely circulation of advisories, awareness creatives, and other audio / visual materials, etc., has helped in instilling confidence among the public.
Safety protocols for passengers:
- Mandatory thermal scanning of every passenger is done at each entry security point by the metro security personnel.
- Hand sanitizers are available at each entry security point for passengers to sanitize their hands before entering the metro station. These sanitizers are regularly replenished all through the day.
- No passenger is allowed without wearing a mask.
- Apart from the regular covid related safety announcements, each metro train carries stickers on alternate seats and on the floor for passengers to follow social distancing.
- The deployment of trained marshals and security guards with a view to reinforcing awareness among passengers about the importance of social distancing and masks.
- Sanitisation is among the top priorities of Hyderabad Metro Rail. There are daily 55 metro trains that run through 3 corridors connecting 57 metro stations.
- Each metro train gets sanitized before the start of every ride.
- Designated station staff members sanitise passenger touchpoints including escalators, lifts, among others, at every station with a frequency of 2-3 hrs.
- All metro staff working at the stations are regularly trained and sensitized towards Covid related safety guidelines to ensure that they are also vigilant of any violations of safety protocol and take adequate remedial actions
Going Contactless in Ticket Transactions:
- Hyderabad Metro Rail encourages passengers to buy Mobile QR Tickets, prior to their journey, using apps viz. Phonepe, MakeMyTrip, Paytm, and T-Savaari to save time, stay safe, remain contactless, and avoid queues at the counters.
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