In Conversation with Shri S.K. Gupta, Director (Projects), Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited

He is an ex. IRSE officer with 27 years of experience, out of which 17 years have been at senior positions in the prestigious Delhi Metro Rail Corp. Ltd., New Delhi. He was amongst the first officers joining DMRC.

He comes with extensive experience of conceptualizing, planning, contracting and implementation of underground as well as elevated modern metro rail networks. He has worked as an Expat on an international metro consultancy project. He is widely travelled within India and abroad.

Rail Analysis: Please tell us about your journey with MMRC so far? What have been some of the challenges you have faced working on the Mumbai Metro Line-3 project and how have you overcome them?

Shri S.K.Gupta: The 33.5-km long Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro-3 Corridor is a challenging project, what with Mumbai’s dense population, heritage buildings on the alignment, acquisition of land, resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected residential and commercial dwellings, tunnelling below old and dilapidated structures, disposal of muck, tree-cutting, traffic management and many more. Of course, with competent team of MMRC officials, consultants and contractors, work force and lot of patience most of the technical challenges as well as other challenges are overcome.We have been able to resolve the crucial issues of resettlement and rehabilitation with friendly and convincing

Construction progress at MIDC Metro Station

rehabilitation scheme for the affected people. In fact, the construction of three buildings to house the project affected people has already been finalized in consultation with the affected people as also the government. The very latest technology has also helped us overcome the challenge of tunnelling below the old, dilapidated and heritage structures. The critical traffic management, while the underground work continued, has been made possible with detailed planning by our traffic professionals with key local inputs from Mumbai Traffic Police.

“It is very difficult to understand how few organizations refuse to accept that the Metros, that are rail based electrically driven system, are the most environment friendly mode of travel given travel needs of the city that is the financial capital of the country.”

It may not be out of place to mention that clearing the frivolous litigations filed by various interest groups has been only frustrating. Mumbai welcomes and feeds everyone who arrives in the city looking for bread n’ butter. Obviously, the State Government is required to cater to any and all Indians that flock to the city in search of employment. It has to create infrastructure that is modern, more importantly, environment friendly. On the one hand they say that the infrastructure development is welcome and on the other their actions and demands are contradictory! Fortunately, these cases have been thrown out of by the courts.

Rail Analysis: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, what are the challenges MMRC staff & workers are facing in building India’s first fully underground Metro line? What are the safety measures they are following at the work sites?

Shri S.K.Gupta: We are working with restricted number of workers as bulk of the labour has gone back to their home places and there are supply chain issues in completion of activities requiring diverse resources. Out of more than fifteen thousand workers, we are left with a mere 4,000 workers. We are facing shortage of workers who are skilled in control blasting, special equipment and machinery. The experts and consultants also cannot be available for want of flights.

The excavation has come down to 43K metric tonnes from one lakh metric tonnes per month, the tunnelling has been reduced to 330 meters from 1,500 meters per month and the slab construction is now down to 4,700 square meters from 16,000 square meters per month. Nevertheless, we are striving hard and are expecting about 6-month delay, at the least. As far as safety measures are concerned, we are following all the Covid-19 related instructions laid down by the state government scrupulously.

Rail Analysis: As this global pandemic has hit many infrastructure projects across the country, what are the timelines MMRC have set for completion of works on the Metro line-3 project? Please inform us about the overall progress of works including tunnelling progress for Metro Line-3 project and when will the first phase be ready for passenger operation?

Shri S.K.Gupta: Overall, we have completed 83% of tunnelling and 56% of total project work. However, it would be difficult to foresee operation of the first phase unless we have a clearer picture – not until the situation becomes normal.

Rail Analysis: Are there any future plans for integrating Metro Line-3 with other metro lines and Bullet Train station at BKC, if yes, please brief us more about the same?

Shri S.K.Gupta: The fully underground Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro-3 Corridor will provide integration with Metro Line 2B at BKC which will be paid-to-paid seamless connection. Metro-3 will also integrate with suburban railway at Churchgate, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, main line railways at Mumbai Central, Monorail at Mahalaxmi, Line 1 at Marol and Line-6 at Aarey. It will also connect both the terminals of the airport. The intent is to provide hassle free and comfortable transport to the city-folk. There is also a provision left out in civil structure to connect to High Speed Train station at Bandra-Kurla Complex in case the concerned authorities require such a facility in future.

Marol Naka Station

Rail Analysis: Recently, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi unveiled his idea of ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’, please share your views on the same? According to you, what will be the major roles of Metro and Railway projects in this initiative?

Shri S.K.Gupta: We, as a country, have developed many an efficient Metro infrastructure setup and are experienced as far as the new and modern Metro is concerned – be it tunnelling, rolling stock, other related aspects and operations. Our own experience will help us achieve the concept of AtmaNirbhar Bharat with our credentials and well-defined India-centric specific criteria in specified areas.

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