BENGALURU: Having taken over the stewardship of the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited in August 2013 when just one Reach of Metro services had been commissioned between M G Road and Baiyappanahalli, Pradeep Singh Kharola is now on the verge of steering the complete 42.3 km Phase-I to fruition.His technical expertise and the ability to get things done are said to have played a crucial role in the completion of this complicated project.
Promoted as Secretary to the Government of India in May, the State government had made a special request for his retention as the Managing Director of BMRCL up to December 2017 until Phase-I stabilises. With the inaugural day of the stretch slated for Saturday, Express caught up with namma ‘Metro man’.
Excerpts from the conversation:
The first phase is finally going to be commissioned. Did you feel at any time that the project may not materialise?
I always had the confidence that I will see through Phase-I. But yes, in mid 2014, when we faced underground tunnelling issues, there was this apprehension. We subsequently introduced some innovative measures, which turned out to be absolutely right. I will share the details some other time.
In 2006, the Union Cabinet approved Phase-I. It has taken over a decade for the full phase to be completed. Why such a long delay?
First of all, I must say that construction work commenced only by the end of 2008. I would say it is a huge achievement to complete the entire phase in just eight years. And remember, we have been regularly opening up different stretches. I can list seven reasons because of which we could not complete Phase-I faster.
We needed considerable land for the project and acquiring land is not easy in a City like Bengaluru. And then, we had to shift utilities like water pipelines, electric and telephone and this took some time. Consultation and cooperation of numerous civic agencies were required. Another major reason for the delay was that we had to float international tenders for works. There are very few contractors with this kind of expertise. We had to refloat the tenders.
Our working hours too were severely restricted. In busy areas like Chickpet, we could only work during night hours.
Unlike other Metros world over built decades earlier, we are building the infrastructure in the present. We could only carry out controlled blasting underground due to buildings overhead. Instead of one huge explosive, we had to carry out countless small blasts. Also we had to take care that houses were not affected in areas like Chickpet as they were very old. We had to stop tunnel boring for sometime due to cracks. The biggest challenge perhaps was underground tunnelling. Due to hard and fractured rock, the tunnel boring machine had to proceed very slowly.
BMRCL is presently making huge losses (nearly `450 crore this financial year). When will you start making profits?
Wait and watch.
What are lessons you have learnt from Phase-I. Will it help in meeting deadlines of Phase-I and III?
We are very confident of completing Phase-II by the promised deadline of 2020. Phase-I has taught us the importance of good co-ordination between different contractors. More time invested in planning and design pays rich dividends.
Will the inaugural function on June 17 be a grand one?
It will be a very decent and elegant one in a spacious part of the Vidhana Soudha. It will be an open event and about 4,000 people can be accommodated.