KOCHI: E Sreedharan has given wings to Malayalees’ dreams for better infrastructure, playing a pivotal role in making Kochi Metro a reality. But this could only be a beginning. While touching base with the Express, the ‘Metro Man’ said he wanted to involve in more projects in Kerala.
Sreedharan said Keralites would wholeheartedly support ventures which are essential for the state provided they are handled professionally and transparently. Sreedharan, however, did not hide his disappointment on the delay in land acquisition which had affected the progress of the Metro Rail works between Maharaja’s College to Tripunithura-Petta.
Hinting that DMRC may not bid for Metro Rail’s expansion plans to Kakkanad, he said KMRL has the experience and capability to take it up.
A lot of people, especially Malayalees, were skeptical when you got involved in the Metro Rail project. After the experience, what are the key takeaways from implementing a big project in Kerala? Will you undertake another project in the state?
I am now convinced that people in Kerala will wholeheartedly support the projects which are essential for the state and handled in a very professional way with transparency. I would certainly love to take up more projects in Kerala.
Can we expect DMRC’s collaboration with KMRL in future expansion plans?
We never intended to get involved in the Kakkanad extension. KMRL has now acquired experience and the capability to take up the Kakkanad extension.
This is the first time you have undertaken a metro project in your home state. How was the experience?
During my stint as Chief Engineer (Construction) with the Southern Railway from 1981 to 1986, I had undertaken the doubling projects between Podanur and Shoranur and from Shoranur to Ernakulam. The Ernakulam-Alleppey railway line work was implemented back then. But, this is the first Metro project I have taken up in Kerala.
I am happy the Aluva-Palarivattom stretch is the fastest and longest first section to be ever completed in the country. This is the first Metro in India to be launched with the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) System. For DMRC, this is the first time the third rail 750v DC traction has been successfully implemented on a stretch. The Muttom yard was successfully constructed in a waterlogged fallow land without causing any trouble to the local residents. We developed it into a modern car depot, right in the heart of the city.
However, I am disappointed over the fact that despite giving high hopes that the first leg of the Metro work would be completed in three years, it unfortunately took us four years. I am also unhappy that only half of the Metro has been completed so far. The other half - from Maharaja’s College to Pettah - was hampered due to want of land. The stretch will not be ready for another two-and-a-half years.
What were the major challenges that you overcame during the construction phase?
Delay in land acquisition, frequent disruption of the work due to strikes and hartals and shortage of construction materials owing to quarry strike were some of the major challenges.
The working area was severely restricted due to narrow roads and over 90 per cent of the work was carried out during night - between 10 pm and 4 am. This affected the progress of the work to a large extent.
How satisfied are you with the progress of the civil work in tandem with your vision?
The performance of civil contractors was not up to our expectations. Though we had selected some of the best contractors in the country for this project, they failed miserably to keep up with the time schedule, mainly because they failed to anticipate the peculiar problems associated with Kerala. I am happy we could complete the project up to Palarivattom well within the sanctioned cost.
Can we term Kochi Metro as the most technologically advanced rail project in India?
With the latest cutting-edge technologies, particularly with regard to signalling, Kochi Metro is certainly as good as any metro rail in advanced countries.
What are your views on high-speed rail corridor and the light metro rail projects mooted for Thiruvananthapuram?
A high-speed rail corridor between Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur is inevitable in a state like Kerala. Roads are congested and widening of roads is almost impossible due to large built-up structures on either sides. The monorail project for Thiruvananthapuram was dropped and in its place, a Light Metro project has been proposed. Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city, needs a rail-based rapid transit system at the earliest.