Who is to blame and who will foot the bill? Reliance Infra says closure has nothing to do with its not making profits

The Delhi Airport Metro Express will be shut down from Sunday till August-end to carry out repairs of faults that have been identified as “small” but “crucial” to passenger safety.

On Saturday, the Union Urban Development Ministry, the Delhi government and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which carried out civil works on the line, said they agreed with the concessionaire, Reliance Infrastructure’s decision to close down the service for repairs. However, there is no clarity on who was responsible for the faults and who will foot the bill.

Urban Development Ministry Secretary Sudhir Krishna said he would wait for a report by an expert committee on what led to the faults.

“Faults have been identified on the interface between the girder and the pillar at several places along the Metro Line. Initially, it was thought that repairs would be carried out without having to suspend service, but the concessionaire decided that for carrying out proper repairs in lesser time, it is best to shut down the service.”

A committee comprising officials from the Indian Railways, the Delhi Metro and Reliance Infrastructure had been asked to examine the defects and submit a report within 10 days.

“Technical experts have begun inspections and engineers have been asked to revisit the whole design. Work is expected to be completed in one or two months,” Mr. Krishna said.

Mr. Krishna said the line would be reopened only after an inspection by the Commissioner for Metro Rail Safety.

Out of 2,100 bearings in the elevated section of the corridor, 230 need corrections.

On the scepticism about the quality of construction of the Airport Metro Express, he said: “We are confident that the line will last over 100 years, but right now the focus is on how to rectify the faults and not on who is responsible. The depth and the spread of the problem will show up in the report.”

Delhi Chief Secretary P.K. Tripathi brushed aside queries on the DMRC role coming under the scanner. The DMRC had carried out the civil works of the high speed corridor that was being run on a public-private partnership (PPP) model.

“There should be no knee-jerk reactions,” he told journalists.

Mr. Tripathi also ruled out commuter inconvenience, pointing out that a large number of people still opted for radio taxis and buses to reach the airport.

“Public inconvenience is not the only issue; public safety is more important.”

Mr. Tripathi parried questions on the practicality of PPP models and the problems that had plagued the Airport Line.

For his part, the Chief Executive Officer (Infrastructure) of Reliance Infra, Sumit Banerjee, said the closure had nothing to do with the company not making profits. “These are canards being spread by some people. This line is not making profits, but the decision to shut down the services is purely based on safety and not on finances.”

Asked who would bear the cost of repairs, Mr. Krishna said the liability would be on the contractor, IJM, which carried out the work for the DMRC.

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