Did the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation try to downplay the seriousness of the civil faults that were identified along the Delhi Airport Metro Express that eventually led to suspension of the service? Letters written by concessionaire Reliance Infra to DMRC seem to indicate that.

In March, the DMRC was first asked by the concessionaire to organise a joint inspection for viaduct and bearings on the high-speed corridor. Subsequently in May DMRC was apprised of faults that emerged on inspection of the viaduct and the bearing; problem areas were flagged and the DMRC was asked to share design drawing details. It was pointed out that incorrect procedures adopted to amend the problem could “endanger the safety of the trains and passengers”.

In another letter dated May 23, the concessionaire informed DMRC of five major findings from a joint inspection that included a report on the faults of bearings, and signs that the girder appears to have sunk in some areas as a result of deformations and cracks.

“With a large number of locations having some or the other defects, our assessment is that the section may not be safe for running of trains at their maximum permissible speed,” the concessionaire informed DMRC.

It also sought a joint inspection for all bearings, “a certificate that the condition of bearings is safe to run the trains at the maximum permissible speed or a certificate in regard to the safe speed at which, the trains can be run on the viaduct”.

A demand for the drawings was also put forth again. Reliance Infra also informed DMRC: “If safety certification and documents are not provided to us immediately, we will have no option except to severely restrict the speed over the viaduct pending emergency repair, the cost and other implications of which will have to be borne by DMRC.”

Information revealed through the exchange of letters between DMRC and Reliance Infra seems to water down the suggestion that the concessionaire chose to opt out of running the high-speed line on account of financial problems.

In a letter dated June 6, the concessionaire informed DMRC that had the trains been allowed to run at the maximum permissible speed of 120 km per hour, “the defects would have been much more and possibly catastrophic”.

In the same letter, Reliance Infra cited the maintenance and inspection work that was carried out by them, punching holes in DMRC’s allegations that the concessionaire allowed the defect to worsen.

The concerns raised by Reliance Infra were relayed by Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath to the Prime Minister’s Office recently. On Monday, the Urban Development Ministry officials also went on record to say that the concessionaire has not yet raised any financial concerns and that they are keen to run the country’s first public-private partnership metro.

The 23-km high-speed corridor has been suspended since July 8 after the Urban Development Ministry agreed to the concessionaire’s decision to suspend the service.

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