Were Delhi Metro, Reliance Infra aware of defects?

Reliance Infra, the concessionaire for the country’s first high-speed public-private partnership (PPP) metro railway system, has been quick to blame the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for the civil faults that have led to the suspension of the line. The DMRC, for its part, has accused the company of poor maintenance that led to the deterioration of the faults.

In the squabble over who is to blame for the faults, the question that remained unanswered is whether both DMRC and Reliance Infra knew about the faults before the line was commissioned and allowed the service to continue despite the risks.

In a letter to Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath, Reliance Infra has alleged that the DMRC has accepted that the civil works executed by them were defective.

“The DMRC had given us in writing that the metro corridor [with severe civil structure defects] was safe to continue to run trains, and it is actually the DMRC who tried to force us to take undue risks to life and property,” the letter said.

During a media interaction on Monday, the concessionaire brushed aside accusations that its decision to suspend the line was a fallout of poor financial returns from the Airport Metro line.

Reliance Infra Chief Executive Officer Sumit Banerjee said PPPs are not known to make profits and that the Airport Express Metro was no exception. He also professed the company’s wish to continue running the metro line.

“The issue of finances does not arise here; PPPs do not make profits from day one. These are not low-hanging fruits. The assumption is untrue,” Mr. Banerjee said.

He insisted that the decision was based purely on safety concerns. The defects, he said, have been there since the day it was constructed and were identified after an inspection by the company. He also rebutted the DMRC’s allegations that the faults were made worse by poor maintenance. Referring to the faults, Mr. Banerjee said the construction did not follow the drawings that were prepared. When asked if the pressure to commission the line contributed to the faults going unnoticed, he refused to comment.

DMRC chief Mangu Singh also gave evasive answers on the DMRC’s culpability. He said the design of the bearings was not followed during construction and that defects existed from day one. On whether he takes moral responsibility for the faults, he said: “Let us wait for the report.”

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