‘Unified transport system needed for last-mile connectivity’

Mangu Singh   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

Your tenure was recently extended. What are your priority areas for the next five years?

First priority is finishing Phase III and opening all the lines and, of course, we will have to take up Phase IV also. The other big challenge will be the operations side because the demand is growing much more than our expectations. The DMRC is augmenting capacity of the existing system.

Why is the Blue Line plagued with regular technical snags?

The reason is the signalling system. Whenever the system finds that there is an issue, it moves on the foolproof side. The signalling system of Line 3 is such that it goes into that mode if there is even one interruption. It is better in ensuring safety than Line 2, but once it goes wrong, the back up system takes a long time to kick in.

All signalling systems are proprietary and we can’t access the software even if we want to.

The Delhi government had suggested increasing the number of coaches and frequency and was willing to compensate too. What is the status at present?

We have our own plan on augmentation. The Delhi government wanted more than that. We worked out how many coaches are required and the procurement will start soon. We have received the go-ahead from the Delhi government for additional costs and final funding has to be decided by the Centre. We are receiving the coaches, which will be used for increasing trains from six to eight coaches.

The DMRC has been wanting to hike the fare for a long time. What is the status on that? Is the DMRC looking at breaking even and repaying its loans?

It’s not in our hand, we can only wish that the fare should be revised very regularly as input costs are increasing. I think now the time has come as the fare-fixation panel has given its recommendation and it is under consideration. When we propose the fare we don’t consider the returns on the original investment. The loan is required to be repaid by us and recovery of investment will be there.

Last-mile connectivity has remained a big issue.

Providing last-mile connectivity to all 30 lakh people certainly can’t be done by the DMRC. This can happen only with help of supplementary traffic system like the DTC or other modes of transport like e-rickshaws. Meeting needs of all commuters is beyond the scope of the DMRC. What is needed is a unified transport system, where the DMRC can provide the major corridors and all other modes will supplement that. It is the reason why there is additional pressure on the DMRC. The planning has to be for the overall city-wide transport with a unified transport authority that can take care of the transport needs of the city.

The DMRC is planning to introduce e-rickshaws for last-mile connectivity

These are only pilot projects, we are only facilitating, not planning any such services. We will provide parking space and facility for charging of e-rickshaws.

With nearly 30 lakh commuters daily, has the DMRC undertaken any study on commuter behaviour?

About 78% of our commuters are in the age group of 19 to 35 years. It is a young and educated group.Their behaviour in the Metro is much better than behaviour outside as they try to keep it clean. Despite the 30 lakh pair of shoes coming into our system from roads, which are dirty and dusty, we are able to keep the system clean.

Are their plans to provide 24x7 Metro services?

The public will always like to have a 24x7 system but that is not a sustainable system as you need some time for maintaining the network. Otherwise, there will be more pressure and the system will deteriorate fast. Also, traffic in that hour is very less and managing the system is very costly. Apart from midnight to 5 a.m., the system is operational and we only get about four hours for maintenance.

Many Metro stations have become vibrant social hubs with eating and shopping options. Are you looking at more of these?

All these stations are off the road, with space for such facilities. Wherever we have that luxury, we do it, but it is not possible at stations over the road. We certainly look for such avenues as we also earn extra and it’s on our wishlist.

Is the DMRC looking at more tie-ups to showcase art?

We have done this at stations in Lutyens’ zone where there are fewer passengers. Phase III stations will have much more artwork as permanent features.

Is the DMRC still getting help from abroad or is the technology being used indigenous?

Saying 100% indigenous is neither feasible nor wise, you should always be open to receive something better from outside.

The planning is done by us, but we still have support from outside consultants for certain areas, such as signalling systems in order to keep updated and get the best system.

Given the experience of breakdowns, are driverless trains a matter of concern for the public?

Depending on a person is not that reliable as depending on a system. A technical system is much safer and more reliable. There is a downside that human judgement is not there and when the system takes care of false alarms, it affects availability and causes disruption of services. It is to ensure safety and doesn’t always mean that something is wrong.

What have been the biggest challenges in Phase III?

Phase III was as challenging as Phase 1 as Phase II was just extension of Phase I. Phase III is confined to the city, such as the Heritage Line. In Phase III, the capability of our mostly Indian contractors was not that good and efforts from the DMRC had to be there to supplement the shortfalls.

Land availability was also difficult in certain areas. Since we went for higher level of technology, it also requires longer trial period. However, we have compressed one year trials to six months.

Also, inconvenience to public in Phase III was kept to a minimum.

Do you travel in Metro trains to get a first-hand experience?

I do, but I take out my wallet and keep it in my vehicle first. I go occasionally without telling anybody and hear what people have to say.

Are eight-coach trains going to be the standard or can the DMRC add more coaches to trains?

We can’t go beyond eight coaches. The Heritage Line will have only six-coach trains. We can increase the frequency. In conventional signalling systems, two to two-and-a-half minutes are normal, which we have already stretched to two minutes and 15 seconds. In the new system, which is driverless and automated, you can go up to 90 seconds and the capacity will increase automatically.

Is the Metro system safe from hacking?

We have ensured that our system is very robust. We have a small team who looks after cyber security and we are also getting auditing done from third parties. We don’t share our data and we feel quite secure.

With Connaught Place to witness pedestrianisation soon, will the Metro be able to handle the extra rush?

At Rajiv Chowk, the crowd is actually for interchange and the people going in and out are very less compared to the facility provided. Rajiv Chowk can handle much more traffic and we are very confident.

Are you satisfied with the increased footfall on the Airport Line?

With about 45,000 commuters a day, the traffic level is satisfactory. We are not looking purely from a revenue point of view but utilisation of the system and that is why we reduced the fare drastically.

With more automated vending machines being installed, will the DMRC need fewer people to man counters?

We visualised right from the beginning that people should go for these automatic machines instead of coming to the counters. About 70% of commuters are using smart cards and we want that even recharging of smart card should be through machines or netbanking.

What is the status of common mobility cards?

In Phase III, we have offered the infrastructure and we have the facility of other modes logging in to our system. Now it is a question of other modes of transport procuring machines in buses and linking with our system.

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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 6:33:38 PM |

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