A reality check on Hyderabad’s Airport Metro Express

The decision to start two phases has put the government under the scanner

Updated - December 08, 2022 01:36 am IST

Published - December 08, 2022 12:25 am IST

Phase one of the Hyderabad Metro Rail project was built across three traffic corridors of 69.2 km. File

Phase one of the Hyderabad Metro Rail project was built across three traffic corridors of 69.2 km. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The decision by the Telangana Government to lay the foundation stone to build the 31-km metro line to the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) in Shamshabad from Mindspace Junction/Raidurg, at a cost of ₹6,250 crore, has certainly generated considerable excitement, but a reality check is in order.

The airport metro decision came on the heels of the government seeking the Centre’s funding to take up “jointly with external funding” a 26 km-long elevated metro rail to connect Lakdikapul in the city centre to BHEL-Ramachandrapuram in the suburbs. It is also to run across 5 km between Nagole to L.B. Nagar suburbs connecting two terminal stations of phase one of the project and it is estimated to cost ₹8,453 crore. 

Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao is set to lay the foundation stone for the mostly elevated airport fast metro and a small section underground inside the airport without an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor in place, unlike phase one of the Hyderabad Metro Rail project built across three traffic corridors of 69.2 km.

The foundation stone for phase one was laid by the then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy in 2012, a good two years after the L&TMRH (L&T Metro Rail Hyderabad) had bagged the contract for ₹14,132 crore under one of the world’s largest Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode for the metro. It took loan from public sector banks and obtained Viability Gap Funding (VGF) of ₹1,458 crore by the Central Government, of which ₹254 crore is yet to be released.

The State government had earlier offered “much better incentives than what was offered to L&TMRH” for corporates if they are ready to take up the Airport Metro as PPP work but there were no takers. Now, the bids – technical or financial bids for the Airport Metro — are yet to be called for inviting companies to take up the project under the EPC mode. 

The Hyderabad Airport Metro Rail Limited (HAML), the special purpose vehicle, has just called for tenders for appointment of a general consultant (GC) for the project to oversee the work of tender documentation, reviewing the detailed project report (DPR) prepared by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) five years ago, planning, quality control, and so on. The GC could be in place by mid-January.

Once the bids are called, it could take about 45 days before firms are shortlisted for technical evaluation to check if they have had the expertise and the muscle to pull it off. A similar time period is likely for the financial bids when the ‘L1’ or the lowest bidder will be chosen.

“It can take up to six months depending on how fast it is done to identify the right construction partner in the present scenario. Thereafter, the selected firm will have to do extensive survey of the route, alignment, soil testing, finalise viaduct and span drawings at crossings before work can actually begin as the ground situation has been changing every year on the proposed route. This could take up to a year,” said senior metro rail engineers, seeking anonymity. 

Hence, completing the entire project within three years as is being envisaged is going to be a challenging task – the L&TMRH took seven years for 69 km, even with the contractor using new technology and the government releasing funds on time despite a ‘tight’ financial situation, they added.

The Airport Metro is to be a ‘high speed’ service running at 100 kmph. It will provide fast commute with limited halts with airport check-in at the starting station for a 20-minute ride till the airport terminal.

Though about four lakh passengers are using the first phase of the metro, the L&TMRH had reported a loss of ₹1,745.85 crore for 2021-22. It had also sought the State government’s help to cope with the overall loss of over ₹3,000 crore, mainly due to delays in permissions during the construction.

While citizens yearning for metro rail expansion due to packed road traffic will be happy with these proposed works, the sudden decision to kickstart two metro rail phases after keeping silent for the last four years has certainly set tongues wagging about the intention behind these big announcements, considering the talk of early polls to the Legislative Assembly.

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