Metros are the Next Frontiers Solving India's Mobility Challenges

Metros are the Next Frontiers Solving India's Mobility Challenges

Kumar Keshav, CEO, DB RRTS Operations India, 0

Having completed his M.Tech degree in Geotechnical Engineering from IIT Kanpur, Kumar is an ex-employee of the prestigious Indian Railways and possesses extensive experience in rapid transit systems space. Prior to joining DB RRTS in 2022, he has successfully handled key roles across diverse companies and government entities such as Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Hancock Coal, and Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation.

In a recent interaction with CEO Insights, Kumar shared his insights on rapid transit system in India and various other aspects. Below are the excerpts from the exclusive interview –

What are your thoughts on the current rapid transit sector in India?
India’s rapid transit sector has experienced remarkable growth over the last four decades. Today, the country has developed over 800 km of operational conventional metro and has over 1000 km of metro and RRTS projects under construction in various cities. In the past six years alone, over 450 km of metro networks have become operational, showcasing the country’s commitment to mass rapid transit systems. The Metro Rail Policy 2017 has been instrumental in fostering the expansion of metro rail projects across various cities. Government initiatives like Atma-Nirbhar Bharat and Make in India have played a pivotal role in supporting new Metro Rail Projects focusing on indigenization.

Rapid urbanization in India led to the growing demand for efficient transportation. Lately, increasing new metro rail projects have commenced in Tier-2 cities. Innovations like MetroLite and MetroNeo aim to provide cost-effective metro rail networks in Tier-2 cities and the peripheral areas of Tier-1 cities. Major cities are likely to witness further expansion of existing metro networks and the establishment of new ones to address traffic congestion and connectivity challenges. Private players’ involvement in the sector will contribute to harnessing global expertise and technology transfer.

Briefly explain the impact of modern day technologies on the rapid transit space.
Emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and hyperloop promise to transform transportation. With advanced sensors and AI, autonomous vehicles enhance safety and efficiency while reducing congestion. Widespread adoption in ride-sharing and public transit is expected as regulatory approvals increase. Hyperloop technology aims to significantly shorten city-to-city travel times. However, addressing challenges will require cooperation between governments, industries, and researchers for a sustainable future in rapid transit space.

Throw some light on the major challenges that companies face while implementing metro projects and how they can be overcome.
Implementing MRTS projects in urban India comes with both challenges and opportunities. As the former Managing Director of Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation Limited, I grappled with these challenges firsthand while successfully executing the Lucknow Metro, Kanpur Metro, and Agra Metro projects. These achievements were a result of efficient stakeholder engagement, top-tier execution, rigorous project controls, and unwavering commitment to project timelines.

Among the major challenges, acquiring land for the right of way (ROW) remains tedious, especially in densely
populated areas, which needs to addressed through persistence, effective communication, and adherence to legal procedures. Also, operation & maintenance of technically complex metro systems is costly and comprises approximately 60 percent of the life-cycle cost of the project. To remain financially sustainable, metro companies need to optimize the operation & maintenance costs. Thus, planning the right strategy for long term operation & maintenance and outsourcing operations and maintenance to an experienced operator brings in a lot of benefits and cost efficiency.

What is the role of smart transportation systems and electric mobility in enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of transit projects?
Smart transportation systems integrate latest technologies like real-time data, AI, and IoT to optimize transport management and improve commuter experience. Implementing smart traffic signals, intelligent routing, and dynamic traffic flow monitoring can reduce congestion and travel times, making transit more efficient and appealing to users. On the other hand, electric mobility as part of last mile connectivity for transit projects would play a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainability. Also, investing in smart ticketing and contactless payment systems simplifies the payment process and enhances passenger convenience. Data analytics and predictive maintenance can be employed to optimize transit operations and reduce downtime.

With the development of path breaking technologies, emerging innovation systems are set to revolutionize transportation by enhancing efficiency, safety, and accessibility in coming times.

How can metro projects ensure the safety and security of passenger experiences, while simultaneously being sustainable?
Metro stations offer features like clear signage, emergency exits, well-lit areas, and surveillance cameras to deter and detect potential threats. The layout is designed in such a way that it is optimized for easy movement and crowd management, reducing the risk of congestion. Also, controlled access points and ticket barriers prevent unauthorized access. The stations also consider visibility and line of sight to enhance natural surveillance, easing monitor activities for station staff and passengers.

The rapid transit system will play a pivotal role in achieving our country’s ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2070. By providing a convenient and efficient mode of travel, metros encourage a shift towards more sustainable transportation options. One significant aspect is the promotion of public transportation, which reduces the reliance on individual vehicles, curbing air pollution and traffic congestion. Regenerative braking systems in metro systems harness and reuse energy, decreasing overall electricity consumption. Also, transit-oriented development around stations discourages urban sprawl, promotes mixed land use, and reduces the need for long commutes. This minimizes carbon emissions and conserves green spaces.

Going forward, a shift towards greener practices is expected, including adopting electric or hybrid transit systems, using renewable energy sources such as green hydrogen and solar. Effortless integration of various modes of transport like buses, taxis, and last-mile solutions will be a priority to ensure seamless movement of passengers and a well-connected transit network. Also, India’s exploration of high-speed rail corridors, including the Bullet train project and Vande Bharat express trains, will offer faster connectivity between major cities and foster regional development.