In his first ever visit to a newspaper office, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s (DMRC) Managing Director Elattuvalapil Sreedharan (77) interacted with editors and correspondents of Hindustan Times on Friday.
He was quizzed on several issues — from overcrowded trains, increasing accidents at construction sites, safety of women to his successor in the DMRC. This is what the Metro man had to say:
In the past year, there has been a sharp increase in the number of accidents and deaths at Metro construction sites. Is it because the DMRC is in a tearing hurry to meet the Commonwealth Games deadline?
Accidents take place in all major projects, he said.
“Delhi Metro’s accident record is best in the world, better than Singapore’s and London’s,” he said.
“There may have been freak incidents but our (security) standards have been the same in phase I and II.”
Why the resignation
When a pillar of an under-construction metro line collapsed near Lady Sri Ram College in South Delhi in July last year, killing six construction workers, Sreedharan quit on moral grounds.
“I felt as the chief executive of the organisation I had morally failed and I must quit,” he said. “Then when I went home I started introspecting. I realised, if I leave at that time Phase II will not be completed.”
“Somebody had to give leadership. Somebody had to give motivation,” Sreedharan said about withdrawing the resignation.
Sreedharan said he would ensure the successful completion of Metro’s Phase II before his term ends in December 2010.
But who will replace him?
“That’s no big issue,” he said, but only as long as his successor is from the Delhi Metro family. “Metro is a very technical job and only a technocrat can run it,” he said.
“Provided the successor is chosen from the team. By any chance, for political compulsion, if they bring an outsider there will be problem.”
“There is a second rung leadership in DMRC. There are engineers working in the DMRC for the last eight to 10 years who follow the same work culture that I do,” he said.
“I hope I will have a say in the succession. Normally in such selections, the chief executive is also a part of the selection,” he said.
Overcrowding and congestion in trains
Sreedharan admitted the DMRC had not expected the Metro to get as popular as it has. The result: overcrowded trains, especially in the Dwarka to Noida section (Line 3).
Relief, Sreedharan said, will arrive with the DMRC inducting more trains.
“We have placed orders for 83 more train-sets for the broad gauge sections, out of which 23 trains will have six coaches,” he said. The coach manufacturer has already delivered 14 of these trains.
“Every 10 days we will be introducing one extra train in the system,” he said.
The standard gauge sections, like the Mundka line, will get 48 trains. Eighteen of them have already arrived.
All trains will be delivered by January next year, but DMRC is trying to bring them to Delhi as early as October this year.
Beside the different kinds of gauges, the differences in the signaling systems is another peculiar problem. This is why trains brought for one line can’t be used in another.
Safety of women
The rise in the rush in Metro trains has also led to a rise in cases of harassment of women commuters.
Though the DMRC has reserved seats in trains for women, there are no plans yet to run some coaches only for women.
“It’s not done anywhere. In any metro you go, there are no special coaches for women at all,” Sreedharan said.
DMRC, however, is installing CCTV cameras in all its coaches. “If there are any such instances (misbehaviour) we can immediately capture the person,” he said.
Problems with the feeder service
DMRC runs a feeder bus service through an operator and the strength of its fleet is also set to rise. Providing feeder services is something DMRC didn’t want to do but had to jump in when the Delhi Transport Corporation failed to do it, he said.
“We never thought it would be such a Herculean and difficult job,” he said.