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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

‘Metro man’ Sreedharan says India needs to introduce networks at a faster pace

At 85, E Sreedharan is still working at full speed but says he’ll slow down a bit now. However, a possible contender in the presidential elections, the ‘Metro Man’ says he’s ready to work for the country whenever needed.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2017 10:34 IST
Ramesh Babu KC
Ramesh Babu KC
Hindustan Times, Kochi
E Sreedharan
E Sreedharan (HT File Photo)

A board in his Kochi office reads: “Whatever to be done I do. But in reality I do not do anything.” The lines from Yoga Vasistha Ramanaya is dear to his heart. Metro Man E Sreedharan has revolutionised the way urban people commute. He has become a household name now and speculations are rife that he’s in the race for the first citizen’s slot, which he refuses to discuss. As his latest venture, Kochi Metro, is all set to be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, its principal adviser, E Sreedharan, spoke to Ramesh Babu of the Hindustan Times about the challenges before the country and his future plans. Excerpts:

Q: You helped change the concept of urban mass transport in the country. What are real challenges before the country in this sector?

The real challenge before the country is to reduce personal vehicles and promote public transport system, particularly in cities. Unfortunately, sufficient attention is not being paid for improving the public transport system. Metro rail is best suited to our cities where population is more than two lakh. The pace at which metros are being introduced in our cities are deplorably low. Every year, China is building 200 km-long metros in its cities but our rate is well below 20 km. The Centre will have to take a lead in introducing more metros and ensure that they are financially sustainable.

Q: Your name is doing the rounds for the President‘s post. Did anyone contact you in this regard?

It seems to be the wish of some people. I can’t comment on this.

Q: Konkan Railways to Kochi Metro; you were in the limelight for more than five decades. Did you see any change in the work culture?

I don’t find any perceptible change. If at all, there is deterioration, except in the private sector. We have to change a lot.

Q: You were behind many metro projects. What was the most challenging project?

I love taking up challenges. I consider the underground line of Mumbai – airport to Colaba – was the most challenging.

Q: What future you visualise for the country? Is it on right track?

No doubt the country is on the right track. But we need to gather speed. While the progress on the economic front is visible, we need to transform our nation with good ethics and values.

Q: India boasts of one of the largest rail network in the world. But what is ailing it?

Ours is the fourth largest network in the world. It is the lifeline of the nation but technologically we are far behind the rest of the world. The work culture in the railways has to change a lot, from bureaucratic to a more friendly and efficient style.

Q: It is often said in Kerala, controversy is part of your life. Did you face any while working for Kochi Metro?

Fortunately there have been no major controversies and the project has gone through smoothly. We completed the first phase in record time. It was good team work. I won't be there for the second phase of Kochi Metro. KMRL (Kerala Metro Rail Limited) is now competent enough to chug on. It is not time for any controversies. 

Q: You turned 85 this month. Your future plans?

I have decided to slow down a bit but I am available for the country whenever my services are required.

First Published: Jun 16, 2017 20:40 IST