It is billed as one of the largest infra projects in the world to be built on a public-private-partnership (PPP) basis. When ready, the Hyderabad Metro would constitute a critical component of the Telangana state capital’s emergence as a global city.
Unfortunately, delay in execution, the traditional bugbear of infrastructure projects in India, has seen the Metro project miss its July 2017 deadline, with Larsen & Toubro, the private sector partner, announcing weeks ago that the project would be done and dusted only by December 2018. More disappointment was in store for Hyderabad’s residents when the plan to operationalise a ready stretch in June was postponed.
Comprising three high-density traffic corridors stretching over 72 km, the Metro project was originally estimated to cost R14,132 crore, with 90% of the money being invested by Larsen & Toubro and the balance by the Union government.
The delay of 18 months has resulted in a cost overrun of R3,000 crore. As of now, 60% of the project work is done. “In an urban infrastructure project, there is always a point of no return. Up to that point, you can try to complete it. Because of various reasons, the project is getting delayed beyond that,” says VB Gadgil, the outgoing MD & CE of L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Ltd (LTMRHL) who, after helming the project all these years, has had to leave because of superannuation.
L&T says it is in talks with the Telangana government over the financial implications of the delay. “The project is moving forward. It’s a complex model and let us see how it evolves,” says SN Subrahmanyan, deputy managing director and president of L&T.
Shivanand Nimbargi, the new MD of LTMRHL, is optimistic though, saying, “we are in talks with all the stakeholders to make the project viable.”
On the probability of the project being further delayed, L&T executives are tight-lipped. Ditto for the Telanagana government though a senior official who did not wish to be named says the government has sent out a firm message to L&T in this connection.
Critics of the project opine that the delay could have been avoided with better planning. Sources in the know also say the concessionaire is looking to sell the asset as it does not have the expertise to run Metro rail, though no one was willing to go on record on the matter.
If things go as per the revised schedule, the first section of the project is likely to be operationalised in September-October this year. Another
20 km-stretch is likely to be completed by June 2017.
Commenting on the delay, NVS Reddy, MD, Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMRL)— a special purpose vehicle set up by the state government for the project—says, “Implementing an ambitious infrastructure project is very difficult in India, which is yet to shed its socialistic ways. The project had a bad start in 2008 when the Maytas bid failed; fresh bidding took place in 2010, with the project finally getting under way only in 2012.”
“We are trying to give engineering solutions to social problems but had to face long waiting periods,” Reddy, IAS, says. Some approvals took a long time to materialise—nearly eight years from the railways, four years from the defence authorities, three years from NHAI.
The project has had to face resistance from civil rights groups, traders, local residents, and political parties, as also criticism over the choice of the concessionaire and the final layout. The authorities had to deal with as many as 200 court cases—fortunately, 190 of these have been resolved.
There are other challenges that the project faces, like inter-modal integration with feeder services, developing retail near stations, parking spaces, single ticketing system, etc—significantly, the city’s Multi-Mode Transport System (MMTS) didn’t take off as planned because of lack of proper feeder services.
On the positive side, the Hyderabad Metro would be introducing state-of-the-art systems and technologies including CBTC (communication-based train control), a first in India; 16 field AFC (automatic fare collection) systems with NFC (near field communication) technology; and ultra modern rail coaches.