Sreedharan, DMRC to guide Kochi Metros construction

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Jan 13 2012, 06:07am hrs
The R5,146-crore Kochi Metro project is back on track, as Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) former managing director E Sreedharan and Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy broke ice over the recent global tender issue. If DMRC were to be handed over charge of the project, Kochi Metro will be commissioned within three years, Sreedharan said. And hence Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) has dropped its plans to invite global tenders for the project.

Instead it will go ahead with its DMRC partnership, with E Sreedharan as principal advisor. Sreedharan clarified that he was not game to go ahead with consultancy for Kochi Metro without his DMRC team. It was over the talks for finalising Keralas R14,010-crore annual plan for 2012-2013 that Chandy resolved his misunderstandings with Sreedharan. Sreedharan is also Member of Kerala State Planning Board.

If Sreedharan is with DMRC, Kochi Metro is for DMRC, said Chandy clarifying his position on entrusting Kochi Metro to the former managing director of DMRC. Kerala needs Sreedharan not just for heading the Kochi Metro development, but also for putting in place its ambitious R1.18 lakh crore high speed rail corridor, chief minister said. The confusion over signing up DMRC cropped up, when Sreedharan had retired from DMRC.

DMRCs misunderstanding grew to the level of the Corporation bracing to wind up its office for the ongoing project in Kochi. On the eve of Sreedharans retirement from DMRC in December 2011, Kerala public works minister VK Ebrahim Kunju announced that the work of Kochi Metro would be awarded by a global tender. It was this that provoked DMRC, that had started ground work on the project, to withdraw from the scene. A miffed Sreedharan had categorically said that he was not interested in working for Kochi Metro, if DMRC was not in the picture.

This was almost parallel to the situation in 2008, when Sreedharan had walked out of Hyderabad Metro project, pleading that a big political scandal was taking shape. Later Satyam chairman Ramalinga Rajus confessions of R 7,000-crore fraud on his own company confirmed Sreedharans worst suspicions, although at that time Andhra Pradesh government had threatened to sue him for defamation. In Kerala, the Opposition parties accuse that the sudden bid to avoid DMRC from Kochi Metro was to grab kickbacks in awarding the metro projects. Anyway, the talks between Chandy and Sreedharan has managed to diffuse the tensions effectively.

The public works minister had argued that Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), the chief funds managers, would not allow a soft loan without global tenders. DMRC was not willing to take part in the global tendering at this stage. Asked how Kochi Metro would get funded without global tendering, the state government admitted it was misinformed. It was after talks with Sreedharan that we understood that JICA had no such caveat, said Aryadan Muhammed, state power minister.

Sreedharan brushed aside the argument that JICA will close its loan window, if DMRC undertakes the Kochi Metro project without taking the global tender

route. I personally consulted the JICA officials. They have assured us that the loan will be passed if the DMRC takes up the project. On the other hand, if Kochi Metro Rail Corporation is to undertake the project, there will be further delays. Since it is a new company, the JICA will have to undertake detailed investigations and procedure to pass the loan, Sreedharan said. Delhi Metro rail was also JICA-funded. Its Phase-I implementation even enjoys JICAs excellent rating.

Sreedharan is now back in Kochi Metro picture, after Chandy assured him that he will have all power and responsibility for setting up the Kochi Metro rail.

The first phase of the elevated rail system is expected to be complete by 2016, spanning 21 kms. Sreedharan has proposed to use magnetic levitation (maglev) trains from Korea, which would bring down costs of Kochi Metro rail by nearly one-fifth.