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“Ease Of Living Will Unlock Indian Economy’s Potential”

Vinay Kumar Singh, Managing Director, National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC), is confident that the country’s first regional rapid transit rail system will ensure ease of living for citizens and unlock the Indian economy's potential

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Vinay Kumar Singh, Managing Director, NCRTC

Excerpts of a conversation with Arjun Yadav of BW Businessworld:

The Economic Survey this year highlighted that we need to spend about $1.4 trillion on infrastructure by FY25 to achieve the $5-trillion target. Heading one of India’s premier infrastructure agencies, how do you see the prospects of the thrust on infrastructure to create jobs and demand – the two booster doses that our economy needs?

Infrastructure development certainly has a multiplier effect. If we spend one rupee on the railway, the sector in which we work, it translates into six rupees in the system. If we see the capital side when we spend on infrastructure, that money is going to some cement, steel and aluminium manufacturers and the active labour. When this money reaches these people, demand is created, and ultimately it goes back to the economy. So, there’s huge employment generation through infrastructure development.

The government has set enormous targets for this fiscal and the next fiscal, not only for us but also for other agencies like the National Highways Authority of India. However, due to the pandemic situation in countries like China, there is a direct impact on the supply chains. This delays the import of some essential machinery and hence the project timeline. However, I can confidently say that the targets fixed for us by the government are on track, and we are doing much more than that.

One of the core philosophies to decongest Delhi and ensure a balanced development of the NCR region is by improving regional connectivity. If you could elaborate on the integrated multi-modal transport plan and its role in boosting alternative urban centres and ensuring balanced development?

For any economy to grow, government and private spending must complement each other. For these investments to thrive, ease of doing business is of utmost importance. Under Prime Minister’s leadership, we have improved on that front in the last three years. However, ease of doing business comes when there is ease of living for people. This is precisely what this Regional Rapid Transport System (RRTS) will provide, and it will unlock the Indian economy’s potential.

The public transport system in NCR is very fragmented today. There is no direct connectivity between many economic centres such as Noida and Manesar or from Gurugram to Meerut. This results in people using road transport which takes about five hours daily, which in the long run affects work productivity and efficiency. On the other hand, this RRTS will ensure safety, comfort, punctuality, reliability and affordability. These are the five pillars of any sound public transport system.

Another area we have focused on is multimodal integration. We have created this with various modes of transport, be it flights, railways, intercity buses, city metros and, of course, taxis which ensures last-mile connectivity.  With such connectivity, employment will move beyond Delhi to regions like Meerut, Modinagar etc. and eventually help on various counts.

What’s the progress on corridors being developed under RRTS Phase 1?

Out of eight identified corridors, three are prioritised in Phase-I: Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS Corridor, Delhi-Gurugram-SNB-Alwar RRTS Corridor and Delhi-Panipat RRTS Corridor. The 82-km-long Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS corridor will become fully operational by 2025. the 17-km priority corridor from Sahibabad to Duhai will be operational by 2023.

For the Delhi-SNB RRTS corridor, we have completed almost all the pre-construction work. The shifting of electrical high-tension lines has also been completed. Once the Detailed Project Report (DPR) gets the Union Cabinet's approval, we will commence the construction work.

What are some of the commuter centric features in the rapid rail coaches?

Commuter centricity is at the core of the RRTS project. The trainsets, with their sleek and modern design, will be lightweight equipped with a regenerative braking system and compatible with Automatic Train Protection (ATP), Automatic Train Control (ATC), and Automatic Train Operations (ATO). The regenerative braking system is an important feature of these trains, which generates electricity when the brakes are applied and the power goes back to the electric grid through the overhead traction of the train system.

RRTS coaches will have aerodynamic profile with long nose and plug-in-doors to reduce air drag at higher speeds. To provide a comfortable and convenient travel experience, the fully air-conditioned RRTS coaches will have wide gangways providing commuters maximum space for easy entry and exit. It will have Standard as well as Premium class (one coach per train) along with one coach reserved for women commuters. The coaches are ergonomically designedhaving2X2 transverse seating, wide standing space, luggage racks, laptop/mobile charging facility, dynamic route maps, auto control ambient lighting system, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning System (HVAC), large window glasses with tint giving panoramic views.

RRTS coaches will be energy efficient with auto control ambient lighting system. The coaches will be equipped with CCTV monitoring, Indoor and Outdoor Surveillance systems, Modern Passenger Announcement and Digital Passenger Information System (PAPIS)and emergency communication facilities for the safety and security of the passengers. We have also made provision of stretcher space in RRTS coaches for emergency medical transit. Apart from that, onboard Wi-Fi, provision of wheel chair space for differently-abled are some other commuter centric features of the RRTS trains.

Delayed infrastructure projects are usually prevalent and lead to cost overruns. What makes project completion and implementation such a big challenge in our country?

Project implementation in our country is undoubtedly a challenge, and I would say 98 per cent of the infrastructural projects are not completed on time. The primary reason is that various departments lack coordination and are unwilling to help each other. When this happens, most organisations take the softer route. This means that decisions regarding the project are taken without bothering about how they can affect the original intended objective of the project in the long run. This is precisely why the prime minister has now stressed this too much through the Gati Shakti Master Plan because he knows how lower-level officials work. He has now also set up a Project Monitoring Group (PMG), which looks after projects. 


Given the huge stretch of the RRTS project, how is NCRTC ensuring effective monitoring and what makes the team so confident about completing the project well before time?

We have created a very robust system to monitor the entire stretch of the project. Firstly, we identified the threats to the projects. Once we listed these, we ensured that this was with every NCRTC employee. Then, with our resources and IT team, we created software called SPEED that provides risk mitigation. NCRTC will not only complete the project on time but before time. 

If we identify the risks involved, we can make strategies to manage them, but it is easier said than done. The infrastructure agency’s leader should have a clear vision of the project. I walked the entire stretch of the project at least 20 times to understand the problems that could occur during the construction because this is the first of a kind project in India. We have the technology intervention, but you have to be very careful in deciding which technology to use and how much human dependency on technology should be.