Kochi: Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, affectionately called 'Metroman', had a unique track record of completing big infrastructural projects well within estimated time and cost all along his nearly 60-year old career till he revolutionised the way Delhites travelled. And when his 16-year journey at the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) came to an end on December 31, 2011, he had one final dream - to bring a Metro to his home state Kerala. Though for the first time, his unique reputation suffered with the Kochi project taking four years to get commissioned instead of the promised three, the retired Indian Engineering Service officer, who turned 85 on June 12, still feels the accomplishment as a "great achievement".
"It was my dream to bring a Metro to Kerala," he told DC. "The project had to wait for a long time to get central clearance. Thereafter it again took a lot of time to entrust the work to DMRC for implementing this project. This was finally done in June 2013 and the construction commenced on June 6, 2013. Considering the usual problems of executing projects in Kerala, I feel this is a great achievement." He has been associated with the project in his capacity as principal advisor, DMRC.
The Kochi Metro, though, boosts unique features which made the assignment a special one for Mr Sreedharan who engineered the country's first metro - Calcutta Metro, back in 1970. "Kochi Metro is the first Metro in the country to adopt the most advanced signalling system namely communication-based train control system (CBTC). "For DMRC, this is the first project where we've adopted third rail D.C. power supply system. I am happy that Aluva - Palarivattom section of 13 kms is the fastest first section of any Metro so far commissioned in this country," he says. "I'm quite satisfied with the safety management during construction period. There was not even a single accident during the last four years connected with the project implementation," Mr Sreedharan, whose earlier assignment associated with the state was back in 1981 when he was the chairman and managing director of Cochin Shipyard. He had then guided the first ship building project M V Rani Padmini and successfully launched it. However, the Metroman strongly feels the state is not yet ready to execute big projects like in other metro cities.
"The picture is not very rosy, firstly due to shortage of funds with the government and secondly the delays and stiff resistance to land acquisitions," he reasoned. "Kerala has to mobilise resources by itself by increasing revenue and reducing revenue expenditure. None of the infrastructure projects will be financially viable and therefore no private investor will come forward. Executing such projects with loans is not a prudent step. This calls for political will and statesmanship." "The state's history of implementing projects is very dismal, with the sole exception of Kochi Metro and Kochi airport. Empowerment of implementing agencies and infusion of a new work culture are necessary if the projects are to be handled professionally," he adds.
Mr Sreedharan, who retired from Indian Railways as Railway Board member (engineering) in 1990, however, as his stint with Kochi Metro as the principal advisor ends once the first phase and the extension to Trippunithura gets completed. "DMRC will not be involved in the second phase from Jawaharlal Nehru stadium to Kakkanad. (Though) it will continue to help KMRL complete the Maharajas College to Petta section which we hope to accomplish in the next 2.5 years provided lands are handed over immediately. We'd also assist them for extending the Metro from Petta to SN Junction of Trippunithura provided the approval for this extension is communicated to us early," he concludes.