Exclusive interview with Mr. Kumar Keshav, CEO, Deutsche Bahn (DB RRTS Operations India Private Limited)

From Record-Breaking Metro Projects to Future Vision: An Exclusive Interview with Kumar Keshav, CEO of Deutsche Bahn, on Accelerating India's Rail Revolution

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Mr. KUMAR KESHAV, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), DEUTSCHE BAHN (DB RRTS Operations India Private Limited).
Mr. KUMAR KESHAV, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), DEUTSCHE BAHN (DB RRTS Operations India Private Limited).
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Metro Rail News conducted an exclusive interview with Mr. KUMAR KESHAV, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), DEUTSCHE BAHN (DB RRTS Operations India Private Limited).

Shri Kumar Keshav is an IRSE (Indian Railway Service of Engineers) officer and a gold-medalist engineer from IIT- Kanpur (M.Tech) and IIT-Roorkee (B.E.). Shri. Kumar Keshav with his vast experience of implementing Lucknow and Kanpur Metro in record time is now leading the DB RRTS Operations India team for efficient and cost-effective operations & maintenance of India’s first ‘Delhi- Ghaziabad-Meerut’ RRTS corridor.

Q.1. What, in your opinion, can be the best strategy to execute metro and infra projects in the country in a speedier way seeing the need and urgency of developing transport and infra projects on a gigantic scale in the nation?

To accelerate the development of transportation and infrastructure projects on a large scale, several effective strategies can be implemented. Firstly, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) can be utilized to involve private sector players who can bring in additional resources and expertise, resulting in more efficient project execution. Additionally, standardizing designs and processes can expedite project execution by reducing the time and effort required for project planning, design, and construction.

Secondly, efficient project management is critical to delivering projects on time and within budget. Robust risk management strategies, project management tools, and regular monitoring and evaluation of project progress are all essential elements of effective project management.

Thirdly, streamlining approval processes for obtaining permits and clearances can significantly reduce project timelines. Governments can establish a single-window clearance system for infrastructure projects to expedite the approval process.

Fourthly, technology such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and project management software can enhance the efficiency and speed of infrastructure projects by streamlining project workflows and improving project delivery.

Lastly, engaging local communities and stakeholders in infrastructure projects can help speed up project implementation by reducing resistance and delays caused by protests and public objections. By implementing these strategies, the execution of metro and infrastructure projects can be accelerated to meet the urgent need for development in the country.

Q.2. You are accredited and admired for accomplishing metro projects like Lucknow and Kanpur Metro in the record and due time. What other major achievements did you highlight for yourself as a rail technocrat during your 40 years of long professional career?

These projects have fulfilled my professional aspirations and personal goals. With over 40 years of experience as a rail technocrat, I have been fortunate to contribute to multiple metro projects across India. One of my notable accomplishments was completing the Lucknow and Kanpur Metro projects within a record time frame.

I believe that metros play a critical role in the transportation mix of urban centers, particularly in India. The energy required per passenger-kilometer in a metro system is significantly lower than that required by cars or two-wheelers. However, the development of mass transit projects such as the metro requires significant investments that cannot be provided solely by the government.

Private participation is essential to ensure the financial viability of such projects. Private players bring expertise, skills, and technological upgrades that can improve the overall quality of the project.

One of the primary challenges in any metro project is to gain public support and address their concerns and expectations through consistent stakeholder engagement and community interaction programs. The execution and implementation of the Lucknow Metro project was more challenging than that of the Delhi Metro due to various engineering hurdles. However, with the enhanced skill set, expertise, and technological upgrades brought in by private players, we completed the project 36 days ahead of schedule.

Overall, developing metro projects in India has faced many obstacles, but the success of projects like the Lucknow Metro proves the necessity of this urban mass transit system. It has always been about the work itself and the impact it can have on the world. I am proud to have worked with dedicated teams on these projects, and the recognition they have received is a testament to the incredible work we have done together.

Q.3. Metro Rail Policy 2017 advocates the need for private sector participation in regional rail and metro projects in India. In what ways do you think it shall promote rail activities in the country?

The Metro Rail Policy 2017’s advocacy for private sector participation in regional rail and metro projects in India can promote rail activities in the country in several ways:

Increased investment: Private sector participation can attract significant investments from domestic and international companies, thereby providing the necessary capital for the development of rail infrastructure in the country.

Technology transfer: Private sector participation can bring in advanced technologies and innovative solutions to the rail industry, leading to modernization and up-gradation of existing infrastructure.

Improved efficiency: Private sector participation can improve the efficiency of rail projects through the introduction of new management practices, streamlined processes, and specialized expertise.

Employment generation: The involvement of private players can lead to job creation, both directly and indirectly, through increased demand for labour and support services.

Reduced burden on the government: With private sector participation, the government can share the financial and operational risks of rail projects, thereby reducing the burden on the government and freeing up resources for other development activities.

Q.4. DB India is a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn AG, the National Rail Company of Germany. As CEO of the foreign group, what are your role & responsibilities? Which major goals and priorities are you focussing on holding the coveted position?

As CEO, my primary objective is to oversee the transit system’s overall performance and ensure that the public receives secure, dependable, and efficient transportation services, along with the transfer of cutting-edge rail technology from Germany to India.

To achieve this goal, we have developed and implemented strategic plans, policies, and procedures while managing financial resources, ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations, and establishing effective communication channels with stakeholders and partners.

As a world leader in the operation and maintenance of railway projects in different countries, Deutsche Bahn (DB) is paving the way for the transfer of knowledge, best international practices, and managerial services available around the globe to the Indian metro and rail O&M industry.

Our vision for DB RRTS Operations India Pvt. Ltd. is to establish it as a world -class provider of efficient, safe, and sustainable transportation services. Leveraging Deutsche Bahn’s global expertise in railway operations and maintenance, we aim to set the highest standards of safety and reliability for the RRTS corridor while keeping it cost-effective and environmentally sustainable.

Q.5. Indian Railways is going through a transformational phase. How do you envision railways in coming years amidst the government’s efforts to transform the national transporter in an equitable way for all classes? Is there any suggestion you shall like to highlight?

The expanding metropolitan regions and rising population in India pose significant transportation challenges, which the government is addressing through initiatives such as “Make in India” to boost domestic production capability for transportation systems. This has created interesting opportunities for global rail companies to participate in the growing market.

Rail transportation will play a major role in India’s development, helping to tackle challenges related to carbon dioxide emissions and sustainable development. Green Urban Mobility Partnership with Germany is being discussed to improve sustainable urban mobility infrastructure, and companies like Deutsche Bahn can share technological solutions for immense benefits, DB being the world leader in railway technologies.

Q.6. What would be your message to young aspirants willing to make a career in railways?

To all the young engineers and management professionals aspiring to build their careers in the Rail & Metro sectors, I have a simple message for you: go for it!

The Rail & Metro sectors are exciting and dynamic industries that play a crucial role in the efficient movement of people and goods. These sectors offer a wide range of career opportunities across various disciplines, from engineering and construction to operations and management.

If young aspirants are passionate about technology, innovation, and making a positive impact on society, the Rail & Metro sectors are the perfect place for them to build their careers. With rapid urbanization and the increasing demand for sustainable transportation, these sectors are experiencing significant growth, which means there will be plenty of opportunities for you to grow and develop your skills.

My advice to you would be to remain curious, embrace a willingness to learn, and never be afraid to take on new challenges. Building a robust network of mentors and peers is essential, so seek out opportunities for training and professional development. Keep in mind that success is not just about individual achievement, but also about collaboration and teamwork.

Therefore, if you’re passionate about the Rail & Metro sectors and have a drive to make a difference, pursue your dream career with confidence. The world needs more talented professionals like you to help shape the future of transportation.

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