Exclusive Interview with Mr. KVB Reddy, MD & CEO, L&TMHRL

I believe Indian metro rail projects are in the very early stages of adoption of digital initiatives.

Exclusive Interview: Mr. KVB Reddy
Exclusive Interview: Mr. KVB Reddy

Metro Rail News conducted an email interview with Mr. KVB Reddy, MD & CEO, L&TMHRL. In the interview, Mr. Reddy talked about the cost vs benefit behind the adoption of software technologies and how Indian metro rail projects are in the very early stages of adoption of digital initiatives.

Mr KVB Reddy is Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Limited. He has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Regional Engineering College now known as NIT), Bhopal. He has also completed his Master’s in Business Administration from the Indira Gandhi National Open University. He started his career with NTPC Delhi, as an Engineering Executive Trainee in the year 1983 and rose to the position of Manager (Planning & Systems-NCR), in which position, he worked up to February 1995. Prior to joining L&T, he was the Executive Director of Essar Power Limited and was associated with Essar for the last 22 years. He has had a long career in the Power sector, both in Concessionaire and EPC side, and brings with him 34 years of rich experience. His areas of expertise include Procurement, Project coordination and development, Operations & Maintenance, Business Development, Project Execution, EPC, Project Financing, Commercial, and Business Strategy.

Here are the edited excerpts: –

What are some of the sustainable methods used for design and construction of the metro project to ensure energy and water conservation and the other efficient measures undertaken?

The fast-growing urban mass rapid transit sector in India is transforming the dynamics of how people used to travel. The conscious adoption of new sustainable technologies and eco-friendly design and construction of these projects offer great potential to reduce the impact of the construction and management of works from an environmental, economic, and social viewpoint. 

The metro by itself is an efficient transit system on account of steel-to-steel friction being low and due to the use of electricity as fuel. Taking the example of Hyderabad Metro Rail, we are putting the metro train itself to our advantage by adopting a state-of-the-art converter inverter-based propulsion system. This system has the capability of pumping back energy to the source, i.e., electric grid during braking mode. Moreover, our metro trains have a 25kV AC system which has greater receptibility for regenerated energy. With this system in place, we pump back over 35% of the energy received by way of regenerative braking. Additionally, when we constructed our metro stations with their alignment made in such a way that when a metro train enters the station it faces a rising gradient, and when it leaves, it is a falling gradient, thus giving a natural advantage for braking as well as acceleration. 

Apart from the energy regenerated, which is almost 25 million units per annum of regeneration, we have also opted for solar power and have started almost 8.3 Mwp of solar plant capacity in our depots as well as stations—which gives us about 10 million units per annum. This amounts to almost 15 percent of our total energy consumption. And there is still scope—we want to take it further up to 15 mw. 

This apart, every station and depot have water-harvesting pits. In depots, our train wash plant uses recycled water. In fact, 20 of our stations are LEED Platinum certified by IGBC. Our project planners have placed a lot of emphasis on sustainability, clean energy, and energy conservation, and this is certainly giving us good results.

How has the metro sector progressed in terms of accelerating the adoption of digitisation while paving the way for sustainable mobility?

There is a tremendous thrust on the adoption of new technologies in every aspect of the project, right from the concept stage to commissioning. In fact, our Indian metro system today is at par with any other metro system in the world. Whether it is the signalling system (CBTC System), modern lightweight aluminium built rolling stock, or the adaptation of BIM. Right from the project stage to asset management, Indian Metro rail is focused on digitisation. Digitised passenger information systems, fare collection systems including proximity smart card / QR based ticketing systems enhance the passenger convenience. 

Hyderabad Metro Rail has been the first metro in the country to have opted for most advanced Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) system. Here, the main advantage is that shorter headways can be achieved with the dynamically moving block section, and it also requires fewer components and less maintenance. We have introduced QR based ticket booking through our own mobile app ‘TSavaari’ along with the opportunity of Mobile QR Ticket booking through third party mobile apps.

The adoption of technology is a win-win for operators as well as users. By adopting digitalisation across its operations & maintenance, asset management, autonomous trains, automated maintenance, smart manufacturing, and services for mobility, Railways and Urban Mass Rapid Transit system are on the right track for future growth.

Talking about the cost vs benefit behind the adoption of software technologies, I believe Indian metro rail projects are in the very early stages of adoption of digital initiatives. The ambitious metro rail projects in India have opened vast opportunities for digital technology. Usage of combined tools in innovative ways with context-based solutions to accelerate digital adoption and also improve project performance would definitely lead to massive benefits, which would far outweigh the underlying cost. 

To what extent is the process of upgrading and building the metro network indigenous and to what degree do we have to depend on imported technologies?

Growth lies in agility and openness towards technology adoption. In today’s time when Metaverse is importing people to the next level of futuristic way of human experience, most certainly in the real world as well, there are a lot of opportunities to explore the various frontiers of technologies to make living better and that is what the entire metro network in India is doing by adopting cutting-edge technologies. In this reference, it is indeed commendable that the government is putting a lot of focus on indigenisation through Atma-Nirbhar Bharat, Make in India, and Vocal for Local to push the indigenous technologies and capabilities, which is surely going to usher the sustainable transport goals in a big way. 

Talking of manufacturing metro coaches, we have seen many companies like BEML, Alstom among others manufacturing metro coaches in India. There are several companies such as ABB, and Mitsubishi Electric, which are manufacturing various Metro components in India. Ample domestic capacity is also being developed for the construction of civil structures.

Last mile connectivity is pivotal towards sustainability, as it reduces the loop and make people interested to use mass rapid transit system. To what extent have metros helped cities and suburbs in achieving last mile connectivity?

Last mile connectivity indeed promotes sustainability. Statistics show that by 2025, India’s population is expected to grow to 1.4 billion and about 40 percent of whom are urban. The number of cities with populations exceeding 50 million is projected to double by 2025. This population growth will accentuate the existing pressures on India’s public transportation systems. In this scenario, metro rails have come as a big respite for city dwellers reducing urban transport-related issues, such as traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, and accidents. However, when it comes to first and last-mile connectivity, the journey is still long. 

In the past, city planning in India has often not accounted for the most vulnerable users of public transport systems. But now, urban planners have become responsive to the need to establish a city-wide integrated and multimodal transportation system to improve public transportation. With this, we are hoping for the best in upcoming times.

Talking of Hyderabad Metro Rail, we have promoted feeder services, to help commuters in reaching metro stations from their points of journey origin (shared autos, shuttle cabs, or app-based bikes and cars). These services got impacted due to COVID-19 pandemic, however, we are liaising with local govt and civic bodies to restore this very important connectivity for the benefit of commuters. We have also been collaborating with service partners to provide better options for our passengers for first and last-mile connectivity so that they can reduce their dependency on private vehicles and start using the metro more often. Recently, we further strengthened our first and last-mile connectivity by collaborating with MetroRide, the Artificial Intelligence-enabled ride-hailing mobility platform, which provides a fleet of electric auto service keeping sustainability mode of passenger mobility in the focus. 

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