Government to quickly to rectify technical hitch of Hyd Metro Rail project

HYDERABAD: Hyderabad Metro Rail project may have assumed momentum with civil works underway and the concessionaire L&T setting an ambitious target of commissioning the stage 1 of Hyderabad Metro Rail project, an 8-km stretch between Nagole and Mettiguda, by the end of December 2014, but it is likely to come a cropper unless the government move fast to rectify a technical hitch still left uncorrected.

An L&T official said the works were proceeding as per the planned schedule according to which the stretch between Nagole and Meetuguda along the Corridor III between Nagole and Shilparamam would be technically ready for operation by the end of 2014 following which a mandatory 2000 km test run would be conducted before safety certification authorities considering it for inspection. According to him, if everything goes well, the Metro train starts ferrying the commuters on Ugadi festival that falls in the month of April 2015.

“We are aiming at throwing the train service between Nagole and Mettiguda open to the public on Ugadi 2015 before which it would be commissioned in December 2014. The commission would be followed by mandatory test run and safety inspections,” said the official.

However, officials in the municipal administration department gave a dismal picture according to which the launch of the train service is unlikely as early as April 2015 although its commission was possible on schedule going by the pace of the ongoing civil works.

“The L&T is showing progress in the constructions works and they are almost on schedule. They have to follow the schedule as their stakes are high being the public-private partner of the project. The problem is with the government. The project is wrongly being executed under the Tramways Act. Unless it is rectified to Metro Act, the safety certification authorities would not consider it for inspection,” said a senior officer in the municipal administration department.

According to the official records of Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL), to provide legal cover for the project, the Andhra Pradesh government enacted “”The Andhra Pradesh Municipal Tramways (Construction, Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2008″”. The Act, it was claimed, adequately deals with various aspects of construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed Metro rail system.

However, going by the Bangalore metro experience, the Commissioner of Railways Safety (CRS), who operates under the ministry of civil aviation, and Research and Design and Standards Organization (RDSO), a railway entity, will not take up HMRL’s application for the safety certification unless the project is under a Metro Act that is enacted by the state government and the gazette notified by the Union government.

Even the AP High Court, disposing off a petition of Ameerpet traders complaining HMRL of changing the alignment illegally, said in its order that the project was being wrongly governed by the Tramways Act and unless it is changed to Metro Act it could not be called ‘Metro Rail’. Admitting to the fault, HMRL managing director N V S Reddy, in April last year, had told the High Court, ” Hyderabad Metro Rail project is a tramway and that merely the project is named as metro rail will not cease to be a tramway.”

While it is essential to rectify the error, the government is not free to do it at present as the issue is pending before a division bench of the High Court for more than a year now. As the High Court single bench stayed the works along the stretch between Ameerpet and Jubilee Hills Check Post, the HMRL moved a division bench with an appeal against it. However, with the HMRL taking time to place its argument the judgment is delayed and it is over eight months since the court heard the case last time.

“Unless the court decides on the case, the state government cannot move further to rectify the technical error in terms of the Act governing the project. HMRL is trying to drag it because it wants to address the issue of rehabilitation of the Sultan Bazar traders who are refusing to give away land for the project, before the court gives the final judgment. As it has become a stalemate, the solution is not in the horizon and it is doubtful that the path would be clear for safety certification before December 2014 as the L&T claiming,” said the government official.