Kerala MLAs not content with Sreedharan’s answers to their Queries

तिरूवनंतपुरम Thiruvananthapuram (TVC): A meeting of people’s representatives of Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode wasnheld here on Tuesday succeeded in clearing the concerns about the proposed elevated light metro project for the two cities.

The meeting was convened in the wake of apprehensions raised by legislators in the Assembly over the switchover from monorail, a form of MRTS, to light metro, and the technology and viability of the project.

Principal Adviser, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), E. Sreedharan made a presentation on the detailed project report prepared by the DMRC for the project to be executed in 35.12 km in the two cities and now under the consideration of the government.

Mr. Sreedharan said the monorail project was abandoned as the cost per km came to Rs.381 crore compared to Rs.130 crore in the estimates.

There was only a lone bidder — Bombardier – even after global tenders were floated twice. Hitachi was interested only if it was funded by Japan. The third player, Scomi of Malaysia, did not have the technology and expertise and their project in Chembur-Wadala had not been successful.

A comparison between light metro and monorail that stressed on the systems, civil structures, deck and track followed.

The route for Phase I, land acquisition, Rs.6,728 crore needed for completion by 2021, fare, funding options and way forward were spelt out. Light metro, being mooted for the first time in the country, can negotiate steep gradients up to 6 per cent and sharp curves of even 50 m radius, he said.

Mr. Sreedharan also cleared apprehensions raised by legislators Palode Ravi, V. Sivankutty, and A. Pradeep Kumar on the CVC guidelines, bidding, real estate development, expertise of the DMRC and why foreign firms were not being roped in for consultancy and the DMRC was doing all the work.

The high-level meeting convened by chief minister Oommen Chandy on Tuesday to clear doubts about light metro project in Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram cities ended up in confusion with PWD minister V K Ebrahim Kunju clarifying that the project would not be implemented in haste. Kunju admitted that the apprehensions raised by MLAs were genuine. “The light metro project will be implemented only after inspecting all aspects of the project,” he said.

The minister requested the MLAs from Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode to take the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) into confidence as it has been appointed as consultant.

The MLAs said it was for the government to take the call and that they want the project to go forward after plugging all loopholes.  However, most MLAs who took part in the meeting said that they were not satisfied by the details presented by DMRC principal advisor E Sreedharan. In the meeting, the DMRC had admitted that linear propulsion system, a technology proposed to negotiate gradients and curves, was not mentioned in the DPR. On December 4, when a group of MLAs asked a question on the technology in the assembly, the PWD minister replied that linear propulsion system was incorporated in the DPR.

“We asked questions on how the cost of project could be assessed if major aspects were not mentioned in the DPR. We did not get a satisfactory response from Sreedharan regarding the technology adopted for light metro. There seemed a difference of opinion between the minister and Sreedharan regarding the linear propulsion system,” said Nedumangad MLA Palode Ravi who took on the officials with a volley of questions.

Kozhikode North MLA A Pradeep Kumar too said that he did not get a satisfactory reply regarding the financial viability of the project. “In the DPR, the DMRC has asked the government to complete civil works in four months before waiting for consent from Union government. However, we argued that the project must begin only after getting necessary consent from the Centre, which must give 20% fund as viability gap for the project. We asked whether DMRC could guarantee fund from Union government. We also raised opposition against unfair projection of FIRR, proposals to impose green tax, diesel cess and property tax,” he said.

Senior Congress leader and Vattiyoorkavu MLA K Muraleedharan too said that the response of DMRC to many questions was not satisfactory. “Though E Sreedharan presented the report, there was lack of confidence. If it is implemented like the abandoned monorail, people will be cheated again. So proper homework must be done before implementation,” he said.

But both Palode Ravi and Pradeep Kumar said that a mass rapid transit system was crucial for cities like Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode

Sreedharan said in the meeting that CVC guidelines demanding tendering for selection of consultant was not applicable as the DMRC is a public sector company.

Chief minister Oommen Chandy made a visit to the meeting but left soon as he had to attend the assembly session.