DMRC, Reliance Infra at loggerheads prior to Airport Metro suspension

In the run up to the suspension of operations of the Airport Metro, DMRC and Reliance Infra were at loggerheads on running the line, according to latest documents.

Updated: Jul 18, 2012, 16:21 PM IST

New Delhi: In the run up to the suspension of operations of the Airport Metro, DMRC and Reliance Infra were at loggerheads on running the line, according to latest documents.

Such was the lack of trust on both sides that DMRC Managing Director Mangu Singh had told senior Urban Development and Railway officials that since the repairs carried out by his team might not be accepted as satisfactory, it was better that the operator company carry them out.

Reliance Infra on its part had also called DMRC's repair work as cosmetic. Its CEO Sumit Banerjee had suggested that there was a possibility of derailment and demanded that the DMRC should indemnify the operator against any incident.

Sources said that a meeting had been called by UD secretary Sudhir Krishna on July 2, and top officials of DMRC, Dhirubhai Ambani Metro Express Private Limited (DAMEPL), Railways and Delhi Government had been invited to discuss the defects in the high speed Airport Express line.

The minutes of this meeting prepared by UD ministry, which have been accessed by PTI, reveal that there was hardly any common ground between DMRC and Reliance Infra.

As per these minutes, N S Shekhawat, the project head of DAMEPL in a presentation displayed photographs of the defects in the civil works. Shekhawat pointed out that visual inspection of all the 2,100 bearings on the airport line had been carried out and 250-300 of them were critical.

He said that as a result of this fault, the high speed airport metro was just about crawling at 25 km per hour. Reliance Infra CEO Sumit Banerjee added as per a report of consultants hired by them, the margin of safety had at several sections been eroded and shut down of the operations was necessary for effective repairs.

However, DMRC Managing Director Mangu Singh took a diametrically opposite view saying that though he had been shown many photographs, most of the faults had been rectified so these may not reflect the exact condition.

As per the minutes of the meeting, Singh told the other officials the defects in the bearings could be rectified in 10 days. Singh pointed out that it was the responsibility of DAMEPL to keep the entire assets safe and in good working condition.

Stating DAMEPL had never pointed to these faults at the time they took over the line, The DMRC Managing Director said they should have carried out the inspection earlier. Singh added that any decision to stop the train services would be entirely the decision of the operator.

The minutes of the meeting compiled by the UD ministry note that Singh then commented that "whatever rectification was being done by the DMRC might perhaps not be accepted as satisfactory by DAMEPL. It would, therefore, be better if the operator undertakes the repair works himself."

The U D Secretary had then sought advice of A K Gupta, Additional member (Works) in the Railway Board for a solution.

Gupta said that going by the photographs shown, there was reason for concern and added that in a similar scenario, the railways would have immediately stopped operation.

Reliance Infra CEO Sumit Banerjee then said that there was a possibility of derailment and pointed out that their risk perception varied from that of the DMRC.

Banerjee also said the repair work done by DMRC was only cosmetic and to shoulder responsibility, it should indemnify DAMEPL against any incident.

The UD secretary Krishna then told both DMRC and DAMEPL to hold separate internal enquiries into the entire incident and then submit the findings, the minutes reveal.

As per the minutes, it was agreed that the onus to take a final call on whether to stop operations on the Airport line lay only with the DAMEPL, which did six days later.

"Though the DMRC Managing Director changed his perception about the extent of defects once the inspection report was out, it is a cause of concern that there is a mutual lack of confidence on both the sides. And this is one of the factors which has marred the functioning of the Airport line", a senior official who is aware of the developments, said.