November 18, 2013
Interview with Union Minister for Road, Transport & Highways
The road ministry is on target to set up a road regulator before the next Parliament session is over. In an interview with Manu Balachandran, Oscar Fernandes, Union minister for road, transport and highways, talks about funding and other issues affecting the sector and the means to tackle them. Edited excerpts:
The prime minister on Monday reviewed the progress in the sector. Are all the projects on track?
We have reviewed the progress of projects and are on track as far as the number of projects are concerned. We are adding 17 km a day and that was the original target set by the ministry. The main concern is we are not finding bidders for new projects. Recently, when we invited bids for a number of projects, we were disappointed to find (that there were) no takers.
Private players have raised concerns about their participation in the road sector. How are you looking to address them?
First, there were some concerns about premium rescheduling. The finance ministry has set up a committee under C Rangarajan to decide on the premium to be paid and the terms and conditions for rescheduling. We will wait for its recommendation and then take a final decision. The government has also relaxed the exit norms for developers in road projects. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has also been very actively acquiring land, since banks do not fund projects to private sector if 90 per cent of the land is not acquired. We have speeded up acquisition and this year we have achieved double of what we had acquired last year.
The Northeast is strategically important to the country. But, developers and officials say projects there do not take off due to lack of security.
That isn’t true. We have an accelerated programme and I have been personally visiting the states to assess the pace of projects. On Sunday, I was in Tripura to evaluate a project. But the main problem is funding.
Banks are not willing to lend to projects, but the roads ministry and NHAI have been doing whatever we could to provide that. There is a plan to go abroad and showcase development prospects in India’s road sector. But, even if overseas companies are willing to invest, we have to ensure that land is acquired and various clearances are received. So, at this point, we are trying to ensure that the ingredients are in place. We will ensure that land acquisition and environmental clearance for projects are on track to make the sector lucrative.
Are we likely to see a road regulator in place this year? There are also talks about a proposed policy on auto recall after the General Motors incident?
With regard to the road regulator, we have a draft bill ready and are keen on passing it during the coming Parliament session itself. Road projects are often spread over a 20-25-year period and there might be various concerns that might be raised during the period. The regulator will essentially look at pre- and post-construction work and will look into areas such as contract dispute resolution. As far as vehicle recall is concerned, I do not think there is a need for any policy. Vehicle companies should take the effort to inspect the product and ensure quality before marketing the product. But that is the responsibility of the company and the government should not be party to that.
When can we expect a decision on Quadricycles?
A technical committee is currently studying all the concerns that were raised from various quarters. We can take a decision only after they come out with a report.
October 11, 2013
The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal for postponement of premium payments that highway developers have to pay to the NHAI in build, operate and transfer (BOT) projects.
(RP Singh, Chairman NHAI )
Our view is that anything beyond debt service and the operation and maintenance (O&M) should come as premium. RP Singh Chairman NHAI The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will decide on the rescheduling of premium payment for road projects in a week or two.
Speaking to CNBC-TV18, RP Singh, chairman, NHAI says the company’s board will meet next week to decide on on the quantum of discount to eligible road builders. The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal for postponement of premium payments that highway developers have to pay to the NHAI in build, operate and transfer (BOT) projects.
The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal for postponement of premium payments that highway developers have to pay to the NHAI in build, operate and transfer (BOT) projects.
Below is the edited transcript of Singh’s interview to CNBC-TV18.
Q: On what principles will you decide who will get the rescheduling of their premium?
A: I am yet to get the exact formulation and we have to see what is the final decision on this. But one thing is clear that it will apply to all the projects which are stretched and the board will decide.
Q: Since you have been neck deep in this and you know the troubles of the sector best. What might be the principles on which approximately the board will decide to reschedule?
A: We are not clear of the exact contours. The crucial thing will be what is going to be the discount rate. I am not very clear about it whether it’s 12 percent or 10 percent.
Q: We understand finance ministry said 12 percent and developers want 10 percent. So, it will be your board to decide the discounting?
A: Board will not decide. It will be the decision of the government. They are likely to form a committee which is going to go into other aspect. There are some condition which we were not willing to accept because we thought it will be a sub optimal solution.
The committee will give a decision with a period of week or one week or two weeks perhaps after that the board will go into the individual cases as to what are the cases which deserve this kind of rescheduling. So, our view is that anything beyond debt service and the operation and maintenance (O&M) should come as premium.
‘Unlike IPL matches, there is no noise when a new road fails’- An Interview-Prof. B.B. Pandey, Advisor – Sponsored Research and Industrial consultancy, IIT Kharagpur
September 18, 2013
Posted by PM News Bureau
— Prof. B.B. Pandey, Advisor – Sponsored Research and Industrial consultancy, IIT Kharagpur
Dr. B.B. Pandey, who has been associated with IIT Kharagpur since 1964, has developed a new technology for maintenance-free rural roads using recycled plastic and an ‘in-vehicle falling weight Deflectometer’ for evaluation of strength of Highways. In this interview with Lalitha Rao, he discusses the state of roads and highways in India and how technology can improve their quality and durability.
Are you satisfied with the current technology used in Indian road construction?
The technology used in India is almost the same as that practiced in developed countries. Many roads in India are constructed without any regard to the quality. Most road builders do not know or do not want to know the finer points of road construction.
Quality control is sacrificed in India in most roads. In USA, quality control tests are done both in contractors’ as well as the government’s laboratory and if the two results are in agreement, the work is accepted. Government’s laboratories in USA have state-of-the-art equipment and laboratory staff appears to be very knowledgeable, as found during my interactions with them.
Our government laboratories in different states are ill equipped and few have the expertise and familiarity with complex nature of tests that are needed for quality control even though the project cost is very high. That is one of the reasons that many of our state and district roads are damaged within two years of the construction as against minimum of five to 10 years of maintenance-free life for a newly constructed road surface in Europe and USA.
There is much hue and cry about the fixing of IPL matches, but there is hardly any commotion when a new road fails in India. Nobody is held accountable. There is no enquiry also.
In spite of having national standards, why does the quality of national highways differ from state to state?
Leaving aside tolled four- and six-lane national highways built and maintained by private concessionaires to an acceptable standard, other national highways passing through different states are looked after by the respective states. Level of expertise varies greatly from state to state and engineers in some states are a little more knowledgeable. No record of performance of roads is maintained and little effort is made to try different methods to get rid of recurring defects that develop during the service. Hardly new trials are made to develop better specifications. There are a few individuals in every state who are knowledgeable and they have a burning desire to do a good job given the freedom by the seniors in the government organisations.
Different states in India have different climate but practically the same specifications are adopted all over India. This is one of the reasons for widely different performance in different states. Performance of highways is continuously monitored in USA, in different states, and every state amends standards from time to time in light of the performance to suit the local climate. A large amount of fund is set aside by state governments in USA for practical research by universities so that students and faculty can actively participate in the solution of practical problems. Similar is the setup in other countries.
Such a system does not exist in India presently. Hopefully, things will change when right thinking daring officers take charge of the affairs of road infrastructure.
In a tropical country like India, which would you prefer – bituminous roads or concrete roads?
Both cement and bitumen industries employ lakhs and lakhs of people and both forms of roads have to be constructed. Properly built concrete roads are very durable though the initial cost is high. In localities where drainage is poor, bituminous roads get damaged in a short time while concrete roads survive. Bituminous roads are comfortable to drive due to much lower sound while a concrete road is very noisy. Drivers prefer well-made bituminous pavements
You have done research on maintenance-free rural roads using recycled plastic. Can you tell us more about it?
The technology consists of placing a formwork of cells of plastic strips over compacted soil, filling up the cells with concrete and compacting it with a plate vibrator. Alternatively, the cells are filled up with single size stone chips, compacted with a road roller and cement-sand-water slurry is applied over the compacted stone chips. The slurry fills up the void space between stone chips. Upon curing with water, a very strong road is formed which is practically maintenance free, the construction is labour intensive and local villagers are to be involved in cell making.
The technology was used about five years back in Karnataka, at Doddaballapur under Swarn Gram Yojana of the Panchayat Raj Engineering Department, Government of Karnataka. The technology was transferred to engineers of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. A road was constructed by IIT Kharagpur about eight years back in a village 10 km away and the road is still in good condition with zero maintenance. The cost was 50 per cent of a conventional road. Mizoram is going to adopt the technology in a big way.
What solutions do you have for potholed roads in the metros?A simple technique is now available for pothole repair in a short time. The area around the pothole is heated with LPG, the material is taken out, fresh bitumen is added to the same material along with some new aggregates, and the pothole area is refilled with hot bituminous mix and compacted. The pothole problem is thus fixed. Even when the road is wet, this method can be applied in metros. Cold bituminous mix using cut back or bitumen emulsion can be applied over other roads in dry periods.
Key problems and solutions
If one wants to destabilise a country, destroy its educational system. Our educational system is in shambles. Even in IITs, the students coming from better families lack ethics. Possibly, schools do not teach character building so that students take to righteous path in future. Masses do not have access to education. Lack of education and extreme poverty are root cause of many ills of rural society. They become victims of unsocial elements and commit crimes for a small reward. A good education is a must if we want to develop into a civilised society.
Our school education should emphasise on character building. Teachers have to be paid very high salaries. Unless there is missionary zeal on the part of all involved with flowering boys and girls, we cannot produce great souls in numbers. Teachers should demonstrate, by examples, different scientific experiments in the elementary class itself to generate curiosity in students at an early age. I was fortunate to have been taught science by a teacher in a very average school in Patna who demonstrated scientific experiments in class VIII in 1951. Nowadays it is not happening in most schools.
Barring a few exceptions, the aim of most research in academics is to get doctorate degrees and paper publications in order to get quick promotion for the faculty and a good job for the scholar .Most of the problems are theory based and scholars do get good training. Good investment in the form of scholarship and some additional grant is made in research in science and technology but the outcome is a doctorate thesis and published papers. The country does not benefit directly in terms of new products capable of generating wealth for the country. The Chinese are able to produce wealth because of their focus on applied research. We are not doing much because of lack of direction on the part of funding or user organisations.
Good amount of funds should be spent in time bound basic and applied research with positive outcome in mind so that the country becomes rich. Our import bill is too high compared to export. Now we are buying plenty of equipment from China in spite of having a large number of technical and scientific manpower.
India is not living up to its potential. There is plenty of talent in India. When a scientist goes to US or Europe, he does wonders. We are unable to use our talent. IIT graduates as well as those from NITs and other toppers in science and technology in different universities possess enough brain power and have the capability to lead the country in science and technology but they end up in marketing, banking, management because of attraction of money and glare. Many others who do not get prestigious jobs like those in civil services or paying jobs in private sector end up in research and teaching. It is not difficult to guess why DRDO is not able to produce quality tanks and other gadgets for warfare. Developed countries including China have gone far ahead in this direction. My laboratory, also, has purchased Chinese equipment and it is working fine.
Law enforcement is practically nil. Only a fraction of the cases come under the net of the law enforcing agency. Overloading on trucks on roads is to be regulated by motor vehicle department but it is not done in spite of Supreme Court’s directive for the enforcement of the law of the land regarding legal axle load limits of trucks. Roads are damaged in a short time. Huge sum of money invested in the road is lost.
Our policy is good, but its implementation has to be done very strictly. Senior students of schools/and colleges may be involved in a big way in developmental programmes of the government in rural areas, since they are still free from many vices. This sort of activity can be a part of the curriculum. Bookish knowledge alone without any purpose is ruining us.
Agriculture production is not showing much growth. Agricultural research is not making a wide impact. Some areas in Bihar which I visited show very low yield. Huge amount of groundwater is wasted in irrigation. Year after year, increasing amount of fertilisers is being used to maintain the yield. Quality of groundwater is going to be effected. Many areas on the banks of the Ganga in Bhojpur district of Bihar have underground water polluted with arsenic.
Tell us about your invention – weight deflectometer?
Falling Weight deflectometer (FWD) is not my invention. I developed one with the help of students after working on it over a period of six years. Its price in the international market is too high to be affordable by most consultancy and government organisation. The equipment consists of applying an impact load on a road and the deformed profile of the measured. From the impact load and the deformed profile, different layers of a road can be evaluated for its strength without damaging the road. The technology of FWD was transferred to an Indian company who has started manufacturing and selling at 25 per cent of the price of the imported equipment.
So, where does India stand today? Which direction is it headed?
Add to the above answers touching on these issues, the economic slowdown worldwide, on one hand, and subdued market sentiment, lack of political will, policy and reform paralysis, and infrastructure stagnation in India, on the other.
September 12, 2013
‘Why do we pay for mismanagement?’
Expert speak: Dharam Bir Gaba former Haryana minister
The Sirhaul and Kherki Daula toll plazas must go. They have failed to deliver on the promise of making the commute between Gurgaon and Delhi hassle-free. Instead, the expressway exposed motorists to daily traffic snarls.
The two toll plazas have become symbols of exploitation of the public. Why should we pay toll when we already pay road tax is the first and most important question that comes to my mind, given the mayhem unleashed on the expressway.
The next question: When will the city be freed of these shackles as the concessionaire has already earned substantial revenue.
The toll is sapping life out of the city and its residents. Has any part of the city not been affected by the tyranny of the toll plazas? I see none. All have been mauled under the dead weight of the toll plazas which was camouflaged as payment for superior services.
We are paying, not for better services but to make life more difficult. The service roads are narrow and poorly maintained, making them motorable only for heavy vehicles.
Most amenities promised by the expressway operator have fallen into disuse because of lack of proper upkeep.
We continue to pay for inferior services despite high inflation. Prices of all essential commodities have gone through the roof. The toll adds to graph as such commodities are transported by road.
How will the common man survive in such difficult times if people continue to pay for mismanagement?
August 14, 2013
Sanjay Jog | Mumbai
Union minister for road transport and highways
Oscar Fernandes took over as Union minister for road transport and highways at a time when the Centre is struggling to attract investments in the sector. After taking over during the reshuffle last month, Fernandes has his hands full. In an interview with Sanjay Jog, he explains a slew of initiatives being taken to give a much-needed push. Edited excerpts:
What are your plans to put the road sector on the fast track?
Formation of the roads and highways regulators, meeting the target of awarding projects of 9,638 km during 2013-14 and relaxation of norms for environment clearance are the issues under active consideration. Besides, the ministry is keen that the stretches requiring additional right of way (ROW) of 40 metres and length up to 100 km do not require environmental clearances. These issues are likely to be resolved shortly.The ministry’s efforts to resolve some other key issues have paid off. The Reserve Bank of India has issued guidelines that bank loans to concessionaires will be treated as secured loans. Stretches aggregating up to 4,000 km length will be taken up on EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) mode this year. National Project Monitors are being engaged for quality checks during implementation. Environmental and forest clearances are de-linked and obtaining the no-objection certificate from gram sabhas has been exempted. The Indian Highways Management Company Ltd has been formed for implementation of nation-wide electronic toll collection. The ministry has been delegated the financial power to sanction projects up to Rs 500 crore.
What is the completion target for this financial year and during the remaining period of the 12th Plan?Completion per km construction during 2011-12 was 13.73 km a day. It rose to 16.01 km/day during 2012-13. The target for 2013-14 is 17.34 km/day.
Progress on projects awarded is muted, especially due to the absence of necessary ROW, clearance and lack of financial closure. How are these issues being addressed?
According to the modified model concession agreement (MCA), it is to be ensured that 80 per cent of the total land is vested with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at the time of appointed date. The ministry has taken a slew of initiatives to expedite land acquisition. The issue has been taken up with state governments for expediting the land acquisition matters. Regular meetings have been held at higher levels for speeding up the acquisition of land. High-powered committees under chief secretaries of state governments have been formed. Infrastructure and manpower resources to the Competent Authority for Land Acquisition in the respective states and Project Implementation Units of NHAI will be strengthened. In some of the states, special land acquisition units will be formed.
How will de-linking of environment and forest clearances come handy for speedy implementation?
Environment clearance is required for the entire stretch of the project highway, whereas forest clearance is needed for a particular stretch of the project highway where forest land is involved. Thus, forest clearance affects a small portion of the total project highway. De-linking of environment and forest clearances ensures speedy implementation of the project, as work can immediately start for the stretches that don’t require forest clearance. For the remaining stretches that need forest clearance, work may commence at a later time after obtaining the clearance.
Given the dismal performance of projects implemented under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) mode, what is the logic behind awarding projects on EPC and OMT (operate, maintain and transfer) basis?
One reason for the failure of the BOT mode during the past two years has been the absence of adequate market equity. Implementing EPC through budgetary support will boost the market equity, which will enable the market to rise again for making a favourable condition for taking projects on the BOT mode.
What efforts are being made to attract further investments, apart from the creation of infrastructure debt funds?
At present, the ministry’s focus is mainly on EPC projects to revive the industry. Besides, the ministry is making effort to remove all hurdles to pre-construction activities.
When will an independent regulator for the road sector be set up?
The ministry intends to set up a highway regulator within this financial year. Inter-ministerial consultation was held in March, which was followed by round table discussions with various stakeholders in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry in April. The task force has submitted its report in June. Bids for selection of consultants are under the ministry’s examination.
June 26, 2013
MMRDA commissioner says transport infrastructure projects in Mumbai will improve quality of life and reduce stress
The major reason behind cost and time overruns is getting right of way for developing these projects and rehabilitating people, says Madan. Photo: Santosh Harhare/Hindustan Times
June 21, 2013
The year 2012-13 was one of the most challenging years in terms of awarding of projects, says National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) chairman RP Singh.
The year 2012-13 was one of the most challenging years in terms of awarding of projects, says National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) chairman RP Singh.
The original target of awarding 8,800 km was increased to 9,500 km by PMO mid-year; the target was lowered to 8,500 km and then to 5,000 km. However, NHAI ended up awarding 1,000-1,100 km. The poor performance was on a high base and construction per day was down from 16 km per day to approx 10-12 km per day.
Singh says award of projects is a market-driven phenomenon, adding that the NHAI is now looking to award projects only on EPC basis versus BoT as most developers do not want to bid for the latter due to funding constraints.
Banks are holding their funds towards the roads sector until assured of design and traffic growth details. NHAI believes the Indian road sector needs to get private equity players, along with other ways to pay premium. “We do not see NHAI taking up too many cash contract projects,” he told CNBC-TV18 in an interview.
However, in a major relief to the road development sector, the Supreme Court on March 12, 2013 ruled in favour of the NHAI by delinking the environment clearance (EC) and the forest clearance (FC). Now, the contracting companies do not have to wait for the FC and can commence the construction work once the EC is received. This will allow projects to get completed faster, Singh believes.
The work on 20 stalled highway projects worth Rs 27,000 crore, which were stuck for a long time for want of EC, would be executed soon after the clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the projects are set to get back on track.
Meanwhile, the government has asked banks to ease funding for the road projects and consider toll revenues as tangible assets. The finance ministry has proposed RBI to treat loans to the roads project as secured. NHAI says if government’s proposals are implemented, credit flows to the fund-starved sector could grow by at least 20-25 percent. The road ministry has been making a lot of representations to the Finmin lately to discuss sector issues.
On GMR exiting Rs 7,700 crore Ahmedabad- Kishangarh highway project, and GVK exiting the Shivpuri-Dewas Expressway in MP, Singh says NHAI is working out details to back-end premiums for GMR and GVK projects. “The companies exited the high profile projects as they turned unviable for them,” he says. GMR, however, had indicated fresh interest in the project if the premium terms are tweaked.
Interview – Manfred Neun -President (ECF) : ‘Cycling is the fastest as well as easiest means of transport’
May 10, 2013
Atul Mathur, Hindustan Times
Manfred Neun is the president of European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) since 2005. He is a key figure in the world of global cycling advocacy. Excerpts from an interview:
Can cycling become equally popular in hot and humid cities of south Asia?
The Dutch say ‘there is no such thing as bad cycling weather, only bad clothing’. Cycling in a city is a low-level physical activity. You don’t need to sweat if you go peacefully as you would do for walking. When you look at the map of cycle-friendly European cities, you will find some in all climates — from the snowy north of Finland, to the hot south of Spain or the more continental Germany.
What efforts should the govt make to create an environment for cycling?
In Europe, the biggest trigger was political will. Once that is achieved, first focus on making cycling safe in the city. Develop a decent and safe network of cycle paths and other bicycle infrastructure, such as parking. And finally, promote it through several campaigns.
How can we integrate cycling with public transport?
Cycling and public transport benefit from each other. Bicycles increase the reach of public transport: The 10-minutes’ catchment area of a bus stop grows by 15 times with bicycles. For good integration, there should be bike parking provisions at main stations. It should be easy to take your cycle with you on public transport.
How beneficial are cycling-sharing systems?
Bicycle-sharing schemes are a cheap and efficient way to provide 24×7 public transport. They also give cycling a boost. Paris, for instance, saw an impressive rise in its use after their Velib bicycle-sharing system was introduced in 2007. Now 75,000 people use the service every day.
What are the benefits of cycling?
From an individual point of view, it saves you money, makes you healthier and saves time. But for the society, the benefits are even higher. Less cars mean less congestion, less pollution, and safer roads. Cycling infrastructure is also much cheaper. Surveys show that the main reason for cycling is convenience as bicycles are the fastest and easiest means of transport.
April 22, 2013
— R. Ramanan, Managing Director & CEO, CMC Ltd
CMC, a Tata Enterprise, recently diversified into intelligent transport systems.R. Ramanan gives Venugopal Pillai keen insights into how only such systems can provide a lasting solution to India’s urban transportation worries. Ramanan explains that by 2030, India will have 60 cities each with millionplus population, seriously straining our transport infrastructure.
Tell us about the rationale behind CMC’s foray into intelligent transport systems.
CMC has always been a leader and trendsetter in the IT & Technology space, and has been tapping newer opportunities that can make lives better and smarter.
Public transport currently accounts for 22 per cent of urban transportation in India, which is way below the basic service standard of 50 per cent and the global benchmark of 82 per cent. Of the 85 cities that have population of more than half a million, only 20 have city bus services. All these factors are leading to increased usage of private transport, which in turn increases pollution, congestion and unsafe travel coupled with higher costs of travel for poor. Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are first of the many steps we envision will drive increased use of public transport since it helps users to be better informed and make coordinated choices from the transport networks available to them.
With the increasing vehicle density in urban cities, CMC’s overall vision is to devise a technology solution to make public transportation in the cities more efficient, comfortable and customer friendly so that citizens are encouraged to wean away from excessive use of personal vehicles. Thus, leading to improved traffic efficiency, reduced traffic congestion and fuel consumption, improved environment quality, energy efficiency and improved economic productivity.
We strongly believe that Intelligent Transport System is a project of national importance, which can be replicated to make public transport more commuter-friendly and efficient in all our cities which are undergoing urban renewal. Delivering innovative and world-class solutions for projects of national importance has been in the DNA of CMC, and with the rapid urbanisation and economic development, there would be a steep increase in the demand for innovative urban transportation systems, to ease traffic woes and reduce the impact of transport on the environment.
We expect that this trend will be coupled with “integrated” intelligent transport system in future, which will enable multi-mode travel and would help commuters plan their journey in advance. Seamless exchange and single tickets will become the norm of the day. We can already see an evidence of the same in National Common Mobility Card, which serves as a single point of transaction across different modes of transportation like metro, taxi, bus, train and ferry.
Can you discuss the need for ITS in India, given the rapid urbanisation?
Only 24 per cent of India’s 7,935 towns and cities have master plans! These urban master plans are formulated broadly in context of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission scheme implementation, guided under 74th CAA and its subsequent implementation by states. On paper, while these town/cities may have master plans, they are esoteric rather than practical and riddled with exceptions.
McKinsey Global Institute report on ‘India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth – April 2010,’ reported that no Indian city has a 2030 Transportation Plan, nor has anybody allocated enough space and appropriate zoning for affordable housing.
With estimates, that by 2030 India will have 60 cities with more than a million population each, the strain on our transport infrastructure will be enormous. To add to this, in India, 90 per cent of public transport is through buses, except Mumbai, where urban rail transport is reliable. Some statistical figures like 14 standing passengers per sq meter are quite alarming and a threat to safe travel. The general perception around our public bus transport is that it is unreliable, unpunctual, unsafe, prone to delays, highly polluting, and so on. Insufficient transport infrastructure has led to increase in private vehicles thereby increasing both congestion and emissions even more.
Given the situation, innovative and intelligent transport systems will help address the critical issue of customer service by improving the productivity and efficiency of public transportation. With ITS, one could plan a commute knowing in advance the exact time a bus would arrive at the bus stand, availability of seats, and the time it would take to reach the destination, thus, saving on the waiting time at the bus stands and avoiding overcrowded buses. Information such as schedules, arrival/departure time, location, etc. can be obtained through satellite based GPS and disseminated through large LED displays and also as customised mobile text messages to registered users. This certainty and customised service would help in attracting commuters to the public transport system and help improve the overall traffic congestion issue.
The Mysore intelligent transport project, as we understand, has been a landmark in India’s ITS-related efforts. Tell us about the project vis-à-vis CMC’s role and how CMC intends to capitalise on the experience.
CMC was the lead system integrator for the project. We provided end-to-end solutions from designing, implementation to maintenance of the system for next three years.
The aim was to make transport more intelligent and more userfriendly. As part of the project we covered 500 buses, 105 bus stops, 6 bus terminals and 45 platforms in Mysore. In-vehicle systems were used which included Vehicle Mounted Units. These systems had all the necessary technology equipments and services like central servers and operator consoles, disaster recovery site, digital signage, centralised helpdesk and management. To impart scalability, we have also integrated it with electronic ticketing system.
CMC is engaged in and exploring several intelligent transportation system projects that can leverage GPS, mobile and cloud technologies to enable citizens to receive real time information on state transport, thus, enabling efficient and productive use of the system. We will definitely draw on our experience in implementing the same in other cities as well.
This is the first of its kind project in India. While we plan to replicate this at the earliest in other parts of India we will also collate feedback from this project to ensure continuous improvements in future implementations.
Introducing intelligent and smart transport solutions in India will have to be a progressive affair. What can be quickly done to set the process in motion?
We need to educate the concerned bodies on the benefits of implementing ITS. Every city has its own challenges. For example, in Mumbai the traffic is two-way. Some cities are circular and have different traffic patterns. Bengaluru is an IT city; due to IT parks and establishments, there is a particular kind of traffic pattern in the city. One can see Volvo buses’ plying only to and from IT hubs and not in other parts of Bangalore. Economy of the city is another important factor. Traffic pattern is diverse across the cities, and as a result, a customised approach has to be adopted while deploying ITS in each state.
It takes six months to one year to make systems fully operational. It also depends upon the traffic, population density and condition of the bus fleet. All this information has to be there with government bodies to at least roll out the first phase of the project; rest will follow automatically.
Amongst the developing countries, which are those that have recorded progress in the field of ITS?
As far as developing countries are concerned, they are yet to adapt properly to ITS and haven’t shown any significant progress. ITS adaption in India is a significant step in development of ITS systems. It will also set an example for other developing nations.
Currently, developed countries and cities like Spain, California, New York etc. are doing exceptionally well in the field of ITS.
Private sector is playing an important role in India’s transport infrastructure involving itself in diverse aspects ranging from national highways to high-technology metro rail systems. How do you generally assess the future role of private sector (and also the PPP model)?
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) will be one of the largest private contributions to transforming transport infrastructure in the future. Technologies enabling intelligent tracking, mobility, analytics to name a few, will emerge as the tools to convenient, efficient and smart infrastructure. Due to growing economic development across the country the requirements are also growing.
Private sector will also play an important role in working with government bodies to meet these requirements.
As far as the PPP model is concerned, the understanding between government and private sector bodies is getting better. Private sector can deliver services more effectively without excessive government involvement.
Urban planners say that an efficient public transport is a lasting solution to decongest vehicular traffic in cities. What is your view? How can intelligent transport systems make things even better?
In India, by 2030, 590 million people will live in cities. As against 42 cities today, 68 cities will have a population of 1 million plus. 2.5 billion miles of roads will have to be paved, 20 times more than the last decade. Around 7,400 km of metros and subways will have to be constructed, 20 times more than in the last decade. All these things call for a system which can help in effective and efficient management of the infrastructure and transport systems. This is where ITS will come to the rescue, as it can help make things better than the existing situation.
ITS will provide several benefits to managing bodies like green egovernance to reduce traffic congestion, improve environmental quality and energy efficiency, improve economic productivity, key MIS and analytics for efficiency improvement and planning, online tracking of vehicles using GPS, better routing and thus, minimising fuel consumption, ensuring driving discipline and an overall enhanced commuter satisfaction.
Besides this, ITS will provide several benefits to the commuters, like online tracking of vehicles through GPS systems for commuters ,online and real time information, SMS alerts, information of bus arrivals of a specific route to all its users through large LED displays at bus stops which will result in a more reliable and dependable transport system.
All these benefits make ITS effective solution in dealing with increasing vehicular traffic in various cities.
October 10, 2011
Mr Gurjeet Singh Johar, a Chartered Accountant by profession, did not have any prior experience in construction when he, with his partners, incorporated C&C Constructions in 1996.
Today, as Chairman of the Rs 1,290 crore company, Mr Johar speaks to Business Line as he hunts for acquiring stakes in BOT projects, opportunities in hydel power, and sets Rs 1,800 crore turnover target for the next 2-3 years. Excerpts:
Why did you choose this sector?
I had picked up quite a bit about doing business with my previous employers, and my partners had good construction acumen. We zeroed in on road construction. Today, we are in concessions in roads, parking, checkposts, also doing the largest power transmission job (UP Government tender).
The USP of our group is to identify areas that are difficult to access, less competition. But, we do not just limit ourselves to such jobs — we are also present in ‘mass’ areas.
What is your current debt-equity ratio? Any plans to raise debt?
It is at 1.5. We want to maintain it that level — it should not be more.
Do you get offers to offload equity?
In this market everybody wants to buy. At these prices, we would not want to do any equity transaction. We feel the company’s valuation is quite low.
Has the promoter holding gone up in the company?
There has been a creeping acquisition (In June 2011, promoters held 64.15 per cent — up from 63.43 per cent in March 2011) We are continuing to do it…There is about two per cent (more) that we could buy.
What kind of balance do you want to maintain between contract and BOT projects?
We will be both in contracting and BOT. The balance sheet can only support a certain level of BOT projects and your appetite is much bigger. Over the next few years, if I can get 25-30 per cent of the contract from my own BOT projects. We are moving to buildings, looking at power generation on hydel front.
In the construction space what is a reasonable return level?
The profit before tax (PBT) in construction should be at least 8-10 per cent range. In concession (build-operate-transfer or BOT) side, I would not do anything less than an internal rate of return (IRR) of 15 per cent. There will always be a one-odd transaction just to ensure there is business.
In a competitive backdrop do you see players offloading their stakes in projects?
I see over the next year or so a lot of BOT projects being available at discounts. I am waiting.
There have been offers…it is too early to give their names.
How do you manage risks like interest rate, inflation, etc?
When you are in construction — you could be in BOT or pure contracting. In BOT projects, one has to be very careful about interest rates and inflation. Interest rates are at their peak today. I can only hope they come down. But in construction contracts, we have pass through escalation clauses. So, we are fairly well covered.