Turning the Light from Red to Green: Under the River and Over the Hills – India’s Metro Wizard Explains it All!

Dr Manoj Kumar Krishnappa

Dr Manoj Kumar’s journey is a testament to the power of visionary leadership, interdisciplinary expertise and unwavering commitment to positive change. His accomplishments across industries and continents underscore his status as a true trailblazer.

As the world continues to grapple with complex challenges, leaders like Dr Manoj Kumar inspire us to envision a better future and work tirelessly to transform that vision into reality

With a remarkable career spanning over 32 years, Dr Manoj Kumar Krishnappa has emerged as a prominent figure in the fields of Business Development and Operational Excellence. His expertise encompasses diverse industries—including Software, Aerospace and Railways—with a footprint that extends across several continents, notably Australia, Germany and Asia.

Dr Manoj Kumar’s educational foundation was laid at Bangalore University, where he earned a degree in Computer Science. However, his journey transcended conventional academics, and he later received an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from KEISIE University, a testament to his intellectual curiosity and commitment to lifelong learning. He has also earned a master certification course in Electronics in Wetzalar, Germany.

A pivotal chapter in Dr Manoj Kumar’s career began with the establishment of Ansaldo STS India. Under his visionary stewardship, the company embarked on one of India’s most significant turnkey Metro projects—the Navi Mumbai Metro.

This ambitious undertaking showcased Dr Manoj Kumar’s multifaceted capabilities as the company took charge of diverse responsibilities ranging from signalling and telecommunications to automatic fare collection, track infrastructure and rolling stock management.

The year, 2015, marked a pivotal transition for Ansaldo STS India, as it was acquired by the esteemed Japanese conglomerate, Hitachi Rail STS. This acquisition not only testified to the remarkable achievements of Dr Manoj Kumar and his team, but also marked the fusion of two entities with rich histories in railway development.

The union was driven by a shared vision—addressing environmental challenges and contributing to the creation of a more sustainable and prosperous planet for generations to come.

Throughout his illustrious career, Dr Manoj Kumar has garnered several accolades that recognize his exceptional contributions to various domains. His commitment to human rights and responsible journalism earned him the Human Rights Journalist Award, a testament to his dedication to promoting ethical practices and social responsibility.

The Udyog Ratna Award stands as a tribute to his exemplary leadership and transformative impact on the industrial landscape.

Furthermore, Dr Manoj Kumar’s unyielding dedication to sustainable development was acknowledged through the SUNFO International Life Fellowship. He has also achieved the Karnataka Rajyothsava Award, one of the highest awards conferred in the state.

The Week spoke to him over a cup of coffee about several crucial and challenging Metro projects that he has spearheaded in India…

What was Hitachi’s role in India’s first underwater Metro in Kolkata?

At Hitachi Rail STS, we were honoured to be selected in 2011 as the provider of the vital nervous system for this pioneering project—the signalling and telecommunication systems. These sophisticated systems are the backbone of safe, efficient train operations and a seamless passenger experience.

Please tell us more about the signalling and communications technologies that are being used there?

Our expertise is reflected in several key areas. We implemented a state-of-the-art CBTC system operating at Grade of Automation (GoA) Level 2, signifying a semi-automatic operation. This remarkable achievement was a testament to our collaborative spirit, working closely with global partners.

Hitachi’s engineers meticulously integrated the CBTC system with such other critical systems as Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) and the Computer-Based Interlocking System (IXL). This ensures smooth train movement and optimal scheduling for a truly connected Metro experience.

Our vision extended beyond just train control. We meticulously integrated our CBTC system with the Fire Detection & Suppression (FDS) System, Platform Screen Doors (PSD/PSG) and even the tunnel ventilation system. This holistic approach guarantees passenger safety and a comfortable environment for everyone.

At Hitachi, we prioritize passenger experience. Passengers get real-time info with the Passenger Information Display System (PIDS), clear announcements through the Passenger Announcement System (PAS) and top-notch CCTV security. Additionally, we implemented a Master Clock System, Access Control System and the Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TeTRa) system, further streamlining operations and ensuring passenger convenience. Behind the scenes, robust FOTS (GE) and DCS backbone ensures seamless communication for efficient operations.

What challenges did Hitachi face with the underwater section of the Metro?

The project encountered unforeseen circumstances, such as changes in the rolling stock contractor and track alignment, causing delays until 2016. However, Hitachi Rail STS, known for its agility, embraced the latest CBTC technology in 2017, demonstrating our adaptability and unwavering commitment to project efficiency. This swift action ensured the project remained on track for its eventual success.

Did the Trans-Harbour Mumbai Sea Link project face similiar problems?

For sure! In India, executing any big, complex project is always a challenge. But the Sea Link project is more a civil technology and has nothing to do with the Railways or the Metro.

Any special signalling system for the Chennai Metro, which has one of the largest Metro tracks in the world?

Hitachi Rail’s Digital Signalling System CBTC with GOA 4 fully driverless trains is a cutting-edge technology that will enable services to run without a driver, making it safer and providing significant savings on maintenance.

What are the specialities of the forthcoming Shinkansen Bullet Train project?

The Shinkansen Bullet Train will be India’s first project with a dedicated train lines running up to speeds of 240 kph to 280 kph. Hitachi Rail STS will be executing the rolling stock, signalling & OCC scope of work.

What were the challenges in completing the incredible rail project connecting Baramullah to Reasi, stretching over 258 kilometres, including tunnels, in the challenging terrain of Jammu and Kashmir?

Most of the stations are situated at a height of 1,400 metres from the mean sea level. So, making the materials available was a very tough task for Hitachi.

Getting the material available in time was the biggest challenge since whatever material was used had to be transported from Jammu by road. The 176-kilometre Jammu-Banihal stretch, marked by ghats and is extremely landslide-prone, is always unpredictable. While controlling traffic movement from Jammu to Kashmir, the police allow vehicles on only one side to move.

Heavy materials, such as cables, one of the major items, took more than a week to reach the site from Jammu. Also, getting manpower for outdoor work and laying of cables inside the tunnel is a huge challenge. Since most labourers are engaged in the cultivation and tourism sectors, labour charges are exorbitant compared to that in other normal regions.

The total length of cables laid for this project in the tunnel was not less 500 kilometres—both up and down. Laying these cables inside the tunnel was a big problem since, in the initial stages of the project, there was a huge amount of sludge. Besides, taking the cable drum into the tunnel and positioning it in the exact location posed challenges as no crane or hydra can move inside the tunnel.

Shortness of breath inside the tunnel is a major risk, too.

What are some of the other major projects handled by Hitachi in India?

Some flagship projects over the year

  • Commissioned India’s first Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) system at Tundla, near Agra, on the North Central Railway
  • First to deliver European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 1 in both northern and southern India
  • One of India’s fastest trains, Gatimaan Express, is also its first semi-high speed train powered by Hitachi Rail ETCS Level 1 technology
  • Emerging as the first in supplying Propulsion System, Auxiliary Power Supply and Train Control Management System (TCMS) for the Mumbai Metro Line 2&7, which will introduce Unattended Train Operation with high-level technology and safety
  • First, and only, Monorail in India is powered by Hitachi Rail STS
  • Hitachi implemented one of Asia’s largest Electronic Interlocking Systems at Juhi Yard, allowing operators to set as many as 973 routes in just a few clicks
  • Hitachi’s in-house Microlok-II controls more than 1,400 stations across India.

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