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Safety regulator seeks third party audit for Ahmedabad Metro operations

During inspections in August and September 2022, CMRS had spotted a number of “deficiencies” that have a direct bearing on the safety of operations and had asked the Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation (GMRC) to take “rectification measures”.

(Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate Phase-1 of the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar Metro rail on September 30, the Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety (CMRS) has asked for a third party audit — apart from 90 other conditions to be met — to attest the structural strength and quality of tunnel segments and viaduct and piers of elevated section in the routes to be inaugurated.

The CMRS also sought a technical audit of the Tunnel Ventilation System in the underground section of the Metro. It pointed out “deficiencies” such as lack of safeguard to piers against possible train derailment in a section that flies over a railway line, and expressed concern over the time taken in the underground section for evacuation of passengers, during mock drills.

During inspections in August and September 2022, CMRS had spotted a number of “deficiencies” that have a direct bearing on the safety of operations and had asked the Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation (GMRC) to take “rectification measures”.

The GMRC responded in September 14-15 saying the issues were sorted and that the project was safe for operations. However, the authorisation letter provided to GMRC earlier this week for the opening of Ahmedabad Metro gave a conditional authorisation, including restricting speed to as low as 45 kilometre per hour (kmph) in certain sections. The maximum speed of a metro rail is 80 kmph.

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Authorisation to operate the Metro to ferry people has been given separately for fully elevated North-South corridor and the East-West corridor that has both elevated and underground sections. A 6.5-kilometre route of the Ahmedabad Metro has been operational on East-West Corridor from March 2019.

The PM will inaugurate the remaining 13.3-km stretch of Phase-1 connecting Thaltej and Vastral on the East-West corridor and the 18.83-km stretch on the APMC-Motera route that is part of the North-South corridor. The Gujarat government announced Saturday that both routes would be thrown open to public two days after the inauguration, which would coincide with Gandhi Jayanti.

The CMRS authorisation letter, which was seen by The Indian Express, states that the North-South Corridor passes through a “vulnerable zone” adjacent to an Indian Railway line (that connects Ahmedabad to Bhavnagar), and “no special protection” has been provided to safe-guard metro piers from the impact of a possible derailment that might occur on railway lines below.

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Imposing a speed restriction of 60 kmph between Paldi and Old High Court stations, CMRS stated that “Metro should take needful safety measures such as suitably designed protection wall for piers and guard rail on railway track after carrying out risk analysis through NIT/IIT to ensure safety of metro trains on priority”.

The CMRS pointed out that during inspection of the North-South corridor on September 2-3, it had noticed “deficiencies”, including “cracks” in piers and viaducts. “For long term stability and safety, it is advised to confirm adequacy of structural strength and quality of viaduct and piers by getting a third party audit done from IIT in three months time,” the authorisation letter stated.

In the East-West Corridor, the CMRS pointed out that apart from Vodafone, there was no mobile network coverage inside the tunnel and the underground stations. “There should be continuous communication in the train inside the tunnel,” it has said.

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It also sought a third party audit for steel girders, for validating the design and quality of work. CMRS observed that “steel girders of non-standard span” were used at a number of locations on the metro route and “some bolts were seen missing or loose in splice and bracings”.

The safety body also observed quality issues on the Sabarmati OWG (Open Web Girder) bridge and said Metro should get the deficiencies rectified and get it certified from RITES within a month. Till then, a speed limit of 60 kmph has been imposed on this bridge that passes over seven railway tracks of Indian Railways.

The body also pointed out that Sabarmati Metro station was not offered for inspection and the sanction for this needed to be taken separately before opening it to public use. CMRS directed the station to be permanently closed and asked the trains to skip the station. This is an important station as it will connect metro passengers to the under construction multi-modal hub at Sabarmati which will serve passengers of bullet train, Indian Railways and BRTS.

It also pointed out malfunctioning Platform Screen Doors or PSD doors at metro stations and asked director systems to certify the quality of the items. It also pointed out that some of the signalling equipment were old as it was of 2018 built-date. “This is not acceptable in new metro works and should be replaced,” the letter stated.

In the East-West corridor, the CMRS noted “hair-breath cracks in tunnel segments and seepage marks” in the underground section, besides cracks, exposed reinforcements, casting errors, etc., in piers, viaducts and Sabarmati bridge.

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A speed limit of 60 kmph has been imposed on Sabarmati bridge, which CMRS stated has casting errors in six spans and other issues. “These shall be rectified in one month and a third party audit done through RITES to confirm structural safety,” stated the stiplulations.

For the East-West Corridor, CMRS stated the Tunnel Ventilation System for the underground section needed improvement/upgradation. It sought a technical audit of the tunnel ventilation system and a fire safety clearance from the fire department. CMRS also advised a third party quality audit to confirm structural strength and quality of viaduct, piers and tunnel segments in three months’ time.

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CMRS inspected this corridor between Apparel Park and Thaltej stations on August 20-22 and September 4. The 6.5-kilometre stretch between Vastral Gam to Apparel Park is already operational. During the inspection, it noticed a “leaning” of one of the piers at Commerce Six roads-Gujarat University section. Imposing a 45-kmph speed restriction on this segment, the GMRC has advised remedial measures and a third party audit for examining the safety and certification of the pier.

Like the Sabarmati station, the underground Kankaria East station was not offered for inspection and CMRS has asked trains to skip this station as well.

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CMRS also asked the GMRC to rectify malfunctioning lifts and PSD doors and install branded water coolers. The groundwork for Ahmedabad Metro — for which DPRs were drawn and redrawn since 2005 — began in March 2015. After seven years of construction, the Phase-1 of the project consisting of a little over 40 kilometres will be fully launched for commercial operations later this month.

SS Rathore, Managing Director of GMRC, which is a joint venture of the Gujarat government and Government of India, said, “Every authorisation letter from CMRS is with clauses. Every Metro project gets it with conditions. They are directions and standard conditions that are put. These are standard procedures.”

Not willing to discuss the conditions laid out by CMRS, Rathore said,“Some of these conditions are security related and I won’t be able to discuss it with you.” When asked about the third-party audits for reassessing the safety and structural quality of the elevated and underground corridors, Rathore said, “They had sought it even for the first 6.5 kilometres and we had done an audit through IIT three months after the operations began.”

The second phase of the Metro project will connect the state capital Gandhinagar with Ahmedabad, which will essentially be the expansion of the first phase. This phase will have two corridors, including 22.8 km from Motera Stadium to Mahatma Mandir, having 20 stations and a 5.4-km route from the Gujarat National Law University to GIFT City having two stations. The entire Phase-II will be on an elevated route.

First published on: 25-09-2022 at 03:21:13 am
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