The government wants all cities with a population of over two million to have metro rail networks. (Above) A section of the Rapid MetroRail, Gurgaon Photo: Ramesh Sharma/Mail Today
In September 2012, Ashish Agarwal joined Rapid MetroRail Gurgaon Ltd (RMGL), the company which runs the Gurgaon metro, as a traffic controller. Earlier, he worked for Delhi Airport Express, the metro line leading from the heart of the capital to Indira Gandhi International Airport, formerly run by Reliance Infrastructure Ltd, but recently taken over by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). Why did Agarwal, a qualified engineer, choose this particular segment to work in? "Earlier, I was in the research and development sector, but I thought the metro a good option as there would be many new lines across India," he says.
And he was right. When he found the Delhi Airport Express had few passengers and was making losses, he began looking around and found there were plenty of other opportunities. The RMGL suited him best as he belongs to Delhi. "The salary here is the same as at my previous job, but there is job security and the opportunities to learn are also great," he adds. For instance, RMGL sent Agarwal to China for four weeks of training in operations and maintenance. He now teaches a batch of RMGL employees about what he learnt in China.
Indeed, metro projects are set to boom
and offer excellent prospects for engineers. Metro trains are already running in Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Gurgaon, while active construction is on in Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Kochi. "The government has decided it will support the preparation of detailed project reports for metro rail systems in all cities with a population of over two million. This means that in addition to the present lot, another eight to 10 cities will also be eligible to start such projects in the 12th Five Year Plan," says Sudhir Krishna, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development. The estimated investment for rail-based mass rapid transit systems in the 12th Plan (2012-17) is Rs 1.5 lakh crore. The plan targets 7,400 km of metro track in the next decade.
Training engineers for the special needs of metro transportation is getting more attention as well. For a long while, the only training available was at DMRC's own training centre in Delhi. Now, there is a full-fledged institute, the Indian Metro Rail Technology (IMRT), Hyderabad, promoted by Secunderabad-based Balaji Railroad Systems Ltd (BARSYL), a leading railway consulting company for rail education. "Candidates and course participants who pass through IMRT will be employment ready for the industry," says Sunil Srivastava, Managing Director, BARSYL.
The recently started IMRT held its first short-term course on RAMS - Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety - from November 18 to 23 this year, in association with Lloyd's Register Rail (Asia) Ltd and the Reliability Engineering Centre of IIT Kharagpur, charging a hefty Rs 1.25 lakh. Organisations such as Bombardier Transportation, Alstom, Nokia Siemens Networks and L&T, among others, registered for it.
"There has been good response from the industry, the metro developers, manufacturing organisations, and railway projects such as DFCC (Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd) for our RAMS engineering and similar open programmes we are planning," says Srivastava. Ruchita Kaka, Lead, Learning and Development, Bombardier, agrees. "This is a rare course, specific to the industry's requirements. Skilled professionals in RAMS engineering are rare. It's important for our company," she says.
IMRT's flagship one-year postgraduate programme, which will cost Rs 10 lakh, is set to start in July 2014. The waiting list for admission has been growing. Only those who have taken the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) will be eligible to sit for IMRT's entrance examination. "An IMRT professional can join any private or government metro rail system thereafter," says Gyan Prakash, Director General, IMRT.
More such institutes are also likely. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has approved a plan to let universities formulate four-year BTech courses in metro engineering.
More metro networks are indeed a fait accompli. Urban development secretary Krishna notes that another 10 urban centres will become eligible to set up metros after the 12th Plan period. Sanjiv Rai, Managing Director and CEO, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd (Il&FS), which helped to build RMGL, expects 30 to 40 towns to build metro systems. "If that materialises in the next eight to 10 years, there will be more organisations offering training and institutes with metro engineering courses," he says.