B.S.C. Rao, who has more than 40 years of experience in planning, design, construction, and management of large engineering, industrial and infrastructure projects, says that he has had the unique distinction of developing from scratch India’s first mass transit system—the erstwhile Elevated Light Rail Transit System for Bengaluru—as India’s first PPP project, which was abandoned and is now being built instead with fully government funding as Namma Metro. He was Executive Director of the former Bangalore Mass Rapid Transit Ltd (1994-2002).
Rao’s experience in urban transport and mass rapid transit systems, thermal power plants, paper plants and portside facilities is enormous. He has over 29 years national and international experience in the field of mass rapid transit systems.
According to Rao, the phenomenal success of the Delhi Metro has ensured that metro projects and their associated heavy costs, risks and temporary inconvenience during construction are accepted by both government and the public. Consequently, metro systems are being built in eight cities in India and planned in dozens of others, he said.
Currently, he is practicing as a freelance consultant in planning, design and implementation of mass rapid transit systems in India and has served expert and advisory committees. He has been retained by major firms in India to advice on such matters and is currently working as Team Leader for the Lender’s Independent Engineer on the Hyderabad Metro.
Rao has also worked closely with the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University, Ahmedabad, for many years and was Adjunct Professor of Mass Rapid Transit Systems in 2012. He is a Member of the Advisory Council and also Visiting Faculty of the Institute of Metro and Rail Technology, Hyderabad.
While talking to Projectmonitor on the hurdles in metro projects, he observed two big impediments currently—land acquisition and bureaucratic red-tape—which requires dozens of permits, clearances, approvals etc. from a huge number of departments which can lead to enormous delays and escalation of cost. Additionally, in PPP projects the large number of risks and, most importantly, the financial risk that the private sector has to bear are real dangers and can be a major dampener for private sector investment.
He assertively says that India should follow the example of other countries (e.g. Singapore and Thailand in Southeast Asia) and establish a single statutory national Mass Transit Authority with overall responsibility for planning, financing, building and regulating mass transit systems in the country through subsidiary state-level authorities, which will also act as single window clearing houses for all permissions etc. This will involve, of course, many complex legal issues that will need to be addressed.
Mass Rapid Transit Systems are extremely complex projects that require multi-disciplinary inputs, skills and coordination. In almost all cases the engineer “learns on the job,” but with the very large number of metro projects that are being taken up in the country, it would greatly help if universities introduce introductory courses at the graduate and post-graduate levels in metro systems. Meanwhile, private institutions like the Institute of Metro and Rail Technology are gearing up to meet the demand, he concluded.