The recent Union budget of India this year placed a huge focus on investment in infrastructure to improve the economy. The sector is highly responsible for propelling India’s overall development and enjoys intense focus from the Government for initiating policies that would ensure the time-bound creation of a world-class infrastructure in the country. Mangal Dev, Director Hitachi India Pvt Ltd. & Head, Hitachi Rail India South Asia talks to Financial Express Online about how India can be a leader in the infrastructure sector and Hitachi’s role in India’s urban mobility and Indian Railways transformation. Excerpt:
Can you please elaborate on Hitachi’s role in India’s urban mobility and Indian Railways transformation plans?
Hitachi’s partnership with Indian Railways is eight decades old starting from 1953 when the first steam locomotive was supplied to Indian Railways. This laid the foundations of Hitachi and over this period of time led to transforming mobility in India. As a business, we are investing in innovation so that we can provide solutions for the megatrends effecting the mobility sector, including sustainability, autonomous vehicles, digitalisation, urbanization, and customer experience – all with a focus to enhance customer satisfaction and increase passenger experience.
In response to the megatrends of the transportation sector, the Ministry of Railway through National Rail Plan (NRP), aims at providing a long-term perspective planning for augmenting the national Railway Network. As part of the National Rail Plan, Vision 2024 has been launched for accelerated implementation of certain critical projects by 2024 to develop capacity, infrastructure and enhance rail freight share ahead of the demand and to develop capacity by 2030 that will cater to growing demand up to 2050. This entails 100% electrification, additional lines along the high-density networks, upgradation of speed to 160 kmph on Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes, upgradation of speed to 130kmph on all other Golden Quadrilateral-Golden Diagonal (GQ/GD) routes, elimination of all level crossings on all GQ/GD routes. This National Rail Plan thus when fully implemented will drive a gradual shift in the freight model share from the current 27% to 45% for Indian Railway.
In order to adapt to the ever-evolving market dynamics, Indian Railways, 4th largest networks in the world is aiming to transform in offering safety and comfort to its commuters. We at Hitachi Rail are Powering connections that make sustainable mobility a reality. We are a leading integrated rail business, offering sustainable solutions, providing people with safe, secure, comfortable transportation. We are defined by sophisticated OT and manufacturing technology, cutting-edge IT, and products trusted for their high quality and reliability. We aim to use our Technology and Business to help build a Sustainable Society. In 2019 over 18 billion journeys were completed using our technology, delivering social, environmental, and economic value.
In response to the megatrends of the mobility sector, Hitachi Rail is designing and developing products based on five Strategic Pillars viz. Zero Infrastructure, Autonomous trains, Automated Maintenance, Services for Mobility, and Smart Factory.
Hitachi showcased its advanced integrated solutions, at the recently concluded Hitachi Social Innovation Forum 2021, INDIA ONLINE held on 3rd & 4th March 2021, demonstrating how it is contributing towards modernizing and making India’s urban mobility self-reliant through offering its sustainable technological solutions.
Hitachi was also one of the pioneered companies to partner with Indian Railways to usher in electrification with the supply of its electric locomotives 3600 Horsepower DC3000V, and 4500 horsepower DC1500V. Its contributions to developing new standards in the Indian Railways at different stages of its transformation into a world class railway to cementing a trusted and enduring collaboration with Indian Railways.
Hitachi will continue its partnership to usher in the next era of high speed travel with the implementation of Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor.
How is Hitachi working to provide a more efficient railway system?
Hitachi has been engaged in providing efficient transportation solutions for over 100 years. Its subsequent and early foray into Digital solutions with IT applications, analytics, content & cloud storage, to augment the OT side of infrastructure solutions have helped it transform the way cities have addressed the demands of urban living, over the years. Now, it is playing a prominent role in shaping the way people will travel in the future.
While Hitachi has strengthened its position in the mobility sector at the global level, Hitachi is driving the transformation at the local level in India and emerging as one of the global leaders in Social Innovation Business thus demonstrating Vocal for Local. We are deploying globally proven technologies for the upcoming national, regional, and urban mobility with, Commuter, Regional, Intercity & High-speed solutions, and Driverless, Metrorail, Metrolite (Trams), and MetroNeo electric and battery powered solutions. In a nutshell, Hitachi’s smart mobility technologies and solutions are remarkably transforming India’s transport ecosystem across mega cities, tier-1 and tier-2 towns, solving varied infrastructure challenges.
For instance, Hitachi Rail indigenously manufactured vital systems like Electronic Interlocking system which controls more than 1,000 stations on the Indian Railway network across the nation including Asia’s largest Electronic Interlocking system at Kharagpur Railway Station on the South Eastern Railway and decongesting the High Density Network from Ghaziabad to Kanpur section of Northern and North Central Railway.
In addition to this, Hitachi is partnering in improving seamless connectivity for the commuters by contributing to building a Multi-Modal transport network by implementation of Metrorail & Monorail projects in the cities of Noida, Kolkata, Navi Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan area as well as high speed travel from Delhi to Agra on Indian Railway network.
Can you name and share details on some of the Hitachi’s recent projects with Government of India?
Hitachi India is transforming mobility in India through its proven capabilities that are globally trusted.
In 2015-16, Hitachi signed their railway contract for the implementation of the signalling and telecommunication systems for the western DFC from Rewari to JNPT, Mumbai. Hitachi currently is installing state-of-the-art signaling and telecom equipment for a segment of the entire western DFC, a 1,500 km high-speed (100 kph) from the Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor, which is the backbone of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, a mega infrastructure project funded by Japan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the first 306 km of 1506 km on the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) from New Rewari – New Madar section on 7th January 2021 and dedicated this section to the nation for commercial operation. The world’s first high speed, double-stack container, long-haul of 1.5 km train was flagged off by Prime Minister for its maiden journey on electric traction from New Ateli, Haryana to New Kishangarh, Rajasthan.
Under this notable project Hitachi is executing two projects for complete Automatic Block Signaling with Train Management System and GSM-R based telecommunication system for the 915 km (Rewari in Haryana to Vadodara in Gujarat) corridor involving 31 stations and Operations Control Center at Ahmedabad, with facilities to connect and interchange with Indian Railway tracks running in parallel. The second project for the provisioning of automatic train protection (ATP) system based on proven European Train Control System (ETCS) system of train protection and warning system (TPWS) for the 1337 km (Rewari-Haryana-JNPT-Mumbai) corridor involving 43 stations and locomotive On-Board system to be deployed on first 200 electric locomotives to assist the locomotive driving crew.
By successfully implementing the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) based signalling and telecommunication system for Noida Metrorail project in a record time of 28 months, it has paved the way for an intelligent transport infrastructure with digital integration that puts commuters’ safety and convenience at the forefront. A state-of-the-art Metrorail system thus put into operations is enhancing the lives of people in rapidly expanding Noida and Greater Noida region. Hitachi systems will enable the Metrorail operator to run in the Automatic Train Operation (ATO) mode and provide seamless public movement between Noida and Greater Noida region, the fastest growing towns in National Capital Region (NCR). This technology is implemented in the Kolkata East-West Metrorail, which is now in full operation between Salt Lake and Phoolbagan, and when completed it will provide vital connectivity between the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah.
What do you think is needed for India to be known as a leader in the infrastructure sector?
Smart mobility technologies and advanced solutions are radically changing India’s transport ecosystem across metro cities and in tier 1 and tier 2 towns. Fortunately, this is also solving severe infrastructure challenges for our commuters who travel under crowded, unwieldy, inefficient, and unsafe conditions.
The Indian Railway is undergoing a dynamic phase of growth with new advancements offering world-class services in both freight and passenger transportation. The advancements include moving towards improved mobility on the high-density network (HDN) and highly utilized network (HUN) as per National Rail Plan to align with the Vision 2024 of the Indian Railway with 100% railway electrification to meet carbon neutrality by 2030, increase capacity by implementing Automatic Block Signalling with Traffic Management systems (TMS/CTC) by increasing sectional speed, and increasing overall safety by the elimination of manned level crossings from Golden Quadrilateral – Golden Diagonal (GQ-GD) route.
Implementation of technology solutions such as safety enhancements, infrastructure upgrades, train operations effectiveness, passenger experience movement and organizational capability enhancement will be crucial for the Indian Railways to get closer to world-class railway operations. A key aspect to revamp the Indian Railways infrastructure through technological advancement is by allowing Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), Public Private Partnership (PPP) as well as Private Operations of Passenger and Freight trains for its existing asset monetization.
In your view, what is the role of the infrastructure sector in India’s economic growth? and how can it help in reviving the economy?
The recent Union budget of India this year placed a huge focus on investment in infrastructure to improve the economy. The sector is highly responsible for propelling India’s overall development and enjoys intense focus from the Government for initiating policies that would ensure the time-bound creation of world-class infrastructure in the country.
The completion of critical infrastructure under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) is a key element towards achieving India’s goal of becoming a USD 5 trillion economy. The challenge is to step-up annual infrastructure investment so as to overcome the infrastructure deficit in the growth of the Indian economy. Infrastructure is a key driver of the Indian economy and offers better prospects to strengthen India’s global competitiveness. In the next decade, India will require huge private investments and overseas funding in this particular sector significantly with cities becoming highly connected, districts highly accessible with improvement in the urban-rural interconnectedness by mobility and digital infrastructure.
In this dynamic world in order to maintain growth momentum, India has to upgrade and develop its industry and infrastructure sector. As one of the fastest-growing economies, India has timely identified the scope for Industry 4.0 for achieving Sustainable Development Goals for a Society 5.0 and next-generation quality infrastructure. To experience the potential of the perfect blend of this, India needs a robust policy and institutional system to eliminate all unnecessary hurdles. Industry 4.0 encompasses automation in industrial sectors whereas next-generation infrastructure brings physical infrastructure and technology like the internet of things (IoT), automation powered with augmented intelligence of AI & ML together to maximize the efficiency of physical infrastructure. Therefore, for smooth and fast development, India needs adequate and timely investment in quality infrastructure.
India’s mobility landscape faces several challenges like integrated multimodal network, last-mile connectivity & frictionless travel being a few of them. To solve this issue, Government Authorities are increasingly striving to integrate public transport such as National and Regional Railway, Metrorail and Metrolite with other transit services like MetroNeo, Personalised Rapid Transit (PRT) system, para-transport, feeder buses & electric rickshaws, and non-motorized solutions with public footpath and bi-cycling thereby making public transport more affordable, environment friendly, safe, and sustainable. With capital-intensive projects like Metrorail coming under the scanner over financial viability in smaller cities, the government approved the policy to introduce Metrolite & MetroNeo in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
Resilience of infrastructure sector is the key to further economic growth. The government has allowed the private players to operate the passenger and freight trains with private participation through the PPP mode under the “New India New Railway” initiative. With increasing participation expected from private players, domestic and foreign, due to favourable policy measures, both passenger and freight traffic is expected to grow rapidly over the medium to long term to achieve the 45% model share target.
Privatisation of the Indian Railways operations & maintenance will improve supply chain ecosystem, thus leading to better business activity and better economic growth. The outlook in future is to bring together Government & Private sectors across the Railway value chain to explore, learn from global best practices, interact with potential business partners, and enter into a constructive dialogue regarding various concerns and opportunities associated with Railways for a truly Atmanirbhar Bharat.
What are the key difficulties faced in servicing a network like the Indian Railways?
The sheer vastness and uniqueness of the Indian Railway network poses itself as a challenge in its modernization & operations. Converting legacy operating systems to function with new and emerging technologies is a complex process to implement that needs Change Acceleration Programs. The maintenance of aging infrastructure and the Rolling Stock to provide assured availability with reliability and safety themselves could be big areas of concern requiring out-of-the-box ideas. Quality of services versus its affordability remains a challenge for the Indian Railway as road transport and airlines are posing stiff competition to the railways in certain classes of travel thus becoming the cause of its dwindling modal share.
India is a developing economy with thinly spread financial resources, rapid development of transport infrastructure will require private participation. Therefore, some proven models of revenue generation and value creation like station redevelopment is also seeing interesting PPP models of execution. The high volumes of traffic, the ever-growing demand for efficient services, rapid urbanization, and an extensive network make Railways an attractive proposition for investors and developers.
Therefore, the urgency is as how to usher in change with the introduction of latest technologies for physical and virtual infrastructure, environment friendly electrical trainsets, digitalization powered by IoT, AI & ML and leveraging them as a whole for maximizing the operational efficiencies to enhance quality with affordability. Both the government and private sector needs to urgently find a path breaking solution with holistic cohesion and harmony.
With a concerted effort, the challenges can be transformed into an opportunity that will not only boost organic growth, drive job creation, and aid a whole gamut of industries but also help fulfill one of the most basic tenets of economic value and social value with environment value: mobility to serve the common good of humanity.
How is Hitachi making the journey easy by offering seamless multi-modal connectivity solutions?
Urban transportation infrastructure in India can be up-gradated massively with implementation of multi-modal network with last-mile connectivity. Mobility should be a multi-modal and seamless and frictionless system that links a passenger from one point to the other, across different modes from mass rapid transit electric trains to electric Buses, 2 & 3-wheeler Electric Vehicles and going beyond transport to give the consumer an all-round experience.
This could very well be answered and resolved through meticulous planning and implementation of Metrorail network for achieving a multi-modal connectivity. Creating a multi modal transportation will not only bring efficient transit in the cities but also enhance the travel experience for the people which will allow them to switch from private to public transport for a green and eco-friendly environment for the dwellers. By embracing digitalization in all spheres of its operations & maintenance, assets management, autonomous trains, automated maintenance, smart manufacturing, and services for mobility, Railways & Urban Transport is on track to improving its revenue and passenger experience.
With planned and well-defined structure, Mass Rapid Transit systems can contribute towards building a seamless connectivity from the first mile to the last mile to achieve an integrated multi-modal transport system which will be an important contributor towards achieving the $5 trillion economy target set by the Government of India.
Hitachi is committed to providing Social, Environmental, and Economic Values by developing and integrating new innovations to transform passenger experience across mobility systems. Adapting to the trends and challenges of society, Hitachi is working to develop solutions for urban transport and Indian mainline railway to increase safety and reliability for commuters. Thereby shaping the way society will travel in the future. Urban transportation infrastructure in India can be enhanced and supported with the implementation of multi-modal networks, thus providing passengers and operators an integrated “Services for Mobility”.
Tackling challenges faced by the mobility infrastructure in India, Hitachi leverages its holistic urban transport solutions, ranging from energy-efficient rolling stock, advanced signaling systems, traffic management system, automatic fare collection and financial services solutions, world-class station equipment, passenger information & security solutions, and more, to progressively improve social and economic values for the people of India.