Managing India’s vast rail and metro network is an increasingly difficult task. Some of the sector’s most important issues include the extension of metro-rail lines and stations, the system’s complexity, and the high volume of passenger traffic. Furthermore, within the limited space of the stations, there are numerous installed electrical facilities that consume a significant amount of electricity. This necessitates a continuous and reliable power supply to ensure that system operations are carried out safely and efficiently. The government of India involves various private players to ease its burden in managing the network. In conversation with Financial Express Online, Ashutosh Shukla, Director- Transportation & Mobility, Schneider Electric India talked about the current scenario and challenges for metro rail in Indian and about the company offers open, interoperable, IoT-enabled system architecture and platform that delivers enhanced value around safety, reliability, efficiency, sustainability, and connectivity to the customers. Schneider Electric India claims that the solution aids Metro Rail networks in different areas like power delivery, environmental control, communication and services. Here are the excerpts of his interview with Financial Express Online:
What is the current scenario of the metro rail segment in the country and the challenges faced by the sector?
The metro rail-segment in India is growing at a rapid pace. Recently, the focus is also shifting to tier II cities as new metro rail constructions have started in cities such as Indore, Surat, Bhopal, Kanpur, Patna, etc. While some projects are Greenfield i.e. they are in the first phase, others are extending their existing railway infrastructure by introducing new lines and phases. Managing this exponential rail network is becoming increasingly difficult as the sector is facing issues like system complexity, high volume of passenger traffic, limited space of the stations etc. Furthermore, there are numerous installed electrical facilities that consume a significant amount of electricity. This necessitates a continuous and reliable power supply to ensure that system operations are carried out safely and efficiently. Schneider Electric’s advanced IoT-enabled EcoStruxure™ Rail platform is best positioned to solve the critical challenges faced by the Indian metro-rail segment. It helps optimise energy consumption by using smart energy management solutions, integrating renewables, and braking energy recovery.
What is the estimated size of the metro rail segment in India?
According to a research by Indian Infrastructure, over 25 cities in India will have operational metro rail networks in the coming years and around Rs 3-4 trillion worth of projects are expected to be commissioned in the next 4-5 years. The government is also working towards delivering close to 1,000 kms of Metro Rail system in the country by 2022. While metro rail will continue to be the dominant mode of commuting, various other models such as rapid rail and light rail will also see a growth in the country.
Indian cities are investing heavily on rapid transit systems. Apart from increasing the network it is also important to ensure operational integration and systems planning. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree. Last mile connectivity is key to achieve overall reliability and cost-effectiveness across a transit system. Therefore, it is imperative to have a strategy that enables operational integration as well as system planning. This is where digital twins can play a revolutionary role. By creating a digital twin model, one can oversee the latent effects of a particular physical integration and reconfigure it as per the requirements. This will help plan shorter transfer paths, reducing wait times, improved navigability and increasing circulation efficiencies. We have collaborated with world-leading technology software companies such as RIB, ETAP, and AVEVA to drive digital transformation in the metro-rail market. These companies use their robust, Vendor agnostic software portfolio to apply the “Single Version of Reality” paradigm over the entire cycle, resulting in a “Model Based Approach” in everything they do. By deploying such technologies, Metro agencies can explore station design with big data applications thereby ensuring a seamless and collaborative data flow through the entire metro-rail lifecycle, from Design and Build to Operate and Maintain.
With ever changing socio-economic dynamics, the metro segment in India is faced with a unique challenge of huge traffic and ridership. What strategies should be followed so that the metro segment can increase its operational efficiencies?
Today, most of the emerging metro systems in India faces a key challenge of increasing the ridership in a metro network to meet the design levels. Maintaining system advantages such as commuter safety, minimum and predictable travel times, and wait times are some prime aspects that metro systems must optimise for passengers and for the metro to remain a preferred mode of transportation. As the network grows, metro authorities will need to explore strategies for crowd control, traffic management, curb and platform use to help create better ridership levels.
What is EcoStruxure Rail? How does it aim to solve the critical issues faced by the Indian metro-rail segment?
EcoStruxure Rail is an enterprise level end-to-end digital solution for metro rail to create collaborative environments for a safe, energy efficient, reliable and sustainable rail infrastructure operation. This solution is targeted towards providing real-time awareness breaking silos, resulting in safe, comfortable, on-time operations, and effective passenger services into the Indian market. The advanced IoT-enabled EcoStruxureTM platform will aid metro rails in four main areas: power delivery, environmental control, communication, and services. It also increases the resilience of the system in case of cybersecurity attack by providing solutions to avoid and detect intrusions at all levels: control centre, telecom system and field devices. It improves the smart management, electrical safety, and atmosphere of Metro stations, as well as the operation of their systems, with solutions for:
Traction Power: Complete solutions for Rail electrification, including traction substations and its electrical equipment, overhead systems, control and protection for the network and microgrid supervision helping the proper energy management and operation.
Signaling Power: A complete portfolio designed to cover the power supply needs for critical signaling systems, oriented to feed the disperse assets spread over the tracks.
Distribution Power: The most comprehensive portfolio primary and secondary distribution that covers every application and every environmental condition, including UPS and cooling systems which includes air quality control by deploying energy management solutions through HVAC, lighting, etc.
Construction management: Through application of 5D BIM modelling adding elements of Time and cost over 3D BIM, optimize planning, estimation, scheduling, align procurement and finally digital handover end facility management.
The solution intends to significantly enhance smart management, provide electrical safety and improve energy efficiency by up to 25%, enables efficiency planning services and safeguard system’s operations, thereby increasing the overall operational efficiency by upto 20% and reduce the total cost of ownership by 15%.
What kind of opportunities does Schneider Electric see in this segment?
Safe and reliable transportation is crucial for the growth of cities and success of investments, as well as the efficiency and comfort of everyday commuting While the metro rail segment is evolving at an exponential rate, there are various issues that needs to be addressed such as uninterrupted power supply, high volume of passenger traffic, system complexity and so on. This is where we see massive opportunities for companies like us as these issues can only be addressed by technology. We have a full portfolio of solutions, products, and services for sustainable long-distance and urban rail infrastructure.
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Do you also export the products under the metro rail segment?
We are doing indirect exports, wherein we supply to Indian car builders for metro, who in turn export to the world over. As more and more global car builders make India as the major manufacturing hub for their companies; we are getting an opportunity in terms of indirect exports.
What are your plans for India in the coming years?
Schneider Electric has a strong presence in operational technologies for the metro rail segment. We are now looking at integrating these operational technologies with the IT layer. For this, we have partnered with global software specialists such as RIB software and ETAP to further digitise the metro operations and support them in their long-term journey of digitisation and asset management.
In the next 5 years, we’re looking at a 20% CAGR growth for Schneider Electric coming from the transportation segment which also includes metro-rail.