J&K's Jammu-Banihal rail stretch in hilly terrain highly prone to landslides: Hitachi Rail India head

Manoj Kumar talks to THE WEEK about the important and challenging projects in India

Hitachi Rails director interview Hitachi Rail India head K. Manoj Kumar

K. Manoj Kumar is the full-time director and country representative, of Hitachi Rail STS India Limited. In a career spanning more than 32 years, Kumar has worked across diverse industries including software, aerospace and railways. A graduate in Computer Science from Bangalore University he also received an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from KEISIE University. Kumar has also done a master certification course in Electronics in Wetzalar, Germany.

In an interview with THE WEEK, Kumar talks about several important and challenging Metro and Indian railway projects including the Kolkata underwater Metro project and the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) rail project that Hitachi Rail STS India is working on in India.

Q: What was Hitachi’s role in India’s first underwater Metro in Kolkata? What are the signalling and communications technologies used in this project?

Hitachi Rail STS was selected in 2011 as the provider of the signalling and telecommunication systems for the project. These sophisticated systems are necessary and are the backbone for safe and efficient train operations. In the project we implemented the CBTC system (Communication-based train control (CBTC), a signalling system that uses communication between onboard and trackside equipment for train operations) operating at Grade of Automation (GoA) Level 2, signifying a semi-automatic operation. Hitachi’s engineers meticulously integrated the CBTC system with other critical systems such as Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) and the Computer-Based Interlocking System (IXL). This has ensured smooth train movement and optimal scheduling for the underwater metro service.

We also extended beyond just the train control and meticulously integrated our CBTC system with the underwater Kolkata Metro's Fire Detection and Suppression (FDS) System, Platform Screen Doors (PSD/PSG) and even the tunnel ventilation system. This approach has been instrumental in keeping the passenger safe and comfortable.

We have aimed to prioritise passenger experience wherein they are able to get real-time information with the Passenger Information Display System (PIDS), clear announcements through the Passenger Announcement System (PAS) and top-notch CCTV security. Additionally, we implemented a Master Clock System, Access Control System and the Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TeTRa) system, further streamlining operations and ensuring passenger convenience.

Q: What challenges did Hitachi face with the underwater section of the Kolkata Metro?  

The project encountered unforeseen circumstances, such as changes in the rolling stock contractor and track alignment, causing delays until 2016. However, we adopted CBTC technology in 2017. This swift action ensured the project remained on track for its eventual success.

Q: Any special signalling system for the Chennai Metro, which has one of the largest Metro tracks in the world?

Hitachi Rail’s Digital Signalling System CBTC with GOA 4 fully driverless trains will enable the metro services to run without a driver, making it safer and providing significant savings on maintenance.

Q: What are the specialities of the forthcoming Shinkansen Bullet Train project in India?

The Shinkansen Bullet Train will be India’s first project with a dedicated train line running up to a speed of 240 kph to 280 kph. Hitachi Rail STS will be executing the rolling stock, signalling and the Operation Control Centre for the project. Currently, the work is going on.

Q: What are the challenges in completing the rail project connecting Baramullah to Reasi, including tunnels, in the challenging terrain of Jammu and Kashmir?


The main challenge in the Baramullah-Reasi sector is that most of the stations in the project are situated at a height of 1,400 metres from the mean sea level. Hence supplying materials was a very tough task. Getting the material available in time was the biggest challenge since whatever material was used had to be transported by road from Jammu. Besides that, the Jammu-Banihal rail stretch in J&K has a hilly terrain and is extremely landslide-prone which is always unpredictable. While controlling traffic movement from Jammu to Kashmir, the police allow vehicles only on one side to move.

Heavy materials, such as cables took more than a week to reach the site from Jammu. Also, getting manpower for outdoor work and laying cables inside the tunnel is a huge challenge. Since most labourers are engaged in the cultivation and tourism sectors, labour charges are exorbitant compared to other regions of the country.

Besides that, the total length of cables (both up and down) laid for this project in the tunnel is not less than 500 kilometres. Laying these cables inside the tunnel was a big problem during the initial stages of the project as there was a huge amount of sludge. Besides, taking the cable drum into the tunnel and positioning it in the exact location posed challenges as no crane or hydra could move inside the tunnel. Shortness of breath inside the tunnel is also a major risk for the workers.

Q: What are other major rail projects that Hitachi has worked on in India?

We have had a long association with the Indian Railways and Metro rail projects. Notably, among them is India’s first Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) system at Tundla, near Agra, on the North Central Railway region. Besides that, we were the first to deliver European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 1 in both northern and southern India. One of India’s fastest trains, Gatimaan Express a semi-high speed train has also adopted Hitachi Rail ETCS Level 1 technology. We have also supplied a Propulsion System, Auxiliary Power Supply and Train Control Management System (TCMS) for the Mumbai Metro Line 2 and 7, which will introduce Unattended Train Operation with high-level technology and safety.

Additionally, we have implemented our in-house developed technology Microlok-II, which controls over 1,400 railway stations across India, in India's first and only Monorail. 

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