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Interview with Rajeev Kumar, General Manager-IT, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation

August 14, 2019
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Enterprises in the transportation industry are increasingly leveraging ICT solutions to improve their overall efficiency and deliver world-class services. The government’s focus on initiatives like smart cities and smart transportation is also driving the uptake of these technologies. The metro rail corporations are at the forefront of this digital transformation. However, the possibility of a potential cyberattack is holding them back from completely opening up their systems to new technologies. Rajeev Kumar discusses Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation's ICT roadmap, deployment challenges and the way ahead...

How has the role of ICT in the transportation sector changed over time?

Traditionally, the role of ICT in transportation in India has been limited. In the case of railways, the role of ICT was limited to control communication and station communication. But now, with the advent of advanced technologies, we have new ICT systems being used in railways and metros.

What are the key telecom and IT solutions adopted by your company? How have these benefited you?

Once completed, our metro system will use state-of-the-art IT and telecom solutions. We will have tetra-based radio communications from handheld and fixed devices which can work anywhere on the premises, even in underground tunnels. We are also planning to deploy IP-based telephone systems, modern public announcement systems, public information display systems, smart card based access control, and intrusion detection systems, etc. All these systems will be connected through the optical fibre backbone.

On the signalling side, we will have a state-of-the-art communication-based train control (CBTC) system, which are Automation 4 Grade systems. This means, the system will be capable of unattended (driverless) train operation. For IT applications, we are implementing an ERP system and a common asset management system for better utilisation of assets.

Some of the benefits of these solutions are a high level of safety, passenger convenience and operational efficiency. We are also planning to introduce a national common mobility card (NCMC)-based AFC system. This will be a Rupay-based smart card system based on the one nation, one card concept. This card can be used in buses, metros, parking and other transit and non transit applications.

What are your views on the use of emerging technologies such as cloud, big data, AI and IoT in the transport sector? How are you ensuring the security of your systems and processes?

We are planning a centralised operation and control centre, and our servers for different sub-systems will be installed there itself. Since these are very safety-critical systems, it is preferable to have onsite installations rather than on the cloud. These servers are not required to be connected to the internet as they are closed systems dedicated for transportatin application.

As far as IT services are concerned, some of them are planned to be hosted on cloud. As for IoT, we are planning to implement it progressively as it is a new technology and has not been proven extensively in metro systems. We plan to install certain sensors, which will give output to the IoT platform and then the data can be used for predictive and condition-based maintenance.

What are the issues and challenges in the deployment and management of ICT solutions and infrastructure?

We often go for proven technologies for metros. Since metros are capital-intensive and safety critical projects, we prefer not to experiment with technologies that are not proven.

Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation is handling Line-3, which will be the most heavily loaded as compared to other lines in India or anywhere else in the world. The plan is to develop a very robust system. We are implementing systems that are robust, require less maintenance, and go from routine-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance. For this we want to adopt IoT in the future.

How are the government’s smart cities and smart transportation initiatives changing the ICT needs of the transportation sector?

The government is definitely pushing for smart cities and smart transportation initiatives. The Delhi Metro has already set high standards for transportation, and hence the metros are using latest and smart technologies that are at par with global standards. These technologies include CBTC for signalling, various subsystems for telecommunications, SCADA systems, and rolling stock. Since metros are capital-intensive projects, we want to use these technologies to reduce headway, system downtime and manpower requirements, and enhance safety and revenues.

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