BIG INTERVIEW

Transferring Emphasis for Development

With a vision to witness infrastructure benefitting the world at large and, actively participating in the same with some of their marvellous and game changing projects. AECOM believes that infrastructure is highly responsible for propelling India’s overall development and enjoys intense focus from Government for initiating policies that would ensure time-bound creation of world class infrastructure in the country. In an exclusive interview Neil Banerjee, Regional Director, AECOM enunciates about the changing infrastructure projects, role of steel in this change, and their plans and much more… 

Read on the interview to get detailed insights….

Being one of the forerunners across all sectors of construction, what is your take on the Indian Infrastructure?
Indian infrastructure is a booming workspace with plenty of ongoing projects and lot many planned for the near future. After, a flamboyant epoch in the development of the road sector, it is taking a motley taciturn shift in the other sectors predominantly in Metros & Monorail to High Speed Rail (HSR), Bullet Train to further extending its spread in Hyperloop.

Infrastructure sector is a key driver for the Indian economy. The sector is highly responsible for propelling India’s overall development and enjoys intense focus from Government for initiating policies that would ensure time-bound creation of world class infrastructure in the country. Infrastructure sector includes power, bridges, dams, roads and urban infrastructure development. In 2018, India ranked 44th out of 167 countries in World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI) 2018. Market Size: Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) received in Construction Development sector (townships, housing, built up infrastructure and construction development projects) from April 2000 to March 2019 stood at US$ 25.05 billion, according to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). The logistics sector in India is growing at a CAGR of 10.5 per cent annually and is expected to reach US$ 215 billion in 2020. Investments: India has a requirement of investment worth Rs 50 trillion (US$ 777.73 billion) in infrastructure by 2022 to have sustainable development in the country. India is witnessing significant interest from international investors in the infrastructure space. Some key investments in the sector are listed below:

In 2018, infrastructure sector in India witnessed private equity and venture capital investments worth US$ 1.97 billion.
In June 2018, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has announced US$ 200 million investment into the National Investment & Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).
Indian infrastructure sector witnessed 91 M&A deals worth US$ 5.4 billion in 2017

Government Initiatives: The Government of India is expected to invest highly in the infrastructure sector, mainly highways, renewable energy and urban transport. The Government of India is taking every possible initiative to boost the infrastructure sector. The Government of India has given a massive push to the infrastructure sector by allocating Rs 4.56 lakh crore (US$ 63.20 billion) for the sector. Achievements: Following are the achievements of the government in the past four years: The total national highways length increased to 122,434 kms in FY18 from 92,851 kms in FY14. India’s rank jumped to 24 in 2018 from 137 in 2014 on World Bank’s Ease of doing business – “Getting Electricity” ranking. Energy deficit reduced to 0.7 per cent in FY18 from 4.2 per cent in FY14. Number of airports has increased to 102 in 2018.

Being involved with one of the longest sea bridge projects – Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, can you share the details of the project?
The proposed Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) which connects Sewri (in Island city of Mumbai) to Nhava-Sheva (Mainland) in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Maharashtra state, India has been planned with the basic objective of establishing faster connectivity between the island city of Mumbai and the Navi Mumbai on the mainland thereby facilitating decongestion of Mumbai and the development of Navi Mumbai.

The project consists of construction of a road bridge across the Mumbai Harbour connecting interchanges at both ends. The total length of the 6-lane road bridge will be about 21.800 km and will consist of approach roads, viaducts on inter-tidal zone, bridge across the harbour and interchanges at Sewri in Mumbai and at Shivaji Nagar and Chirle in Navi Mumbai. The MTHL will be constructed in three sections. About 4 km of the bridge length will be built with steel spans and the rest will use concrete. The MMRDA chose to use steel spans in these sections to eliminate the need to construct piers to support the bridge which could hinder the movement of ships in the area. This 4 km section includes a 180-meter-long steel span, which is the longest steel span in India. The shortest steel span on the MTHL is 110 meters long. The project requires 130 hectares of land. The City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) will contribute 88 hectares. The remaining land is privately owned. According to MMRDA officials, landowners will be given the same compensation package as that given in the Navi Mumbai International Airport project. Three hundred and twenty structures in Sewri were affected by the project, of which 250 properties were residential.

What is your take on steel v/s RCC?
We do not have a binary answer for this question. Prima facie, the cost of steel construction is higher than concrete sections. However, steel structures are lighter and more flexible. Hence, the gravity loads (like dead load and seismic forces) would be less, often, giving an overall saving in cost. There is an apparent increase in maintenance cost of steel structures. However, periodic maintenance is required in all structures – irrespective of the material of construction.

For major infrastructure projects in urban areas, steel is always a preferable option for ease of transportation and handling. Steel is popularly used for obligatory crossings at busy intersections. The prefabricated steel girders can be erected overnight with minimum disturbance to the city traffic.

As far as Transportation projects are concerned, what are the major challenges faced by you?
Availability of encumbrance-free land is the major concern, Obtaining Statutory clearances like Forest and Environmental clearances, Slow progress of work due to Cash-flow issues and enormous delay in getting decisions in case of re-design / re-engineering.

According to you which are the prime sectors of construction that will turn the tables for India, as far as the growth is concerned? Why?
The Expansion of the Metro Network in all the State Capital cities has already turned tables , Monorail in the satellite Towns, High Speed Rail (HSR), Bullet Train, Hyperloop (Pilot project initiated between Mumbai and Pune) and New Airports in small towns will be a game changer once in operation.

Which are the grey areas that need to be addressed by the industry to advocate structural steel construction in our country?
India has 131,326 km (81,602 mi) of National Highways (NH) connecting all the major cities and state capitals. National Highways comprise 2.7 per cent of India’s total road network but carry about 40 per cent of road traffic.

Which are the grey areas that need to be addressed by the industry to advocate structural steel construction in our country?
India has 131,326 km (81,602 mi) of National Highways (NH) connecting all the major cities and state capitals. National Highways comprise 2.7 per cent of India’s total road network but carry about 40 per cent of road traffic.

Unfortunately, the entire NH network is connected with RCC / PSC Bridges. Often, this is governed by the designers’ choice of an available template design rather than economics. A complete change in the mindset is necessary to accept the change of technology from RCC / PSC Bridges to Steel Bridges. The Government agencies should also take a bold stand to accept the increase in cost for the shift from RCC / PSC Structures to Steel Structures.

Which has been your best work so far involving structural steel?
It’s difficult to single out a project as the best work. I have extensively worked in composite construction of flyovers, bridges and jetties. Steel has also been widely used as a temporary support for underground metro systems. The interaction between surrounding soils, permanent concrete diaphragm walls and the steel strutting system make the designs very interesting. To me all projects in which I have worked, are equally good, irrespective of the size of the project.

What are AECOM’s plans for the next 5 years?
AECOM envisions a world where infrastructure creates opportunity for everyone.

What is your mantra for success?
To stay focussed and work hard is my only mantra to success.