30 Kingfisher flights cancelled; officials appear before DGCA

Concerned over the sudden cancellations and passenger inconvenience, DGCA had summoned the airline's CEO and top officials to appear before them to explain the large-scale disruptions in the operations and the reasons

New Delhi: Beleaguered Kingfisher Airline's top brass Tuesday briefed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) about their plans to end the large-scale disruptions of flights and their financial troubles even as over 30 flights of the carrier were cancelled Tuesday, reports PTI.

Before going into the meeting with the chief of DGCA EK Bharat Bhushan, Kingfisher CEO Sanjay Aggarwal said, "We will answer whatever the regulator asks."

Concerned over the sudden cancellations and passenger inconvenience, DGCA had summoned the airline's CEO and top officials to appear before them to explain the large-scale disruptions in the operations and the reasons.

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told reporters, "We have to hear out Kingfisher. We don't know what their plans are, how they are going to restore normal schedule. Then there are safety issues which they have to answer".

He also said that in any industry closure of one unit creates trouble for the entire industry and added that steps have to be taken to see that Kingfisher restores its flight schedule and passengers are not inconvenienced.

The carrier cancelled more flights on Tuesday. While 13 flights were cancelled from Mumbai, eight were cancelled from Kolkata and four from Delhi leaving many passengers stranded.

The major air route of Mumbai-Delhi was the worst-hit with maximum cancellations and clubbing of flights.

The airline faced fresh problems on Monday with 34 pilots quitting and a large number of staff being put on notice.

The resignation of the pilots has taken the total number of those who have quit to about 80 since last October, industry sources said.

Kingfisher has been suffering from a severe cash crunch that has culminated into the income tax authorities freezing its bank accounts last week on grounds of non-payment of tax dues.

The carrier had Monday cancelled 30 flights including those to Bangkok, Singapore, Kathmandu and Dhaka, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at various airports across the country.

Kingfisher Airlines promoter Vijay Mallya has said he will not shut down the private carrier which struggled to stay afloat after further large-scale flight disruptions and resignation of pilots. "Closing down is not an option," he said.

Mr Mallya had lobbied hard with the government on both these issues. He claimed that the entire issue of bailout was of "media making". Asked about sudden disruption in Kingfisher flights, the UB Group chief said the bank accounts of the airline were frozen "very suddenly" by the income tax authorities over non-payment of tax dues.

Auditors of Kingfisher Airlines, which posted a net loss of Rs444.26 crore for the third quarter of this fiscal, have once again raised concerns over its ability to stay afloat.


Mumbai Metro Line 3—Some questions need to be asked

Since 2004 when the Mumbai Metro Master Plan was unveiled, three of the nine lines should have been completed and should have been in operation. Ironically even the Line 1 is not complete. What is in store for the citizens of Mumbai?

Before setting out to deal with Line 3 of Mumbai Metro, a brief on the Mumbai Metro Master Plan (MMMP) is in order.

In February 2004, the Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority (MMRDA) unveiled the MMMP at a "public presentation" without adequate and advance public announcements; it was announced by a very small advertisement on the morning of the presentation while the presentation was scheduled at 9am! MMRDA got the planning done through Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) as their consultants. DMRC had just completed their first phase of 68.4 km of Delhi Metro for Rs10,575 crore. The elevated section for Delhi Metro had cost Rs100 crore per km and the underground had cost Rs475 crore/km and on grade, Rs20 crore/km.

MMMP in its unveiled version was a set of nine lines making a length of 146.5 km out which 32.5 km were planned underground with no on grade section. It has been planned for implementation in three phases. Phase I comprised of three lines. Line 1 is the currently under construction, 11.4 km long fully elevated. Line 2 was from Colaba to Charkop via Mahim and was underground from Colaba to Mahalaxmi. Line 3 was elevated from Mahim to Mankhurd. These were subsequently changed to make the underground section go up to Bandra to make it 40.5 km long. The then Line 3 commenced from Bandra instead of Mahim going up to Mankhurd.

The cost of the 146.5 km of MMMP at the 2004 presentation by DMRC/MMRDA was Rs19,525 crore. However, applying the costs per kilometre for the elevated and underground sections incurred in the then just completed Delhi Metro's first phase of 68.4 km to MMMP, the cost estimate for MMMP came to Rs26,838 crore. The MMMP was an underestimation primarily because the underground section was considered to cost Rs250crore/km instead of Delhi Metro's Rs475 crore/km. Perhaps being less than Rs20,000 crore would have got Cabinet approval easily may have been the strategy.

Mumbai's underground section would have to be in hard basalt rock at the depth of 20 to 25 m as against Delhi's 15 m in hard soil or soft rock. Additional costs due to this do not get reflected in Delhi Metro's underground section cost rate, a point to note.

In end 2005 Line 1 fully elevated Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line was put to tender as a public-private partnership (PPP) project and awarded in 2006 at Rs2,356 crore with a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) of Rs650 crore, giving a rate of Rs205 crore/km. This cost far surpassed the estimate of Rs100 crore/km applied to the MMMP in 2004.

Taking the DMRC cost as the basis for MMMP along with the Line 1 award rate and on pro-rata basis extrapolated cost of the underground section the cost rate came to staggering Rs974 crore/km as compared to the Delhi Metro's Rs475 crore/km. This has been clearly mentioned in the article published in the Economic & Political Weekly issue dated 18 November 2006.

After finding out that the cost of the underground section was very high, MMRDA changed the Line 2 as from Charkop to Mankhurd via Bandra making it fully elevated and Line 3 from Colaba to Bandra fully underground. This enabled MMRDA to proceed with the tendering process for Line 2 on PPP model of Line 1.

Despite the fact that MMRDA were aware, at least through the stated EPW article sent to them, of the costs being much higher, more than Rs60,000 crore, than the costs assumed at the unveiling of the Master Plan, they continued sticking to the Rs19,525 crore cost figure. They revised this only when they had to reveal the estimated costs of Line 2 and Line 3, which along with that of Line 1, came to be more than the Rs19,525 crore meant for all the 9 Lines put together. They attributed this to escalation and not correction. They still stated that it would cost Rs48,000 crore and not more than Rs60,000 crore.

This is being mentioned here primarily to bring on record that having got clearance in principle from the Government of Maharashtra (GoMah) for the entire MMMP at Rs19,525 crore and Detail Project Report (DPR) for Line 1 presented to GoMah and obtained its approval to proceed with tendering and award, it looks like MMRDA did not feel that they should brief up GoMah and the citizens of Mumbai the fresh cost projections subsequent to Line 1 award.

Also, though the DPR was fairly comprehensive, it did not bring to light directly the performance criteria emerging, i.e. the capacity of the line to handle peak period commuter traffic.

With the knowledge of site conditions due to underground utilities, as experienced in the construction of pedestrian grade separation subway at Metro Cinema Junction in the island city (i.e. South Mumbai), even the construction time delays one could anticipate and consequent hardship citizens would have to bear was not a surprise sprung upon all of a sudden. Therefore MMRDA should have informed GoMah as well as citizens on this score as well. Additional effects on costs could take it to Rs1,00,000 crore and if the entire Metro were to be underground, the costs could be more than Rs1,50,000 crore.

The MMRDA strategy seems to be to keep the three points mentioned from being brought before the Cabinet once again and also keep citizens in the dark, this way MMRDA could continue with getting line by line approval for the Metro.

To recall these points:

(i)    Costs enhancements (not escalation) being more than three times of the original estimate presented, touching five times or for full underground more than eight times.
(ii)    Capacity being infused to unburden the load on railway system being significantly inadequate even at present, leave aside when completed say 30 years later and
(iii)    Duration of construction for the entire project being grossly underestimated could be more than 30 years.

There has been strong opposition to Line 2 being elevated. Residents in the Bandra to Juhu area and the commercial establishments have demanded underground Metro while slum residents at Charkop (Laljipada) where the car shed was planned, have taken exception to MMRDA selecting their slum for this and forcing eviction on them while land was available not too distant away from their slum location. Also, the area sought by MMRDA for the car shed was significantly more than what was required for the actual car shed, thus displacing slum dwellers in very large numbers. Hidden agenda can be visualized in terms of developing slum area thus acquired for realty. The status for this is that the Charkop Car Shed has been relocated.

For Line 2, MMRDA has been insisting that the cost of underground line is exorbitant and hence they have no option but to go with elevated Metro while in the island city every line is underground. Double standards are being applied to the island city and suburban Mumbai. The Bandra to Charkop stretch runs on an arterial road having enviable foliage, which also will fall prey to the elevated Metro.

Professor Dhingra of the Transportation Engineering Division at IIT Bombay was engaged to give a comparative impact analysis of the elevated and underground Metro alternatives. His report clearly concludes that given the two alternatives, underground Metro has much greater advantages than the elevated. Also, given the construction delays in Line 1, this arterial road getting delayed will cause untold hardships to the neighbourhood citizens as well as other users of the arterial road.

Fig 1 shows the nine routes proposed along with the proposed period of implementation as envisaged in 2004. Construction having commenced in 2008, just 11.4 km Line 1 out of Phase I's 63.8 km is under construction as of 2012 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. Indications are clear that the full MMMP will take nothing less than 30 years. Going by the speed of construction of Line 1, i.e. about 2.3 km per year, it should take about 64 years! These are of serious concerns, especially considering that the alignments are along the arterial roads which cannot all be blocked simultaneously, as there is great road congestion as it is.

Very recently the Line 3 which had the alignment from Colaba to Bandra was altered from that to Colaba to SEEPZ via Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) and Airport Terminals as shown in Fig 2.

A social and environmental impact assessment study is being undertaken as per JICA guidelines by MMRDA. In this regard the alignment and station locations have been notified by advertisement in media and on the MMRDA website.
Suggestions/objections for the same were invited from concerned stakeholders in writing by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), the SPV formed by the Government of Maharashtra for implementing Metro Rail projects in Mumbai. Notification comprised of what is limitedly mentioned in Fig 2 and Fig 3.

Going through the DPR of the original Line 3, one could say that the capacity of a line would be 18,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) initially and 36,000 pphpd ultimately. MMMP has two routes South to North, one running from Colaba to Dahisar and another to Mulund, giving an ultimate capacity of 72,000 pph. When MMMP is fully completed, the Dahisar-Andheri line will add another 36,000 pph capacity.

Broadly speaking, the load on suburban system in the peak time tidal direction is about 3,60,000 pph. The current design capacity of the railway system is 1,60,000 pph which will get enhanced to 1,80,000 pph when current phase of MUTP gets completed in 2015. Thus from 2015, the deficit in public transport capacity will be to the tune of 1,80,000 pph. However, MMMP will provide only 72,000 pph south of Andheri and additional 36,000 in the north of Andheri only when the entire MMMP gets completed, 30 years later, when the load would have probably increased further.

To finance the nearly a lakh of crore rupees project, FSI enhancement is being considered and given the general income levels and economic conditions, there would be many who will have to avail of new premises brought into the market at extremely high rates of realty, thereby needing further capacities of public transport. It is a vicious circle. The long duration of construction is also going to get more than two generations of citizens subjected to tremendous hardships and as numbers tell, without any respite there after either.

LINE 3 of Mumbai Metro

The notification to public, seeking their suggestions and objections comprised of what is provided in Fig 2 and 3. It provided a month to the public to submit these.

Information provided is inadequate for public to react and there were no reactions to it. But following could be inferred or questioned:

1.    The Line 3 has 27 stations in 33.5 km length, giving an average station spacing of 1.24 km.
2.    A six-coach train will require about 135m of station length
3.    It is presumed that access to station platform will be through staircases, escalators and elevators. Their location on the roads would curtail the road pedestrian movements significantly unless the DPR has shown how it will not.
4.    DPR is not available for comments.
5.    At what depth would stations be and if they are at higher levels, then what is the method of construction envisaged?
6.    It is assumed that Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) will be used to bore the tunnel. Where would the TBM inserted into ground to commence boring and how would the excavated material removed and disposed off?
7.    How would the rakes be stabled? Where would the cars shed be located?
8.    What are the methods of providing ventilation and air-conditioning? Power requirement, how will this be met?
9.    What are the disaster mitigation plans and disaster management plans?
10.    There is a seismic fault line passing through the geological structure of Mumbai. How have they addressed this issue?
11.    Unlike the earlier Line 3 alignment which was going through the erstwhile mill areas of the island city that did not have railway line, the new alignment avoids that completely and runs almost parallel to the Western Railway line till Mumbai Central and Mahalaxmi stations. Intention may have been to bring it closer to Malabar Hill and Cumballa Hill where personal motorcar usage is very high. However it is highly unlikely that personal motorcar users will use the Metro if the stations are not passing very close to their dwellings. The route needs to be reviewed from an overall perspective of reducing personal motorcar usage.
12.    There is no mention of how stations will be fed with commuters or how they will be dispersed. Whether they propose to provide for parking cars and if so, the very purpose of providing public transport through Metro gets defeated if one provides these car parks. Firstly these will be totally inadequate, forcing people to either park on road sides or use cars for full distances.

There are other high cost road projects being considered, but nowhere mention is being made of BRTS which can be implemented in briefest time and meet the requirement of Mumbai's Transportation.

MMRDA is the planning agency of Government of Maharashtra and it is to plan for transportation as a whole. But ever since it was given the responsibility of implementing the big ticket projects of Metro Rail and Monorail, it is ceased to look at planning as such and the low ticket sustainable option of BRTS in particular. This is in total contravention of norms that make a city livable-for those living now and for those living in future.

                                            Fig 1
Original 146.5 Km of Mumbai Metro Master Plan (2004 as modified in 2006)
Phase I:  Line 1 Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar; Line 2 Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd; Line 3 Colaba-Bandra (2005-2011)
Phase II: Line 4 Charkop-Dahisar; Line 5 Ghatkopar-Mulund (2011-2016)
Phase III: Line 6: BKC-Airport-Seepz-Kanjur; Line 7 Dahisar-Andheri; Line 8 CST-Ghatkopar; Line 9 Prabhadevi-Sewri (2016-2022)

                                               FIG 3
Route of Line 3 of Mumbai Metro as per Notification dated 12 December 2011
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra's Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at sudhirbadami@gmail.com)




6 years ago

There may be more to it than meets the eye. Which option provides the most to the contractor, the bureaucracy, the political class...someone has to work out that angle.

Sudhir Badami

6 years ago

One point about Mumbai Metro missed out is number of interchanges where commuters will have to get off from one train and board another. These appear to be at (i) Andheri (E) Railway Station on Line 1 & Line 2 and Railways (ii) Dahisar Line 4 and line 7, (iii) Prabhadevi Line 3 and Line 9, (iv) BKC Line 2 and Line 3, (v) Sewri Line9 and Line 8, (vi) Kurla Line 2 and Line 8, (vii) Kanjur Line 6 and Line 5 (viii) Andheri East Line 7 and Line 1 and (ix) MV Road Line 1 and Line 3.and finally (x) Ghatkopar Line 1, Line 5, Line 8 and Railways.

How MMRDA are going to facilitate interchanges must be ascertained at the ouset and according ly these junctions or interchanges be designed. If, after all the high investments, commuters have to change at several places, it reflects poorly on design.

That is why BRTS will score over the Metro as there will be level interchanges and level boarding and alighting at BRTS bus stops or transport hubs.

Will not close down Kingfisher: Mallya

“With the accounts frozen, the problem started then and there. We didn’t have time to notify anyone. It was only subsequently that we notified the DGCA. We conveyed to DGCA defining the circumstances we were having to suffer,” Kingfisher Airlines’ promoter Vijay Mallya said

New Delhi: Beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines’ promoter Vijay Mallya Monday night said he will not shut down the private carrier which struggled to stay afloat after further large-scale flight disruptions and resignation of pilots, reports PTI.

“Closing down is not an option. It will not happen.

Government does not want it to happen. It is not in national interest,” Mr Mallya said in his first public reaction to the latest crisis that has gripped his cash-strapped airline.

“Why should we give up as long as we get help. Help is not bailout. We have asked banks to consider our proposal to provide more working capital,” he said, making it clear that the airline has never asked for a bailout from the Indian government.

In the context of getting help, the liquor baron referred to the government’s decision to allow direct jet fuel imports by the airlines and permit foreign carriers to pick up stake in them. He had lobbied hard with the government on both these issues.

Mr Mallya claimed that the entire issue of bailout was of “media making”.

Asked about sudden disruption in Kingfisher flights, the UB Group chief said the bank accounts of the airline were frozen “very suddenly” by the Income Tax authorities over non-payment of tax dues.

“The abrupt disruption was unfortunate because our bank accounts were suddenly frozen by tax authorities. I don’t deny we have taxes due. .... The bottomline is we requested for time to pay these dues,” Mr Mallya said.

“It was the very sudden attachment of our accounts that obviously crippled us,” he said.

Kingfisher, which suffered a loss of Rs1,027 crore in 2010-11 and has a debt of Rs7,057.08 crore, posted a Rs444 crore loss in third quarter this fiscal.

Maintaining that Kingfisher’s financial crunch was reflective of the prevailing state of the aviation industry, Mr Mallya said “we have to make payments every day. Payments are to be made for spare parts, to customs, fuel dues, airport dues. So the ability to operate the bank account is critical”.

“Once we are choked, we obviously have problems. I tried to resolve and negotiate with the tax authorities and tried to agree on a payment plan which is comfortable for both. Our accounts should be de-frozen so that we can continue normal operations. We have the money in the accounts and money is flowing in,” Mallya said.

Asked why the airline did not inform aviation regulator DGCA about flight cancellations, he said “if your bank account is frozen suddenly, obviously you don’t have advance notice by which to notify DGCA. It is self-explanatory.

“With the accounts frozen, the problem started then and there. We didn’t have time to notify anyone. It was only subsequently that we notified the DGCA. We conveyed to DGCA defining the circumstances we were having to suffer,” he said.

Almost 40 flights were cancelled by the airline, including those to Bangkok, Singapore, Kathmandu and Dhaka, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at various airports across the country. The cancellations included 14 flights from Mumbai, seven from Kolkata and six from Delhi.



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