Urban Railways

India-China Standoff likely to hamper Bengaluru Metro Work

The ongoing standoff between India and China is likely to hit Namma Metro work and the city’s move to shift to electric mobility. In February, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) had awarded a contract to China’s CRRC Corporation Ltd to provide 216 coaches for Phase 2.

However, CRRC’s subsidiary, CRRC Nanjing Puzhen Co Ltd, which received the contract, had committed to manufacture 204 out of 216 coaches at its plant in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh. In the wake of tensions at the border, there is a growing demand to boycott the Chinese companies.

A BMRCL official said, “The contract was signed in February. There is no rethinking as of now. It’s not Bengaluru Metro alone. In fact, Chinese rolling stock manufacturers either supplied or received orders for Metro projects in Mumbai, Kolkata, Gurugram, Nagpur, Navi Mumbai and Noida.”

The firm is expected to start supply from September 2021. Asked why Bengaluru-based Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) didn’t get the contract, he said: “Four firms including CRRC, Alstom, Bombardier and BEML participated in the tender. BEML is a competitor which quoted one of the highest rates despite having the location advantage. I hope the border issue will be sorted out soon.”

Hurdles for tunnelling work

The tunnelling work between Vellara Junction and Pottery Town, a 5.5-km stretch, is also likely to be affected. Larsen & Toubro, the contractor for the Vellara Junction-Pottery Town Metro, had ordered four tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) from China Railway Construction Heavy Industry (CRCHI).

Though TBMs have reached the city, Chinese personnel required for the task to run the machines are yet to reach the city because of travel restrictions. “Looks like UG tunnelling jinx continues for Bengaluru. It was wrong TBM last time. Is it the wrong contractor (Chinese) this time?” wrote Srinidhi Sampath, a Metro enthusiast.

Last year, Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) along with BMRCL signed a project funding agreement for a $335-million loan for Phase 2. However, BMRCL officials maintained that funding will not be affected since AIIB is a multilateral development organisation.