The man beneath Namma Metro

2017-06-19 - Phase 1 of the Metro witnessed an interminable delay due to the challenging underground sections. The team from ABB responsible for setting up substations met all their deadlines despite facing grueling challenges at site. Sundareshan S, Chief Project Manager recounts the tale

“We had to lay approximately 60 km of 33kV cable from drums running for 1,000-1,200 meters for interconnection of substations in the underground tunnels, at a depth varying between 45-65 feet. Add to this, improper ventilation, inadequate lighting conditions, mosquito menace and lack of proper communication networks posed a serious challenge. Despite all this, our ABB India team ensured utmost safety at every point. We completed the work without missing a single milestone.”

Sundareshan S is a happy man. ABB India’s Chief Project Manager for the Bangalore metro rail project and his team can finally heave a sigh of relief as they complete one of their most trying, yet exceptional and professionally satisfying infrastructure projects. After tirelessly working for almost 16-20 months to complete the underground stretches, the north-south corridor is all set to be operational on June 17. With the entire 42.3 km Phase 1 complete and open to public this weekend, he recounts some of the challenges in the journey.

“Working in the 4.5 km underground section was a daunting challenge as the substations are located in densely populated and crowded areas of the city. We had to work mainly at night because of traffic restrictions. Movement of heavy equipment during the night and lowering the same to a depth of 45-65 feet during restricted hours was posing many safety challenges and required utmost concentration and skill of our engineers and workforce. The area was very cramped due to parallel working of other designated contractors and civil work fronts were offered last minute. Imagine using 100ft boom cranes to haul six transformers of five to eight tons each and 20-30 cable drums weighing five tons each through three layers of concrete and constrained openings without adequate illumination! Coordinated planning and smart logistics management helped us immensely,” the 61-year old shares.

A particular memory that stands out is when we were working on substation installation at the metro station outside the Vidhana Soudha – the political power center. Due to security reasons and political pressure, the team had to lower the equipment within a limited time period and close the cutouts quickly to enable road access.

Cabling proved to be a grueling task for the team. Sundareshan explains, “The underground section of the north-south corridor is 15-20 feet deeper than the east-west section and has many more bends in tunnel portions. The cable length runs to more than a kilometer between two stations. Hence, cabling got very challenging particularly in the platform area where clearances are not even enough for a worker to sit straight.”

In the absence of regular mobile signals at such depths in the tunnels, the team was at the mercy of walkie talkies with a communication range of just up to 100 meters at such a crucial stage of the project. “With the cable at one station and the winch at the next one – both one kilometer apart, one person was stationed near the cable drum, another near the winch and two or three people midway. It is key to have clear communication between all of them to ensure the cable doesn’t suffer any damage. The walkie talkies were not 100 percent effective as we suffered communication breaks several times. Despite this, we managed to complete the job on time and without incident,” he recalls.

With just a few days to go for the inauguration, he is happy to be above ground and eager to travel on the soon-to-be operational line. “Every time I take a ride with my family, I will look back at what we achieved despite the odds and proudly share with them how I as an ABB employee could contribute to such a landmark project that will take this city to the next level,” he smiles.

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