Thales, the $16 billion French defence and civilian technologies major, has offered India the same safety, communication and navigation system that is helping Dubai run the world's longest unmanned metro network.
With Delhi Metro set to start the next phase of its expansion, Thales has pitched for what is called the communication-based train control system that Dubai uses for its fully-automated, driverless metro network of 77.6 km.
"Automation is certainly a guarantee for safety and punctuality. We saw this as the best option and it has proved to be the right choice," said Adnan Al Hammadi, chief executive of Rail Agency, a part of Dubai's Road Transport Authority that runs the metro here.
"As a result, the time between trains is just under four minutes. Also, our punctuality is above 99 percent," Al Hammadi told a group of visiting Indian journalists while making a presentation on Dubai Metro.
Officials at Delhi Metro Rail Corp, the state-run company that runs the service in the Indian capital, have indicated that they will opt for a communication-based train control system in the next expansion phase.
Delhi Metro (File photo)
This has been indicated during the pre-qualification exercises conducted with potential vendors, ahead of the tendering process. But driverless or not is a matter of detail on which a decision can be taken later, they said.
In Dubai, apart from supplying and installing rail signalling, communications and security systems for the metro to optimise safety and efficiency of operation, Thales also helps in fare collection, with a mix of both manual processes and automation.
"Thales is a world leader in communication-based train control and integrated supervision and communications systems -- crucial for safety, security and efficiency of any metro project," said Eric Lenseigne, country director for Thales India.
"All this ensures a variety of things -- higher capacity on the metro rail network, better train speeds, safe movement, traffic optimisation, reliability and better tariff realisation," Lenseigne added.
According to him, Thales will also compete for upcoming metro projects such as those in Hyderabad and Mumbai. India plans to have a metro network in every city with a population of over one million.
As per government estimates, an investment of an estimated Rs 200,000 crore ($36 billion) is expected to be made in various metro projects across the country over the next decade.
As for the Dubai Metro, which Thales is showcasing as their piece de resistance, the network is spread over 77.6 km in two lines, with 49 stations and 87 trains with five cars each.
In the Indian capital, the French group has installed its public address and display systems at 74 stations, apart from providing its ticketing solutions. It also has the contract for ticketing system at Gurgaon.
It has also won a similar contract in Mumbai along the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro corridor for its communications and passenger information system, and for a supervision system in the Bengaluru Metro.
With over six decades of operations in India, covering both military and civilian space, Thales also has two joint venture agreements with Rolta and Samtel. Besides, it also has a technology company in Chennai to develop software for its global customers.