India, People Spotlight, Transportation

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a regional director from our Transportation business line in India and providing you insight into their inspiration and work.

With more than 25 years of global experience and a strong background in civil and structural engineering, Vipul Surana has shown his proficiency in strategy, leadership, project management and commercial acumen. He is currently the regional director for the Western Region and responsible for the successful delivery of key projects in India such as Mumbai Metro Line 3, Mumbai Coastal Road Project, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and Ahmedabad, Pune and Nagpur Metro.

Among his international signature projects are the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Incheon Sea Crossing, Docklands Light Rail Extension, Penang Widening and Fountain View. He is a Fellow at the Institution of Civil Engineers and a Member of International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers.

What inspired you to join the industry? My father was a bridge engineer and commonwealth scholar. He was a professor at Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. I grew up watching him prepare and deliver lectures on bridges, which I’ve always found fascinating. Having said that, choosing teaching as a profession with such high standards in the family would have been naïve. The other smart option was to join the industry and build bridges, which I thought would give me the satisfaction of changing or impacting lives.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why? My favorite project to date is the Mumbai Coastal Road Project, which I have led since joining AECOM more than three years ago. The project has all that a civil engineer can dream to have in one project: TBM, bridges, roads, reclamation, sea walls, cross passages, interchanges with eight arms at three levels, promenade and many more.   

With AECOM as general consultant, leading a US$1.65 billion mega signature job like this is a feather in my cap and I take a lot of pride in contributing to improve the life of every resident of the commercial capital of India. 

The project has some key unique features such as the use of traditional group pile method for the viaducts. Through this method, the deck will be supported by the pier which will transfer load to a pile cap and then into a group of piles, which will serve as the foundation system.

The open sea conditions and the intertidal zones made shifting of the jack-up barges for pile locations a challenge. To overcome this, we used monopiles, a proven technology in wind turbine construction and used in developed countries. This allowed for faster and noise-free work, and less damage to the seabed.

The project also used the largest tunnel boring machine (TBM) in the country, which measures 12.3 meters in diameter. AECOM recommended the Saccardo ventilation system for the tunnel, which is being used for the first time in India.

In addition, the project will include the creation of 110 hectares of green open space that’s critical in enhancing the environmental conditions of the city.

It will also include an intermodal hub with interchanges at Amarsons Garden, Haji Ali and Worli, which will connect the coastal road to the mainland. It will relieve traffic on existing road networks to a great extent; help improve connectivity between the southern and northern parts of Mumbai; and provide better accessibility to historical and heritage structures in South Mumbai.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community. With the Mumbai Coastal Road Project, our aim is to reduce commute time and provide a green space for the community. The first phase of the project is a 9.98-kilometer section from Princess Street Flyover at Marine Lines to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. It will cut travel time between Nariman point and Bandra from 1 hour to 10 minutes, and save about 35 percent of fuel per day.

The project includes the reclamation of 110 hectares of land and a green belt, which is much needed in Mumbai. It will also include a promenade with recreational facilities to help improve the quality of life and health of citizens.

Extending 6 meters to 20 meters in width at some point, the promenade will feature amenities for the public such as benches, small eateries, kiosks, public toilets, art and sculpture, amphitheaters, children’s play area and an outdoor gym. AECOM proposed to leave the 6 meters of land oceanward free of any built structures to allow unobstructed public movement and active use for walking, jogging and bicycling.

We also proposed a biodiversity park that will have certain themes unique to that area such as a viewing tower, butterfly park, bamboo garden, healing garden, flowering garden, boardwalks and paved plazas. The park/s will include amenities for sports such as basketball, tennis, badminton and skateboarding, as well as space for outdoor markets and small concerts.

The concept is expected to have a big impact on the community, and I am proud to have these ideas approved and implemented on the project.

Share a piece of career advice. My piece of advice to all the young engineers is to have flexibility and willingness to travel and not get stuck in one location, as it allows growth not only by increasing technical knowledge, but also by working with people from different cultures. Diversity and inclusion are paramount to success and we need to respect everyone all the time.

As Mahatma Gandhi said “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”

I also encourage all engineers to contribute to delivering a major project in whatever capacity possible. To quote the Institution of Civil Engineers, “Civil Engineering is everything you see that’s been built around us.” Background, gender and age are no bar.

Originally published Dec 2, 2021

Author: Vipul Surana