Every day, for 16 hours a day, the 240 cars of the Delhi Metro roll quietly beneath the urban sprawl of India's capital. The trains are new. They arrive on time. The stations are clean. And the system is profitable, thanks in large part to the fact that the electricity that powers the system is government-subsidized. A well-run subway is a marvel even in a first-world city. In India, where public works are often models of dysfunction, it's nothing short of a miracle. The initial phase of the $2.3 billion project wrapped up in December, 2005, on budget and nearly three years ahead of schedule.
That's why, when you talk to anyone trying to build a road or a bridge or power plant in India, the Delhi Metro comes up in conversation. "When I arrived on the project, there wasn't a lot of optimism about India," says John Triplett, head of India operations for Parsons Brinkerhoff, the U.S. firm that was program manager for the metro. "Now projects are succeeding and there's a lot more optimism. India can do it." Behind the success of the Delhi Metro stands a 50-year veteran of the railways, Elattuvalapil Sreedharan.