Home India News ‘Delhi Metro needs to address problems before expansion’

‘Delhi Metro needs to address problems before expansion’

By Shweta Srinivasan, IANS,

New Delhi : The Delhi Metro, which is rapidly becoming the lifeline of the capital, is set to expand from 75 km to 200 km by opening six new lines by 2010. But commuters and experts say the rail network needs to first address its present problems before covering larger areas of this sprawling city of 17 million people.

With two major structural accidents at construction sites, two train derailments and smaller mishaps that have together claimed eight lives and injured at least 45 people, commuters say they have been forced to rethink the Metro’s “safe and reliable” claim.

Anita Mamtani, who works at the Income Tax Office in east Delhi, has regularly used the Metro since its inception in 2002. But she says there have been frequent interruptions in services recently.

“The Metro has become very overcrowded in recent times. The derailment accidents have made me wary. One doesn’t feel 100 percent sure. Often there are long stoppages on my line (Dwarka-Yamuna Bank Line 3),” she complained.

Another regular commuter, Rajiv Sharma, a college student, says he is very proud of the Metro but seeks better frequency on Line 2 that connects north Delhi’s university area to central Delhi.

“Earlier the frequency was better. Now not only do the trains come late, they are jampacked most of the time,” Sharma said.

Though Delhi Metro managing director E. Sreedharan has ruled out the possibility of delays and stoppages, he has admitted to the problem of overcrowded trains.

As part of phase II, six new lines are to be added by September 2010.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corp (DMRC) has about 70 trains now. This is likely to increase to 201 by 2011. There are also plans to introduce longer six-coach trains compared to the present four-coach ones.

With the completion of phase II, the Metro ridership is expected to go up to 2.5 million daily from the 950,000 average now.

To cater to the growing load, the number of trains is being increased 3.2 times. “This itself will straightaway reduce the load by 20 percent,” Sreedharan has assured.

But experts feel this alone won’t suffice.

V.K. Aggarwal, a former chairman of the Railway Board, told IANS: “Accidents cannot be avoided. However, one cannot overlook that there must be least disturbance to the travelling public. The issue here is that the DMRC had set its own standards of excellence and although it is still a relatively safe system, there has been a downfall.”

Aggarwal added that with the network still small, operations needed to be back on track of excellence. “When the system becomes big and the number of trains increase, maintaining safety and operations is bound to become a challenge.”

The Delhi Metro operates three popular lines connecting the northern, central, eastern and southwestern parts of Delhi. With the opening of six new lines in a phased manner by September 2010, the entire National Capital Region (NCR), including neighbouring Noida and Gurgaon, will be linked in the 120 km network.

O.P. Agarwal, chairman of the Urban Mass Transit Company Ltd. under the ministry of urban development, told IANS that the Metro was ignoring another key issue – well integrated feeder systems.

Around 200 feeder buses ferry people to and from metro stations on 18 routes. However, with scores of people trying to access the Metro network, the feeder buses, often carrying more than the prescribed limit of 30, are inadequate.

“I feel that this (increasing ridership) will be difficult to achieve unless the DMRC has well integrated feeder systems. In a sprawling city like Delhi, the Metro cannot provide adequate coverage unless it has good feeder systems. A 20 percent reduction in congestion may not be easy to attain,” he said.

Keeping in mind the Commonwealth Games in October 2010 and thousands of foreigners expected at the time, the DMRC plans to train 600 customer relations assistants as an interface to make travel “easier”. But experts maintain that winning back trust on the home turf is more important.

(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at [email protected])