When Delhi Metro Rail Corporation took over the Airport Express Line in 2013, it was running off track. It remained shut for six months, carried only 9,000 passengers every day and chugged at a speed of 50 kmph instead of the promised 80 kmph.
Three years on, the line has bounced back to life. Last week, it recorded its highest ridership ever when a little over 50,000 people travelled on it in a single day. The highest ridership on this line was 12,000 in March 2014, which increased to 19,466 in 2015.
DMRC said the monthly average ridership on this section has also more than doubled from 17,535 in April, 2015 to 37,772 in July, 2016. VIPs, including union minister M Venkaiah Naidu, travel on this line often, tweeting pictures once in a while.
To attract passengers, DMRC revised the fare twice and made several passenger friendly changes to ensure that more people use this line. The maximum fare has been reduced to R 60 from R 180. The minimum is now R 10 against R 50 in 2013.
“Various steps such as extension of timings to suit the passengers of Shatabdi Express trains, improvement of frequency from 15 minutes to 10 minutes 30 seconds, improvement of speed from 70 kmph to 80 kmph, seamless interchange between the Indian Railways station at New Delhi and Metro stations resulted in increase in ridership to 14,200 a day from 9,000 when we took over,” said a DMRC spokesperson.
Following this, metro smart cards were made valid for travel on the airport line from May 1, 2015 and because of this, on 11th May, 2015, the ridership was 26,580. Second fare reduction was introduced from 18th September, 2015 and on 5th November, 35,405 people used the line.
On August 12, the ridership reached to 50,077. “The increased footfall has resulted in increase in revenue both from fare and non fare. As more passengers are coming in, the land which were lying vacant are now attracting bidders. At Shivaji stadium, most of the space is out for rent,” said a DMRC official.
To increase the number of airport-bound passengers, the DMRC had also written a letter to the aviation ministry asking them to either shift the low cost airlines from terminal 1D to Terminal 3 or provide connectivity to transport check-in baggage from aerocity metro station to Terminal 1D.
Over 30,000 passengers use the domestic terminal everyday for arrival and departure, but since Air India provides city check-in facility at New Delhi railway station, only 50 passengers avail of this facility.
Service was suspended from 7 July 2012 to 22 January 2013 due to technical problems.
After reopening, the speed was cut to only 50 km/hr, extending journey time from the airport to New Delhi Station to over 40 minutes.
On 27 June 2013 the private concessionaire intimated DMRC that they are unable to operate the line beyond 30 June 2013.
Following this DMRC took over operations of Airport Express line from 1 July 2013 with an Operations and Maintenance team of 100 officials to handle the line.
DMRC reinstated 80 km/hr speeds on the line in mid 2014.