About 10 years ago, travelling in Delhi would mean hanging out of old rickety DTC and blueline buses or depending on pricey autorickshaws. But that was till December 2002 when the Metro changed the way Delhi commuted. The 8.5-km-long line from Shahdara to Tis Hazari gave Delhiites a glimpse into the future.
Today, Delhi Metro’s seven corridors are spread across 190 km and were built in two phases within nine years. The network has connected two major railway stations, the biggest bus terminal and three satellite towns. And it does not stop at that. By 2021, another 136km will be added and connectivity to satellite towns will go deeper and better.
“We have a vision of bringing the Metro within a 500m radius of every home in Delhi by 2021. The commuters should be able to walk down to the nearest Metro station like they do in Tokyo, London and Shanghai,” says Anuj Dayal, spokesperson, DMRC. This was the dream of former DMRC MD E Sreedharan, which is now shared by every employee, says a Metro official.
While the construction of three new lines covering 120km has already begun in phase 3, the DMRC has proposed to build another 116km in phase 4, which is likely to be completed by 2021.
With phase 3, Delhi Metro — currently the world’s 10th-largest network — would become the seventh-largest system. And if other Metros in world did not expand, Delhi Metro would be the second-largest — next only to Shanghai Metro — by 2021.
“In Phase 3, we will connect domestic airport with the satellite towns, all four major universities in Delhi and NCR, bus terminals and almost all tourist spots,” says Dayal.
And the expansion has already begun reaping good results. The travel time has come down to almost half; DMRC officials claim there are 1.5 lakh less vehicles on roads every day. A recent study by the Central Road Research Institute shows the expansion has led to a saving of R5,000 crore in terms of fuel consumption, manhours and pollution.
Connectivity, snags major problems
Despite an increasing network, the DMRC still has two big areas it needs to improve upon. One of them is technical snags that result in delays and overcrowding of trains. “Every few days, there is some snag or the other. Now it seems even Metro officials do not bother much as no announcements are made in the train about the delays,” says Preeti Thakur, a tour consultant.
Officials admit that technical glitches do raise eyebrows about the system’s efficiency. “A total of 3,000 employees are working hard to improve efficiency. Things have improved and with better maintenance and technology, we hope they will further improve,” says DMRC spokesperson Anuj Dayal.
Last-mile connectivity is the second major issue. Commuters feel Metro should improve its feeder bus service. DMRC has once again called tenders to procure 300 AC buses for 82 routes. At present, the agency runs 120 buses on 16 routes for about 40,000 commuters.
Right now, many commuters rely on cycle and auto-rickshaws. “It is not safe to travel by rickshaw at night. But rickshaw is the only available means,” says Sneha Sharma, an MNC professional.
Delhi Metro has now taken up the matter of ensuring safety of all its commuters after they deboard the trains. “We are emphasising on safer footpaths and on streets that lead to stations. The matter is being discussed with UTTIPEC,” says a senior DMRC officer.