After three missed deadlines, the Delhi Metro's first public-private partnership project - the airport express line - will finally be ready in fifteen days, officials said on Saturday.
The 23-km airport express line (AEL) will have trains travelling at a speed of 105 km per hour which will take less than 20 minutes to reach Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport from New Delhi Railway Station and another three minutes from the airport to Dwarka Sector 21.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) will provide security to the metro rail- link.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit took a ride on the Metro stretch on Saturday.
"The airport express line is the first Metro line in the country which comes right up to the airport. The line has been beautifully done and the formal opening will be done in a month's time," she told reporters after riding on the city centre-airport link.
Expressing satisfaction over the airport line, Delhi Metro Managing Director Sreedharan said: "It is a beautiful and world class Metro line. The trial runs will start within a week."
He also said the passenger operations will commence soon after the security personnel move in.
"We expect the security personnel to move here in a week's time. The formal launch of the line will happen later," he said.
A Delhi Airport Metro Express Private Limited (DAMEPL) source said the line is likely to be operational anytime between Feb 15 and 20.
Built at a cost of about Rs5,700 crore, the line has six stations -- New Delhi Railway Station, Shivaji Stadium, Dhaula Kuan, Delhi Aero City, Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport and Dwarka Sec-21.
As per the agreement between the Delhi Metro and Reliance Infrastructure, the former is responsible for the civil work and Reliance Infrastructure will operate the line for 30 years and share the revenues, apart from giving a licence fee.
The ride on the AEL will be different from the existing Metro routes as the stations look like mini versions of airport terminals. The seating arrangements are different as well.
"As of now, the train is plying at 105 km per hour. The usual seating arrangement might make the commuters dizzy, so the seats will be arranged like in buses," a DAMEPL official said.
The Delhi Metro is in the process of obtaining an approval from the railway ministry-run Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) for increasing the speed to 120 km per hour.
Each coach has LCD screens showing flight information for the convenience of travellers, while half the compartment of every six-coach train is reserved for luggage.
Initially, the link will have six trains (all six-coaches), which might be increased later. The line will be operational from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"As the line will have more air travellers, certain airlines are likely to set up airline and baggage check-in counters at some stations on this corridor," a Delhi Metro official said.
The AEL link has missed three deadlines -- Oct 3 (Commonwealth Games), Oct 31 and Dec 31 -- set by the Delhi Metro and the union urban development ministry.
Dikshit also spoke about Delhi Metro's third phase of expansion.
"The road map of the third phase has been prepared. The group of ministers and E. Sreedharan are discussing it. The work will start soon.
"There are no problems of funds for the third phase. It will be successfully completed and after that, Delhi will also work on the fourth phase," she said.