After T3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, it is now time for the Capital's main railhead, the New Delhi Railway Station, to make way for the 21st Century and give itself the much-needed upgrade—just in time for the Commonwealth Games.
By mid-September, therefore, the station as we have known it for the last so many years, will cease to exist.
At the Paharganj side, the main entrance of the station, the railways have embarked upon one of biggest interventional upgrade works in the history of the station. The old will fast make way for the new.
The first to go, as part of the makeover, will be the huge clutter that is so much a part of big railway stations like New Delhi.
The hundreds of squatters on the platforms—in the main building, the parking area; the confusing traffic movement within the station compound, and the clumsy passengers queues at ticket counters near the entrance—will vanish.
This is because a giant waiting hall, five times the size of the existing one, is being constructed in place of the huge parcel office on Platform 1.
Cars and other vehicles will no longer remain deadlocked inside the circulating area anymore as they will be segregated in four dedicated lanes taking them to the parking lots, taxi booths and the exit.
A slick-looking porch will grace the new face of the building and an additional exit at the far end of the station will ease traffic bottlenecks outside.
"It's not that we are spending a lot of money on this," said Ashwani Lohani, Divisional Railway Manager (Delhi), Northern Railway. "We are just re-organising what we already had in a way that adds value to the station in both looks and utility."
The total expenditure is around Rs 15 crore—paltry by railways' standards.
Managing traffic and crowds on the Paharganj side has always been a problem area for the railways.
The notorious traffic bottleneck on Qutab Road right outside the entrance, the overwhelming number of vehicles circulating inside the compound, and the sea of people crowding the building, have always made this side an organizational nightmare for officials and has put off passengers from coming to this side of the station.
"Outsiders form their first impression of Delhi from what they experience at the station. We want to alter that impression, especially ahead of the Games," he said.
Bigger waiting area
With eatery outlets and real-time audiovisual information on train movements available inside the waiting hall, people need not wait at platforms and on foot-overbridges to know about their trains.
This is expected to keep a majority of the waiting crowd in one place.
The row of unreserved ticketing counters at the building entrance will now come inside this waiting hall. The parcel office, which used to occupy this space, has been shifted to the Ajmeri gate side.
Four lanes will divide the traffic inside the circulating area. One will be for "through" vehicles (drop and pick only), one for taxis and autos while another will be for cars/two-wheelers that are headed to the parking lot.
New look station
Stainless steel will be the mainstay of the new look railway station with furniture, pillars and staircases sporting the shiny and cleaner appearance. And a new foot-over bridge will connect the platforms with the Paharganj side.
The million-dollar question
Keeping the Commonwealth Games in mind, all the work for the upgrade has already been awarded to the contractors and the tentative deadline given to them is August end.
"We have kept a buffer of around 10 days to formally open up the new facilities," Lohani added.