A View of Khari Baoli Fatehpuri, Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi.(FILE PHOTO)
A View of Khari Baoli Fatehpuri, Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi.(FILE PHOTO)

Trackless trams proposed in Old Delhi

The government had been toying with proposals to introduce conventional trams and electric trams in the Walled City for over five years but withdrew them both for being ‘infrastructure-intensive’.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Sweta Goswami
UPDATED ON DEC 31, 2019 05:54 PM IST

New Delhi: The Delhi government is planning to introduce ‘trackless trams’ in the heritage Chandni Chowk area, according to an official proposal seen by HT. The proposal is likely to be considered on Tuesday in the board meeting of the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) — the nodal agency executing the ongoing Chandni Chowk revamp project.

The government had been toying with proposals to introduce conventional trams and electric trams in the Walled City for over five years but withdrew them both for being ‘infrastructure-intensive’.

According to the detailed project report, which has been seen by HT, the trackless tram service will be operated in a loop for which two routes have been identified. “The trackless tram may be parked at the Ambedkar DTC bus depot. The route can be designed in a manner that it connects all parking lots, markets, tourist places, bus stops, railway and metro stations, etc. to discourage use of private vehicles and encourage pedestrians in the special area to complement traffic restrictions as per the integrated traffic management plan proposed by the Delhi traffic police,” reads the proposal.

Both the proposed tram routes, one 7kms long and the other of about 5kms, will begin from and end at Rajghat and will pass through Jama Masjid, Chawiri Bazar, Red Fort, Old Delhi Railway station and so on, as per the proposal.

A member of the SRDC’s board of directors confirmed the project. He said the trackless tram is a more viable option over conventional trams or e-trams because it can be installed “virtually overnight”. Besides, it is also cheaper by at least Rs 75 crore compared to a track-tram and by about Rs 35 crore from a light rail transit (LRT) service.

“Once approved on December 31, It will be a new year’s gift to Delhiites. A trackless tram falls somewhere in between the light rail transit model and a bus. They have rubber wheels intended to run on asphalt or concrete. It also has the hydraulic system like the high speed trains which ensures a significantly better ride than traditional buses,” said the member on condition of anonymity.

“The best thing about trackless trams is that it does not require digging to build on-road tracks or installing the overhead catenary which are otherwise required even in e-trams,” the member added.

The detailed project report states that the trackless trams will have half the weight of a diesel bus and hence will have almost no impact on the surface of the roads compared to the damage caused by trucks and buses. It will have zero emission since it will be purely electric, powered by lithium-ion batteries which will be placed on the roof of the coaches. They can be rapidly charged in 30 seconds and the charging stations can be interpretable in nature, allowing other electric vehicles in the locality to use the facility.

In June 2014, the Lieutenant Governor and the Delhi government together had planned to run the traditional trams on the Chandni Chowk road. Later, in December 2018, SRDC chairperson Satyendar Jain, who is also the state urban development minister, had announced that the Public Works Department (PWD) was working on a plan to introduce electric trams in the Shahjahanabad area. Both plans failed as track-laying and installing overhead wires were found to be difficult in the congested areas of the Walled City, a senior government official said.

Earlier this year, the government had again talked about introducing e-buses and e-rickshaws in the area to address last mile connectivity.

Experts welcomed the idea saying ‘trackless trams’ will be a tailor-made solution for the busy Walled City area. “If the speed is convenient and is reliable in terms of punctuality, then it is a fantastic idea since these trams will be porting commuters at a mass level. Commuting will be easier with this system because the area sees a lot people with luggage since it has several markets,” said Subhash Chand, head of traffic engineering and safety division, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).

He said it will also help take considerable load off the e-rickshaws that currently are unregulated in the area adding to pedestrian and traffic bottlenecks.

“Trackless trams have roof-mounted cameras which detect a ‘virtual rail’ for the driver and the passengers too. An on-board computer combines the image with the speed, way and wheel angle to determine the path to be followed. They are also equipped with self-steering optical guidance system which allows man-less operation too,” Chand said.

The trackless trams, which the SRDC is proposing have been operational in Chinese cities such Zhuzhou, Yongxiu and Yibin. Australia’s Adelaide also has a similar transit system in place.

Work on the Chandni Chowk redevelopment project, which started on December 1, 2018, is scheduled to be over by March next year. The trackless trams are expected to be introduced only after the project is completed to avoid congestion of the area.

As per the Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan, the1.5-km stretch between Red Fort and Fatehpuri will have pavements to create 6-13 metre-wide pedestrian zones along the shops on either side of the road. It will also have street furniture, toilets, water ATMs, kiosks, etc on the central verge. A dedicated lane for non-motorised vehicles will also be made.

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