Travel in Gurugram a challenge despite rail grids
Though meant for travel within Gurugram, the Regional Rapid Transit System may cater to passenger segment untouched by DMRC, Rapid Metro, Indian Railways networks.gurgaon Updated: Feb 11, 2019 14:34 IST
With the upcoming Delhi-Alwar route of the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS), which will pass through the city, Gurugram stands to become the first metropolis in India to have four independent modes of rail connectivity. These include the Indian Railways, the Delhi Metro, the Rapid Metro and the Sarai Kale Khan-Shahjanapur-Neemrana-Behrod (SKK-SNB) RRTS corridor, which will connect Delhi and Alwar (via Gurugram and Rewari) and is slated to become operational by 2025.
However, the RRTS corridor is geared primarily for inter-city transport between Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan, and the three existing networks have not been able to address residents’ intra-city travel needs. The Delhi Metro’s expansion across Gurugram, too, has been delayed and there is no hope in sight for residents travelling within the confines of suburban Gurugram. With this, residents are forced to rely on private vehicles or intermediate public transport, such as autos and taxis.
Each of the existing modes of rail connectivity has been unable to cater to this section of commuters for varying reasons, experts explained.
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation
Like the Rapid Metro, the DMRC, too only covers a small section of the city (from Sikandepur to Huda City Centre, about 7kms) and was developed to cater to Gurugram’s growing business hubs. However, in recent years there has been a major push for the Delhi Metro’s expansion to the older parts of Gurugram.
According to Sewa Ram, head of transport planning at the School of Architecture and Planning, Delhi, there is a definite need for Metro connectivity in areas beyond Huda City Centre. Ram is currently overseeing a comprehensive mobility plan of Gurugram in which possible expansion routes will be assessed. “That is what will really solve the problem of intra-city rail transport, as was the case in Delhi,” he said. The DMRC’s Yellow Line makes it extremely easy to get to Gurugram, Ram explained, but once a passenger has alighted from the Metro, further commute becomes a problem.
Experts say this predicament has perpetuated the use of private vehicles and intermediate public transport, such as autos and cabs, with problematic repercussions for residents. Ram, who is also a traffic specialist on one of the RRTS’s experts committees, said, “The absence of mass transit beyond Huda City Centre gives impetus for people, especially Gurugram residents who live and work there, to purchase cars and bikes. This, in turn, is leading to traffic and pollution.” To solve this issue, the GMCBL last year launched its Gurugaman bus service, but ridership on the service has been slow to pick up.
The Rapid Metro, which opened in 2011 and is set to be transferred to the DMRC this month, is currently the only dedicated intra-city Metro service in Gurugram. However, it covers a very small part of the city—from Ghata village to Sikanderpur—just under 12kms. The project has received much criticism from urban planners and transport experts for its inability to service the larger population and to become financially viable, as was originally promised.
Official ridership figures on both phases of the Rapid Metro currently stand at a total of about 50,000 people per day, with accessibility to and from the Rapid Metro being a major deterrent to passengers. Original projections had stated that the Metro would service at least 1,00,000 daily commuters. The failure to meet these targets has put strain on the parent company, IL&FS, thus forcing the DMRC to step in and take over.
“This Metro failing because of the manner in which the city is designed, to cater to gated enclaves and private vehicles. The way housing complexes are built, the way roads are planned around these complexes, it all makes getting to the Rapid Metro quite troublesome,” city-based transportation expert Sarika Panda Bhatt explained. Moreover, there is ample road space for private vehicles to ply along this Metro corridor, which undermines its purpose.
Bhatt also highlighted the stark lack of intermediate public transport around the Rapid Metro stations, which can further discourage people from using the service. “In comparison, the DMRC has more ridership, therefore, there is more incentive for autos to ply near those stations,” she said.
The Indian Railways’ network, which connects with the city at Gurugram and Basai Dhankot railway stations, was historically developed as part of the Northern Railway Zone. Its origins go back to the early 1900s when Farrukhnagar Railway Station (about 16kms from Gurugram) was opened to connect with the Rajputana-Malwa Railway between Alwar and Delhi.
“This route was developed for regional connectivity between Rajasthan and the National Capital region, and then later evolved to offer intra-district connectivity. That is its basic function even today and it does not serve much intra-city use,” said SK Lohia, presently a director in the Ministry of Railways. Lohia also played a role in conceiving of the RRTS project as a secretary in the Ministry of Urban Development.
Presently, there are about 23 passenger trains that stop at Gurugram railway station every day, at a frequency of one every hour. They offer routes to neighbouring areas along the city’s fringes (Basai, Garhi Harsuru and Patli), to farther off destinations within the district (Farrukhnagar and Pataudi), and to other districts. Overcrowding on these trains has become a major problem in recent years, with railway police attributing to it about 60% of total railway fatalities in Gurugram last year.
The Delhi-Alwar corridor is expected to launch in 2025 with an estimated daily ridership of 82.5 lakh people, according to the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC). A sum of ₹1,000 crore was also allotted to the project in the recent interim budget, with more expected in the Union Budget post the Lok Sabha elections. Geo-technical investigations for the Delhi-Alwar line, tenders for which were floated in December, have also begun in Gurugram with help from the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA).
According to multiple experts and officials, the RRTS will not, and should not be expected to, solve any of the current intra-city mobility problems for Gurugram. “Having four independent modes of rail transport might seem like a marker of development, which it is, but taking a purely local perspective, it will not help residents in Gurugram all that much,” Bhatt said.
However, positive outcomes from the RRTS launch can be expected locally. “For one, the three RRTS stations at Udyog Vihar, Sector 17 and Rajiv Chowk will create new multi-modal transit hubs in the city, and open up new road networks,” Sewa Ram said. This prediction was echoed by NCRTC spokesperson Sudhir Sharma.
Sharma said that the RRTS corridor would cause distance-wise “segmentation” of passengers as a lot of people who travel by roads from border areas of Rajasthan for work here would be able to take the RRTS and thus, it will help in getting a substantial number of vehicles off the roads. This, in turn, can help decongest Gurugram’s roads. “It will also complement the existing Indian Railways infrastructure, which is overburdened,” he added.
Meanwhile, a GMDA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the DMRC’s expansion plans will be tabled soon. “A detailed project report was to be submitted to the Haryana government in August last year, but has been delayed because of administrative reasons,” the official said.
The proposed Metro route is yet to be finalized, but will likely begin at Huda City Centre before traversing the city through Subash Chowk, Hero Honda Chowk, Gurugram station and then terminating at Rezang La Chowk in Sector 23. “However, we have also discussed a plan to expand the Rapid Metro itself, but more details about that will be available only after the DMRC takes over,” the official said.
First Published: Feb 11, 2019 14:34 IST