Metro Cannot Substitute Commuter Rail: Indiscriminate extension of Delhi Metro to Satellite Cities is a bad idea!

Dear Section Editor,

Thank you for soliciting comments of viewers.

Part – I of your special story talks about the current and prospective network of the Delhi Metro. It is impressive by all means. Yet there are many problems with the metro currently such as feeder transport for last mile connectivity being just one of them that gets the most attention, perhaps rightly deserved. I will talk about a related yet highly under reported issue – the lack of vision in developing a regional commuter rail network.

Metro is great for the city, however, one problematic aspect of metro’s expansion is the rampant increase in the length of existing lines – for instance the extension of the CS – Badarpur line to Faridabad (recently reported by your newspaper to be the longest line of Delhi) or the further extension of the Gurgaon line to Manesar. These are fairly nonviable because the time taken to travel mitigates the benefit for most commuters. For instance, consider the present Dwarka – CP line, it takes 1 hr to reach CP and perhaps 2 hrs to reach Noida. If that line was to go Greater Noida also that would mean perhaps 2.5 hrs to go from somewhere in Dwarka to somewhere in Greater Nodia. Add to that the 15 minute last miles on each side. 3 hrs. Shared taxis, car pools can both achieve this in much shorter time ( perhaps 1.5 – 2 hrs). The only people who would use the Metro are people who cannot afford anything more than the buses currently to travel these long distances. And perhaps not, because they are unable to afford the metro either! The private transport users shall not switch for such distances. And what makes us think that in 2021, even Rohtak, Sonepat and Mathura may demand extensions of metro all the way to them. And our powers to be may just yield for vote banks!

The solution, instead of making the metro lines insufferably long, is to capitalize on and upgrade the existing commuter rail network. Let me give you two examples from the existing networks in the Delhi-NCR region.

First , there is some talk of building a high speed line from Gurgaon to Airport. With the rather tepid response to the current Airport line, not sure how feasible that one is. Currently both our airports, Domestic and International have a railway line running very close to them ( Palam and Shahabad Mohammadpur are the two stations. respectively) This railway line goes further to Gurgaon, and inside many parts of inner Delhi on the other side, where it originates from. With the available railway land, why can an additional pair of railway lines, not be laid alongside this route to run commuter trains. And there can be shuttles or even an airport train from the terminals to these existing stations.

Similarly, while we are enthusiastically talking about taking the metro into Faridabad, this alignment is almost parallel to the existing Indian Railway alignment between Okhla and Palwal. I agree that that is a busy route with freight and passenger traffic from long distance trains, but an additional pair of lines with upgraded rakes can provide a fabulous service right upto Mathura, not just Delhi and Faridabad. Already the 20 odd local services that run between Faridabad and Nizamuddin are quite full. There are more such existing rail alignments in Delhi to the entire NCR (Sonepat in the North, Rohtak in the NorthWest) that can be upgraded to provide excellent commuter rail service. Even from a social perspective, these alignments are embedded in the daily lives of people which can drive usage.

In conclusion, I would like to suggest that while metro is essential for the city, making the metro lines longer and longer is an unsustainable and inefficient public transport provision. The focus should be on capitalizing on existing commuter rail alignments. London, Chicago, New York all have such arrangements too, for those of you not satisfied without some western parallels

I understand that the letter is rather long for including as such as a viewer comment in the section, but perhaps you can provide a link to it while it stays elsewhere on the web!

Thank you,

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4 thoughts on “Metro Cannot Substitute Commuter Rail: Indiscriminate extension of Delhi Metro to Satellite Cities is a bad idea!

  1. Whilst there is some validity in the argument, I think it would depend on the level of urban density across the Metro route & the projected daily boarding at each station along the lines in the future planning or horizon years.

    What this implies is that it does not necessarily mean that most passengers will travel from one end of the Metro route to the other. It is also unlikely that one would reside at one end of a route & travel all the way to the other end for work & return every day, spending 5 hours or more on the train each day. Typically, the same Metro train may have changed almost all it’s passengers well before it arrives at it’s destination since most commuters may use it only for smaller sections of the journey, being replaced by others at different stations.

    Also, in Asian cities where rapid urbanization is taking place, Metro routes tend to drive growth along the routes & it maybe possible that planners may facilitate such urbanization by making provisions earlier, as it seems to be the case with the New Delhi Metro. For example, Dwarka was less attractive previously , but now, after the Metro’s arrival, it has developed tremendously, justifying the route extension/s.

    1. Dwarka, already had some 50,000 flats ( built) before they decided to link it with the metro. So the population was waiting to move in. I lived in Dwarka for 4 years from 2000 -2004 much before metro or even roads made its way. Most flats were anyway being readied for living then.
      How many people use the metro does not preclude the up-gradation of existing commuter rail infrastructure, which can be done at much lesser costs. These should serve as feeders to the metro for commuting within the city.

      Think of Bombay and how the upcoming metro’s focus is completely for commute within the city and the Locals which will continue to bring people from far out.

  2. Metro is great for major cities and can deal with large numbers of passengers over distances up to 7 – 10 miles. Because metro trains usually call at all stations journey times on longer routes become too long. That is where heavy rail can play a part. By having few stops in the inner suburbs trains can get to the outer suburbs and towns further out much more quickly than a metro train on a long route. There is a place for both types of transport – metro in the inner areas, trains to the outlying destinations.
    Iain Frew.

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