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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When Brands Fail Their Loyalists : Dilemmas of a Delhi Metro ‘fan’

Aren’t we taught in marketing classes the importance of customer loyalty, a sort of holy grail for brand managers. And yes I firmly to believe that many brands have loyalists who are not only regular users but sort of evangelists. However ever wonders what happens if this brand betrays this very ardent fan!

I recently took a flight into delhi with a connecting train, A timely arrival and a 4 hrs:15 mins gap between the two prompted me to steal a quick meeting with a friend. The friend offered to pick me up and offered to drop me to a metro station in Gurgaon from where I would take the newly started service all the way to the railway station. An ardent believer that we all should travel by the metro due to all the usual benefits ( both tangible – speed, comfort, certainity and the emotional ones – public transit, non polluting etc), I was thrilled at the idea of travelling by the much awaited service between central delhi and Gurgaon – two days after its commencement.

A good lunch meeting and my friend dropped me at the Gurgaon Station. Train started promptly and reached made its way into south delhi and was headed to get me to the railway station 25 mins ahead of my train’s departure. Suddenly at Udyog Bhavan – some 3 stops before my destination – came an announcement of a short delay in service – usually such delays are 2-3 mins, However for the next 15 mins every 2 mins a ‘short’ delay was announced. Later they announced ‘that’ a technical failure had occured and we should wait to hear further information. By then it was too late to catch my train and hence I ended up missing it.

I got out of the station dejected and asked a staff member if I could file a complaint to claim compensation for the inconvenience caused – as my train ticket was wasted and I needed to plan an alternative journey. He provided me the complaint book after some ado. Now the next step was to go the bus stand and take a bus to my final destination. I thought to myself, the fastest way to reach the ISBT ( bus stand) was by the metro as well. By then the service had somewhat resumed.

But I was so disgusted that I got out called a relative and asked them to arrange a car to drop me to the bus terminus. When they said ‘metro is the best way to get there’ I said “I know, but right now I feel betrayed by the Delhi Metro, They made me miss a train/plane for the first time in life. I no longer can belong to the exclusive club of people who have never missed a train or a flight. ”

I confess I am still a Delhi Metro ‘fan’ but can I recommend it with the same conviction to people now that I always did. The heart says yes of course, the mind says Don’t be stupid. Mr Brand Manager are you listening!