Shorter airport metro services likely to resume
New Delhi: Delhi's Airport Metro, which was suspended July 8 due to structural faults, might resume services partially between two stations where no faults were detected, but the urban development ministry is yet to take a call on it.
The Rs 5,700-crore (USD 11.5-billion) airport metro line was operating from New Delhi railway station to Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) Terminal 3 and on to Dwarka Sector 21. The 23-km line averaged a daily ridership of 20,000 commuters.
The stretch between Dwarka Sector 21 and IGI Airport stations has been found to have no structural faults, hence no repair work has been carried out between these two stations, sources from the urban development ministry said.
"It's premature to say when the services of the Airport Metro between Dwarka Sector 21 and IGI Airport stations would begin. We are yet to take a decision on it. A shorter run is possible between Dwarka Sector 21 and IGI Airport as there is no structural damage between these metro stations," a senior urban development ministry official said.
The official also said that the proposal will be discussed with Reliance concessionaire of the Airport Metro Express Line and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
"Safety of commuters is our priority. The sections where the repairs are being carried out will remain shut. After a thorough discussion, we will decide when to resume services on the stretch which has no structural damage," the official said.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit does not feel that a public-private partnership model is unsuited for such projects.
"We should not jump to conclusions that the public-private partnership model is bad. We have such a model in our power projects and it is doing quite well," Dikshit said.
"At present, both parties - Delhi Metro and the Reliance concessionaire - are seeking alibis. I have spoken to the urban development ministry secretary. The report should be with us in some time. Then we will see," she added.
Reliance Infrastructure, which operated the line, said civil engineering defects were noticed from day one of the service.
Even as the blame game continues between Delhi Metro and Reliance, none is certain when the line will restart.
Around 70 percent commuters, who make use of the line, were air passengers.
"The urban development secretary and a few other officials recently inspected the Metro line. It is in a bad shape," said a senior official in the union urban development ministry, the nodal department dealing with such projects in the national capital.
"The repair work will take some more time. The service may resume only after three months or so," the official added.
"Calls are pouring in. We have refunded money to about 4,600 monthly passholders so far," an official said.
Queried about the indefinite suspension, E. Sreedharan, principal advisor and former managing director of Delhi Metro said: "I am not in possession of all the facts. So I am unable to comment."
To ease the burden of commuters, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) has increased the frequency of buses between the airport in the south to the Inter-State Bus Terminal-Kashmere Gate in the north, via Dhaula Kuan, Connaught Place and the New Delhi Railway Station.
"We have doubled the number of buses on the route from 33 to 66. We will try to add more buses on the route," said an official of DTC, which had reduced the frequency after the launch of the line, as many commuters opted for the Airport Metro.
But the commuters say there is no comparison between a bus and the Metro.
"It is really tiring," lamented Iqbal Malik, a businessman and a frequent flyer. "I had got so much used to the airport Metro line. It was so convenient to go to the airport. I hope the service would restart soon."