Dikshit hasn't lost hope yet on Delhi's Airport Metro

Dikshit hasn't lost hope yet on Delhi's Airport Metro New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has not yet given up hope on the city's Airport Metro project, suspended since July 8 for structural faults, and also 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. He told me that the report should be with us in some time. Then we will see."

Services on the Rs.5,700-crore (USD 11.5-billion) line, touted as an urban infrastructure showpiece, was stopped July 8 because of major structural defects. Reliance Infrastructure, which operated the line, said civil 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. Launched mainly to ferry people to Terminal III of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, the 23-km line averaged a daily ridership of 20,000 commuters.

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.

"Keeping in mind the extensive repair work that is required, I think the repair work will take some more time to complete. I feel the service may be able to resume only after three months or so," the official added.

A help desk for commuters set up by the operator has been receiving 50 calls a day on an average and over five emails asking when the operations will resume. "Calls are pouring in. We have refunded money to about 4,600 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."

In a bid to ease the burden of commuters, the Delhi Transport Corporation has increased the frequency of buses between the airport in the south to the Inter State Bus Terminal 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 at 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."

IANS