New Delhi: The centrally located ITO station made its debut in the expanding network of Delhi Metro on Monday as the first Badarpur-bound train, full to the brim, left its swanky premises at sharp 6 PM.
The formal opening of the station was a long time coming for hundreds, who throng the area housing several prominent government and private establishments everyday. Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu flagged off the first train in the presence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Kejriwal, who is at loggerheads with the Centre over a number of issues, used the occasion to make a political point on federal relations. "Delhi Metro is a unique experiment of the collaboration between the state and the centre. I feel if all the governments work together in this manner only then development would be possible," he said.
Naidu laid stress on the importance of a robust public transport system and termed Delhi Metro as the "pride of the nation". "Public transport is the only answer to growing air pollution."
According to the initial time table, trains will be available at ITO at a frequency of seven and a half minutes during peak hours. The station in the Violet Line, is expected to take traffic load off the busy ITO intersection, used by over 1.75 lakh vehicles everyday.
"All these years I had to take the bus from Saket to INA and then bus to get to office. It used to be so troublesome especially during times of inclement weather. I look forward to relief now," said Maninder Singh, a UGC employee.
The single-line extension from Mandi House till ITO is a first in the history of Delhi Metro, which was also behind the delay, as it was not permitted as per Metro Railway General Rules. Construction work was completed by January itself.
Later, the Urban Development Ministry amended and notified changes to the Metro Railway General Rules, 2013, to allow operations on single-line sections, paving the way for CMRS inspection and its eventual launch.
After the formal launch, people started trooping in as
early as 5 PM and the queue only got longer as many of the nearby establishments downed shutters.
The station has come as a boon for outsiders like Brajesh Kumar who visited the area to get their official work done. Kumar, a resident of Rajasthan, had come to the Passport office.
"I had to take the auto to reach Passport office from Mandi house station in the morning. The distance may not have been that much but it was more because of the heat. Next time I will be able to come straight here," he said.
Train services on this 971-metre section is estimated to benefit 22,000 passengers daily to begin with and is expected to rise to 31,000 by 2021, enhancing DMRC's annual revenue by Rs 8 crore, officials said.
Elaborating on his plans to decongest Delhi, Naidu said that he would be discussing the possibility of reviving the BRT corridor with the state government. He also spoke about the need to have a Circular Railway in the capital.
"There are 90 lakh vehicles in Delhi. We have to create more and more public transport systems. We are also interacting with the railways to come up with a circular railway system. I already had a meeting with the railway minister in this regard. Would be sharing the recommendations with the Delhi government also," he said.
The eponymous station, which was decked up on the occasion, would also showcase the multi-layered history of the ITO area stretching from the Supreme Court to the ruins of Firoz Shah Kotla, with a permanent exhibition.
The ITO area houses prominent establishments like the Delhi Police headquarters, Delhi Secretariat, Income Tax Office, PWD headquarters and the intersection in its vicinity is a nightmare for regular commuters owing to heavy traffic.
ITO is the last station to be launched individually before the entire Mandi House-Kashmere Gate, 9.37 km 'heritage corridor', is commissioned by the end of 2016. Other stations in the corridor include Delhi Gate, Jama Masjid, Red Fort and Kashmere Gate.
Now, passengers from ITO would be able to access the Blue Line (Dwarka Sector 21-Noida City Centre/Vaishali) by taking a ride to Mandi House or Yellow Line (Huda City Centre to Jahangirpuri) from the Central Secretariat station, thus bringing the area closer to residents of South and East Delhi.
The event was also attended by Union Minister Harsh Vardhan, Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai, New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi and DMRC Chief Mangu Singh.