After missing three deadlines, Delhi Metro’s showcase Airport Express Line will finally roll out for passenger service in the next ten days, fulfilling Delhiites’ dream of enjoying a fast and hassle-free ride to the International Airport.
Though the Airport Express Corridor, that connects the city’s main shopping hub of Connaught Place with the Airport, will have a formal inauguration later, the line will start commercial operations once the CISF guards move in.
The good news is that once the line opens, passengers of few airlines may be able to check-in their baggages at New Delhi and Shivaji Stadium stations.
A day after the Centre formally announced that the security of the Line will be handled by the CISF, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit inspected the corridor and expressed satisfaction over the operational preparedness.
“The Line is ready (for operations). It is very good, modern and the only corridor in the country connects the city with airport. It has been built very beautifully,” she told reporters.
A senior official of the Delhi Airport Metro Express Private Limited (DAMEPL) said the line is likely to be made operational between February 15 and February 20.
The Line promises a quick ride for passengers from CP to Airport in just 20 minutes with 3 stoppages in between.
Infrastructure at the stations are ready and the train will run at a speed of 105 km per hour.
Ms. Dikshit and Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan announced that the Line will start operations in a week’s time though a formal launch would happen later.
“The formal opening of the Line will take a month’s time, but the trials (operations) will start within a week’s time,” she said.
Mr. Sreedharan said the corridor will be thrown open to the public once the security personnel moves in, which is likely to happen in a week’s time.
Mangu Singh, Director (Works), DMRC told PTI that the operations will begin in sometime and a formal launch as desired by the concessionaire will happen in a month’s time.
“Once the security personnel move in, the Line will be opened for public. Since the concessionaire wants a formal launch we will have one later,” he said.
To begin with, the Line will have a 16-hour service from 6 AM to 10 PM and some airlines are likely to set up their check-in counters before the operations start, he said.
The link has missed three deadlines - October 3 (Commonwealth Games), October 31 and December 31 - set by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and the Union Urban Development Ministry.
Built at cost of Rs 5,700 crore, the line will open with four stations — New Delhi, Shivaji Stadium, IGI Airport and Dwarka Sec—21. Two other stations — Dhaula Kuan and Aerocity — may open a little later.
Downplaying the delays, Ms. Dikshit said they cannot be avoided if perfection is needed.
“If perfection is needed, delays will be there. If the corridor is done in a very hasty manner then there is a risk.
Now the line has been completed it will be formally inaugurated in a month’s time. But the trials will begin soon,” she said.
Mr. Sreedharan said the Public-Private Partnership model is “eminently suitable” for lines like the Delhi Airport corridor.
“PPP model is suitable for these lines not for usual corridors. The Airport Line will be used by people who can pay more and also they can fix the price up to Rs 150. So it is eminently suitable,” he said.
About the reluctance of airlines to set up check-in counters at the city airport terminals, Mr. Sreedharan said the issue is being sorted out by the Civil Aviation Ministry.
“The issue is being sorted out. The Civil Aviation Ministry will be holding discussions with the Airlines and a decision will be taken soon,” he said.
About increasing the speed of trains on the Line, Mr. Sreedharan said trial runs at the promised speed of 120 km per hour will begin next week and the speed will eventually be increased once the Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO).
Initially, trains on the line will run at a speed of 105 km per hour as against the promised speed of 120 kmph due to restrictions imposed by CMRS.
The corridor had failed the first safety test in September 2010 and missed its Commonwealth Games deadline.
Trains on the line will be different from the normal Metro trains and have been procured from CAF, Spain which also supplied trains to Hong Kong airport metro and London’s Heathrow Express.
The Airport Express Line is the first metro line in the country to come up on PPP model. After creating civil structures, the DMRC has handed over the line over to Reliance Infrastructure which will run the high-speed corridor for 30 years.
This will also be the first line in the country to be mapped on Geographic Information System to enhance safety, maintenance and traffic regulation. Mapping the corridor on GIS will help in mobilising emergency services in case of a blast or fire on the train.
The company will map all the emergency services, including fire stations, police stations and hospitals along the alignment.