The Hindu takes a ride on the Rapid Metro and finds that there are more number of “out-of-town” commuters travelling on this route than the locals

Official figures state that 33,000 people ride everyday on the Rapid Metro, a three-coach train that when compared to its older, bigger cousin in Delhi resembles a toy train navigating the Gurgaon skyline. This privately built Metro line services a 5.1 km long route that has six stations, three of which are named after its sponsors – a British telecom company, a bank and an Indian phone manufacturer.

In this entirely elevated route that presently runs a loop service that begins and ends at Sikanderpur, the footfall is highest in the Phase-3 station which is closest to Cyber Green and building numbers 7, 9 and 14. According to the officials at Rapid Metro, the station named after the bank – IndusInd Bank Cyber City – which has been operational for only about a month now will in the next quarter see a jump of 30 per cent in its ridership figures.

Skyrocketing parking charges at the nearby Cyber Hub, a place described as a “heaven for foodies” by the online community for its range of restaurants, may be the reason for this estimated jump in ridership at this station. A Rapid Metro spokesperson concurs. “Recently, I saw a large group of women and children travelling on the Rapid Metro to Cyber Hub. Due to the exorbitant parking charges and lack of space on weekends many people choose to park their cars either in Sikanderpur or Huda City Centre stations and take the train,” said the spokesperson.

Yet, how many of the 33,000 people who ride on the Rapid Metro are Gurgaon locals? This week, The Hindu took a ride on the Rapid Metro and interestingly found more number of “out of town” commuters travelling in from Delhi and Noida as compared to locals.

24-year-old Aparna Upadhyay lives in Gurgaon’s Sector-14. Every day she spends Rs. 100 on an autorickshaw, which takes her directly from her home to her place of work at DLF Square, closest to the Vodafone Belvedere Towers, the third station on the loop service. Travelling anywhere on the line has a fixed rate of Rs. 12.

“If I take the Metro, I would end up spending Rs. 70 to go to the M.G. Road station on the Delhi Metro’s Yellow Line, then change trains at Sikenderpur to travel to my office. I will end up saving maybe Rs. 10 but it is far more convenient to just take an auto directly,” she said. Aparna was using the Rapid Metro for the first time this week, only because she was travelling to Delhi.

“I feel connectivity is a huge problem for people who live in Gurgaon. Maybe for people who come in from Delhi and Ghaziabad this Metro service is convenient. I’d rather use autos to get around,” she added. Vaishali-resident Pankaj Saxena and Lajpat Nagar resident Shobit both of whom work in one of the many high-rise buildings here are cases in point.

The Rapid Metro was to carry nearly 1 lakh people daily but officials claim it is too early to judge the success of this private project. “We commissioned the line in November 2013 and we only made the IndusInd Bank Cyber City operational a month ago so it’s unfair to say we haven’t reached the estimated daily footfall levels. In fact, we expect this new station to soon be the one which sees the highest footfall,” said the spokesperson.

An official who worked very closely with the Rapid Metro project, however, defers in his views on how the line is currently being managed.

“The line has been constructed very well but lacks in operational aspects. Gurgaon is a multi-cultural and multi-strata society and it is important for people to be convinced to use the Metro,” he said.

Citing an example where the Rapid Metro organised a programme for company CEOs to walk and ride on the Metro, the official said: “If you only do programmes that target the top bosses of companies it will appear that the Metro train is reserved for the elite. Gurgaon’s population is a mixed crowd of residents, commercial enterprises and officer goers and it is important to tailor-make approaches to convince each of these groups to switch from private vehicles to the train.”

The Delhi Metro, he said, held multiple street plays for instance in slums and residential areas when its first line came up more than a decade ago to convince people to use the train. “The transport system is after all for public consumption and it is important that it reflects the sentiment of the people.”

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