A hassle-free and swift ride to the Indira Gandhi International Airport became a reality on Wednesday when the Delhi Metro’s showcase Airport Express Corridor finally rolled out for the public after several missed deadlines.
Two high-speed brand new trains began their journey from two terminating stations -- New Delhi and Dwarka Sec-21 -- at 2 p.m. without any formal inauguration or much fanfare.
Initially, the Line will have a 16-hour run from 6 AM to 10 PM which is likely to be increased to 20 hours soon.
Delhi Airport Metro Express Private Limited (DAMEPL), the Reliance Infra-led consortium that will operate the line, is planning to hold a formal inauguration ceremony sometime in March.
Decks were cleared for opening the Line after the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which will guard the line, completed its deployment and conducted mandatory operations yesterday.
Built at a cost Rs 5,700 crore, the Airport Metro Express, the first corridor in the country to come up on Public-Private-Partnership model, promises a smooth ride for Delhiites in a plush environment from Connaught Place to Dwarka Sec-21 via the new swanky Terminal-3 of the IGI Airport in flat 18 minutes as compared to over 45 minutes to 60 minutes by road.
In a bid to attract commuters, the DAMEPL will offer tickets at a much cheaper rate initially. Commuters can reach IGI Airport from New Delhi by paying Rs 80 and regular commuters can avail monthly passes facility provided by the concessionaire.
Five to six trains will be pressed into service from today on the line and they will run at a frequency of 20 minutes. The frequency may be increased based on the popularity and rush.
Trains on the Line are completely different from the existing Metro coaches and have been procured from CAF Spain, the firm which supplied trains to Heathrow and Hong Kong Metro Express Lines. Every coach has several LCD screens and the trains are narrower than the Metro trains that are currently plying in the capital.
Passengers will be able to check the flight status at all stations on the Airport Metro Line and will have comfortable seating arrangements on the train.
Trains on the high-speed corridor will initially run at a speed of 105 km per hour and it will be increased to 120 km per hour after due clearance from Research, Designs and Standard Organisation (RDSO).
Four stations -- New Delhi, Shivaji Stadium, IGI Airport and Dwarka Sec-21 -- will become operational, but two other stations -- Dhaula Kuan and Delhi Aero City -- will open later.
Though the line opened for public today, the check-in facility, one of the salient features of the corridor, will not be available for commuters immediately as talks with airlines are still on.
The check-in facility at three stations -- New Delhi, Shivaji Stadium and Dhaula Kuan -- is expected to be available when the formal inauguration takes place.
With this, Delhi joined a few world cities like London, Hong Kong, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur to have a high-speed link connecting the city with the International Airport.
DAMEPL claims the line was completed in record 27 months time.
The Line, which was the first Metro corridor in the country to fail a safety test, missed at least three deadlines -- October 3, October 31 and December 31 -- set by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and the Union Urban Development Ministry.
Though Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety R K Kardam gave his go—ahead for the line after his second inspection in January, the line could not be opened because of uncertainty over who will man the line.
While the Centre and Delhi Metro wanted the CISF to man the corridor like any other line in the capital, the DAMEPL wanted its own men to take over the security. After much deliberation, the Home Minister had on February four handed over the security to CISF.
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 has mapped all the emergency services, including fire stations, police stations, hospitals etc along the alignment.