RRTS meant only for the rich, say Ghaziabad-Delhi commuters

Updated - April 22, 2024 05:58 am IST

Published - April 20, 2024 06:16 am IST

Big-ticket project: A view of an RRTS train coach. File Photo

Big-ticket project: A view of an RRTS train coach. File Photo | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

Snaking his way through a crowd of milk vendors outside the Ghaziabad railway station at 7 a.m., 34-year-old Sanjeev Kumar makes it to the platform only to find that the train for Delhi is running 15 minutes behind schedule.

Mr. Kumar has been commuting from his house in Ghaziabad to his workplace at Connaught Place six days a week for the past five years. He says the trains usually run late and are often overcrowded at this time.

The Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS), which is scheduled to open next year, is meant to make life easy for commuters like Mr. Kumar by connecting Ghaziabad with Sarai Kale Khan through Sahibabad, Anand Vihar, and New Ashok Nagar.

The mass transit system has an average speed of 100 km/hr, and all its coaches are air-conditioned. Currently, only a 17-km, five-station stretch – Sahibabad to Duhai Depot in Uttar Pradesh – of the corridor is operational.

However, Mr. Kumar, who lives in Sundarpuri, 10 minutes away from the newly inaugurated RRTS station in Ghaziabad, is not looking forward to the opening of the Ghaziabad-Delhi stretch as he feels the ticket prices will be beyond his reach. The price of a standard-class ticket between Sahibabad and Duhai Depot is ₹50 and that of the premium-class is ₹100.

“With a monthly salary of ₹40,000, which hasn’t risen over the past few years, why will I shell out ₹40-50 for a one-way ticket on the RRTS every day when I can spend ₹500 to get a three-month railway pass?” says Mr. Kumar.

A senior NCRTC official said the price of a ticket between Ghaziabad and Anand Vihar is likely to be pegged at ₹40 and between Ghaziabad and Sarai Kale Khan at ₹50.

A view of an RRTS train coach.

A view of an RRTS train coach. | Photo Credit: File Photo

Big-ticket project

The RRTS has been a big-ticket project for the BJP in the run-up to the general election. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sahibabad-Duhai Depot stretch in October last year. While flagging off the high-speed Namo Bharat trains, Mr. Modi termed them “a symbol of the new journey and new resolutions of India”. The project was also mentioned in the 69-page manifesto released by the BJP for the Lok Sabha poll.

However, many like Mr. Kumar feel that the project is not meant for the common person but for the upwardly mobile section.

Twenty-six-year-old Rajat Singh, who works in a factory in Delhi, says that the Central government does not understand the “struggles of the common man”.

Mr. Singh, whose train for Ghaziabad was running late by 20 minutes, said the Centre should have worked towards improving the frequency and punctuality of the local trains that are lifelines for people like him instead of announcing expensive high-speed trains.

“The BJP should work towards providing people in Ghaziabad with free electricity and Mohalla Clinics just as they are provided in Delhi,” said Mr. Singh.

‘Can’t afford tickets’

Moinuddin Mondal, who hails from West Bengal’s Bardhaman, has been commuting to his workplace, an NGO based in Paharganj in Delhi, from Ghaziabad via local trains for the past two decades.

Wiping beads of sweat off his forehead on a hot afternoon at the Ghaziabad railway station, Mr. Mondal says he was eagerly waiting for the launch of the Ghaziabad-Delhi stretch of the RRTS.

“I was hoping to avoid jam-packed train coaches during office hours and being able to pre-book tickets on the RRTS. But given the prices of tickets, we can’t think of boarding it except in case of an emergency,” he said.

Standing in the corner of a cramped ladies’ compartment of a local train, Namita Antil, a resident of Ghaziabad’s Pratap Vihar, said she had suffered salary cuts several times over the past few months due to train delays.

Ms. Antil, who works in a sari shop in Paharganj and whose husband runs a grocery store in Ghaziabad, said she was hopeful that the RRTS would provide a safer travel experience for her daughter, who studies at a Delhi college. “But the way they have priced the tickets has ensured that for people like us, the RRTS will never be a sustainable option,” she said.

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