With growing urbanisation in the National Capital Region (NCR), the city is facing various issues such as unplanned growth, lack of social infrastructure, lack of reliable public transport, congestion on city roads, increased pollution levels, etc. In order to resolve these issues, one of the best approaches is to create an efficient and effective public transport network and enable polycentric development by creating employment opportunities around the region. A regional rapid transit system (RRTS) can effectively contribute towards achieving the twofold objective with its high speed, higher capacity and integrated railway network, resulting in RRTSs emerging as one of the most preferred transport systems in the world.
In 2005, a regional plan was prepared by the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) laying special emphasis on creating a rail-based transportation system in the NCR. Following this, a task force was formed by the erstwhile Planning Commission to prepare a functional plan on transport, which identified eight RRTS corridors in the NCR region: Delhi-Panipat-Sonipat, Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut, Delhi-Gurugram-Rewari-Alwar, Delhi-Faridabad-Ballabhgarh-Palwal, Ghaziabad-Khurja, Delhi-Bahadurgarh-Rohtak, Ghaziabad-Hapur and Delhi-Shahadra-Baraut. Of these, three corridors were proposed to be taken up on a priority basis under Phase I while the remaining five corridors are planned to be developed in Phase II.
In August 2013, the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) was incorporated with the mandate of designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the RRTS corridors.
Key distinguishing features of an RRTS
The RRTS planned for the NCR is being developed with the aim of connecting the surrounding cities and districts to Delhi with an inter-station distance of 5-10 km. On the technical front, the RRTS system, with an average speed of about 100 km per hour and design and operating speeds of 180 kmph and 160 kmph, respectively, is about three times faster than a traditional metro rail system. Even though the coach designs are similar, the carrying capacity of each RRTS train is much higher than that of a metro. Other key features of RRTSs include double-line ballastless tracks, 17-tonne axle load, 12-car trains with stainless steel/aluminium coaches, airplane-type seating, 1×25 kV AC overhead traction system, automatic fare collection systems and advanced signalling systems.
Project scope and progress so far
Under Phase I, the RRTS network will cover a distance of approximately 349 km and will comprise three priority corridors – Delhi-Panipat-Sonipat (103 km), Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut (82.15 km) and Delhi-Gurugram-Rewari-Alwar (164 km). Of these, the Delhi-Alwar corridor will be taken up in three phases – Delhi-Gurugram and Rewari-Shahjahanpur-Neemrana-Behror (SNB) complex stretches in Phase I and the remaining stretches in Phase II and Phase III. The network consists of a total of six depots and 56 stations with an estimated daily ridership of about 2 million passengers. Interoperability and multimodal integration with other modes of transport will be provided at Sarai Kale Khan.
On the Delhi-Meerut corridor, pre-construction activities, are currently in progress. The NCRTC has already issued tenders for various works, including general consultancy, while the project is awaiting government approval. Meanwhile, the NCRTC is in talks with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for funding the corridor. As per the current proposal, the project is expected to entail an investment of around Rs 180 billion, of which it is expected that 60 per cent will be funded by ADB and the remaining 40 per cent will be provided by the central and state governments in the form of grants and subordinate debt.
Meanwhile, in June 2018, the Haryana government granted in-principle approval for the Delhi-SNB complex stretch alignment under the Delhi-Alwar corridor. The plan for multimodal integration at various metro stations in Gurugram is also being finalised. Besides, the NCRTC is in the process of updating the detailed project report (DPR) and obtaining approvals for the project from various agencies. Further, the DPR for the Delhi-Panipat corridor is likely to be updated only after obtaining requisite approvals from NHAI. The corridor will be taken up for execution upon completion of the other two RRTS corridors.
The RRTS network has various direct and indirect benefits, such as high speed connectivity, comfortable journey, user-friendly system, intermodal integration, and reduced levels of congestion, energy consumption and pollution. Other benefits include economic growth, employment generation, polycentric development, and a boost to the Make in India initiative. Overall, these benefits, combined with its environment-friendly characteristics, make RRTS an ideal solution for sustainable development and seamless transportation.
Based on a presentation by Vikas Kumar Jain, Group General Manager, NCRTC, at a recent India Infrastructure conference