Enhancing Regional Mobility: Update on RRTS for Delhi NCR

Update on RRTS for Delhi NCR

The demographics of the National Capital Region (NCR) present a strong case for the development of a rail-based high speed regional rapid transit system (RRTS). The NCR area collectively generates around 7.5 per cent of the country’s GDP and is one of the key growth regions. However, with increasing levels of urbanisation, the city has been facing a plethora of issues such as unplanned growth, lack of reliable public transport, severe congestion on city roads and increased pollution levels, among others.

One of the best ways to deal with the aforementioned issues is to develop a robust public transport system. In order to enhance connectivity within the NCR, the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) has proposed connecting the urban, industrial (special economic zones/industrial parks), regional and subregional centres through a fast rail-based RRTS. One of the most preferred transport systems in the world, the RRTS has been envisaged to reduce dependence of commuters on road-based transportation.

Project background and features

In 2005, a regional plan was prepared by the 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 region: Delhi-Sonepat-Panipat, 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 were planned to be developed in Phase II.

The RRTS has been planned with the aim of connecting the surrounding cities and districts to Delhi with an inter-station distance of 5-10 km. With respect to technical configurations, the RRTS will have an average speed of 100 kmph and design and operating speeds of 180 kmph and 160 kmph respectively. The RRTS trains will be able to travel three times faster than a metro rail. Further, even though the coach designs are similar, the carrying capacity of each RRTS train is much higher than that of a metro (2,150 passengers per train). Other distinguishing features of RRTS trains are AC coaches, airline-type seating, reliability in all-weather conditions, automatic fare collection systems and advanced signalling systems.

Progress so far

The project is being implemented in two phases. Phase I will cover a total distance of 370-380 km and will involve the development of three priority corridors – Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut, Delhi-Sonepat-Panipat and Delhi-Gurugram-Rewari-Alwar. Of these, the Delhi-Gurugram-Rewari-Alwar stretch will be implemented in three stages – Delhi-Gurugram-SNB Urban Complex (Stage I), SNB Urban Complex-Sotanala (Stage II) and SNB Urban Complex-Alwar (Stage III). Meanwhile, the Delhi-Gurugram-SNB Urban Complex stretch will be connected with other RRTS corridors at the Sarai Kale Khan mega terminal to ensure seamless passenger movement between corridors.

In February 2019, the cabinet approved construction work on the 82.15 km Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut stretch of the RRTS. Of the total length, 68.03 km will be elevated and the remaining 14.12 km will be underground. The project is proposed to be undertaken by the National Capital Region Transport Corporation, a special purpose vehicle incorporated as a joint ownership of the central and state governments with equal contribution and loan from multilateral/bilateral agencies through the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. The stretch is estimated to entail an investment of Rs 316.32 billion. In addition, the cabinet approved a central assistance of Rs 56.34 billion in the form of grant and subordinate debt. The cabinet also accorded approval to the institutional arrangement, legal framework and conditions of sanction for the project.

Recently, the stretch has been in the limelight due to the Delhi government’s displeasure over the construction of a metro station at Sarai Kale Khan. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs had suggested the construction of an elevated metro station at Sarai Kale Khan, while the Delhi government had proposed the construction of an underground station. However, taking into consideration the higher cost an underground station would entail, the Supreme Court has directed the Delhi government to release funds amounting to Rs 2.65 billion of its total share of Rs 11.38 billion in the total cost. The intergovernmental issues will result in the project missing its 2023 completion deadline.

Earlier, in June 2018, the Haryana government granted in-principle approval for the Delhi-SNB Complex stretch alignment under the Delhi-Alwar corridor. Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank has agreed to grant a loan for the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut corridor.

In sum

The RRTS network has been designed to offer many benefits such as high speed connectivity, high frequency, comfortable journey, and comparatively lower fares. Overall, these benefits combined with its environment-friendly characteristics make the RRTS an ideal solution for balanced and sustainable regional development.