Decongesting Delhi

India’s first RRTS project progressing on schedule

Among the many ongoing big-ticket infrastructure projects is the regional rapid transit system (RRTS) in and around Delhi. The country’s first RRTS, this high-priority project aims to decongest the national capital’s transit system across all modes, and is on schedule to meet its stipulated timelines.

The project implementing agency, the National Capital Region Transit Corporation (NCRTC) is a joint venture company of the Government of India and the state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The NCRTC is looking to deploy high speed rail transit systems to provide seamless connectivity to commuters to regional nodes such as Meerut, Alwar and Panipat with reduced travel time. The project is expected to be a game changer for the National Capital Region (NCR) and beyond, as it will bring the currently “far-off” places much closer to the capital in terms of travel time.

Progress so far

For the NCR RRTS project, eight corridors have been identified for development, of which three have been taken up on a priority basis. These are the Delhi-Meerut, Delhi-Panipat and Delhi-Alwar stretches, which total about 350 km in length and comprise the first phase of the project. With an expected daily ridership of about 2 million passengers, the system will have about 600 coaches, with six-coach train sets to begin with. Besides, all the stations will have platform screen doors to ensure safety.

As far as project progress in concerned, works on the Delhi-Meerut stretch are under way after the government gave its approval for the stretch in March 2019. With regard to electrification requirements, for the elevated section, plans are afoot for deployment of the flexible overhead catenary system while for the underground segment, the rigid overhead catenary system will be installed. For putting these systems in place, earthing is considered to be the most challenging task. To power its operations, the system will draw electricity from 25 kV traction lines. The NCRTC will tap the required electricity through substations that will be connected to the main grid. In this regard, the concerned state governments will have a role to play in ensuring power supply in their respective stretches.

Consultancy for the project (apart from that for civil works) is being provided by a consortium of Spain-based Ayesa and Italy-based Italferr. The two foreign firms will manage and supervise all the stages of the Delhi-Meerut corridor, from tendering and design to commissioning and initial operations.

Recently awarded contracts

In recent weeks, the NCRTC has given a letter of award to Bombardier Transportation to build and supply regional commuter and transit trains. The contract worth Rs 25.77 billion includes delivery of 30 six-car regional commuter train sets and 10 three-car intra-city mass transit train sets. As per the contract, Bombardier is also mandated to provide maintenance services for the rolling stock for a period of 15 years. The contract can be extended by two years for the maintenance period and the supply of an additional 90 cars. Bombardier’s metro and commuter cars will be manufactured at its Vadodara unit, while the rolling stock will be designed at the Global Engineering and Technology Centre in Hyderabad.

Another contract was awarded to Larsen & Toubro [L&T] Infrastructure to construct the Duhai-Modi Nagar and Modi Nagar-Shatabdi Nagar sections of the Delhi-Meerut corridor. As per the contract, L&T will construct a 32 km viaduct stretch with seven elevated stations.

Financing

The project’s first phase entails a total investment of over Rs 716 billion. In Union Budget 2020-21, the government allocated Rs 24.87 billion for the project, more than double the amount allocated in the previous budget. Moreover, funding worth Rs 9 billion came from the Uttar Pradesh government, a few days after the Union Budget announcement. For the Delhi-Meerut corridor, funds have been tied up, with support from the Asian Development Bank, which plans to extend a loan of $1.05 billion towards the stretch.

Impact of COVID-19

Meanwhile, the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 has impacted construction work on the Delhi-Meerut stretch, as the norms for physical distancing were adhered to. That said, the paperwork, especially with regard to bidding, planning and finalising specifications, has been ongoing without any interruption. The project is thus on schedule to meet its March 2025 deadline for commissioning of the Delhi-Meerut corridor.

Currently, the NCRTC is in the process of finalising bids for contractors for electrical works, traction works, supply of rolling stock, etc. For the remaining rolling stock requirement, in particular, the NRCTC will conduct an international competitive bidding, which will be bound by the clauses of the Make in India initiative.

Key benefits of an RRTS system

The main aim of an RRTS system is to reduce travel time and increase the distance covered by daily commuters. Presently, an hour of metro travel covers 30-35 km. In contrast, an hour of RRTS travel is aimed at increasing the distance to 100 km so that daily commuters from areas like Meerut can transit easily. The design speed of the system, thus, is set as high as 180 km per hour.

  • Multimodal integration: All the three RRTS corridors will converge at Sarai Kale Khan where the system will be connected with other modes of public transport such as the Indian Railways network, metro lines, bus terminals, as well as to Delhi airport. To enable this, the European Train Control System, Level 2 signalling system is being deployed.
  • Social and economic benefits: The RRTS project is expected to result in universal access to high speed and reliable commuting services. Lower pollution, reduced congestion on roads, increased employment opportunities, polycentric economic development, and better urban agglomeration are some of the benefits that will accrue from the project.
  • Reduced land use for high throughput: Land is a scarce resource. Non-availability of land is one of the most common reasons for infrastructure projects failing to take off. The RRTS system, which will be either elevated or underground, will make use of small land parcels.

Next steps

In the months ahead, the NCRTC is looking to tie up with entities such as the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to come up with a single ticketing system. Similar initiatives are planned for seamless travel with other connected modes such as buses. For fares likely to be charged for the RRTS, rough estimates stand at Rs 2 per km at present. Besides, the corporation is also looking to tap solar energy to meet some of its energy requirements, studies for which are under way. It is also in talks with appropriate agencies to collaborate and establish RRTS stations as green buildings. That said, at present, the focus is on the development of the Delhi-Meerut stretch so that learnings can be incorporated and scaled up in a standardised manner for the development of the entire project. w

Based on an interaction with Mahendra Kumar, Director, NCRTC, in a recent India Infrastructure webinar

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