Seamless Urban Connectivity: High-speed RRTS for secure, world-class transit services across the NCR

The regional rapid transit system (RRTS) is an innovative, transformative and strategic regional public transit initiative by the government in the National Capital Region (NCR). This high-speed system (design speed 180 kmph and operational speed 160 kmph) will provide a high frequency, reliable and safe mode of commuting between metropolitan are­as, big cities, towns and other suburban and ur­ban centres in the NCR. Besides promoting balanced and sustainable urban development ac­ross the NCR, the RRTS will also bring in significant economic benefits such as savings due to reduction in pollution, travel time, vehicle operating costs, road stress and accidents; improved productivity output of labour and industries; creation of indirect and induced employment; and an increase in the GDP of the entire region.

Funding details

The project is being funded jointly by the central government (20 per cent of the total project cost) and the state governments of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh (combined 20 per cent of the total project cost), while the remaining portion is financed with assistance from multilateral agencies. The RRTS, being the first of its k­i­nd in the country, has garnered significant inte­r­est from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), New De­velopment Bank (NDB) and the Asian In­frastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which have assumed the primary responsibility for funding the project.

In August 2020, ADB approved funds worth Rs 76.9 billion ($1,049 million) in three tranches (1, 3 and 4) for the project. A month later, NDB approved funds worth Rs 37.5 billion ($500 million), following which, in October 2020, AIIB approved funds worth Rs 36.65 billion ($500 million) for Tranche 2 of the project. Under the Union Budget 2023-24, the urban transit project received Rs 35.96 billion, which is a 23 per cent decrease from the previous budget, but in line with the National Capital Region Transport Corporation’s (NCRTC) deman­ds. Following this, in September 2023, the Uttar Pradesh government sanctioned another Rs 3.50 billion to expedite the construction.

RRTS routes

The construction of the 82 km-long Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS corridor is under way. The RRTS corridor passes through densely populated cities and towns such as Delhi, Sahi­ba­bad, Ghaziabad, Muradnagar, Modinagar and Meerut. The three stretches prioritised under Phase I of the project include Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut, Delhi-Panipat and Delhi-Alwar. The le­n­gth of the prioritised corridors is approximately 350 km, with 600 coaches, six depots and an estimated cost of Rs 1 trillion.

The RRTS network will provide secure, world-class commuter transit services and redu­ce commuter travel time in the region through its high speed (160 km) and high frequency (5 to 10 minutes) operations. The chosen technology will allow non-stop trips of 100 km to be completed in approximately 45-50 minutes.

Going forward, the future stretches of the RRT Sinclude Delhi–Faridabad–Ballab­garh– Pal­­wal, Ghaziabad-Khurja, Delhi-Bahadur­garh-­Ro­htak, Ghaziabad-Hapur and Delhi-Shah­da­ra-Baraut. Recently, NCRTC proposed to alter the alignment for the Gurugram-SNB section wi­th it now following the Gurgaon expressway route.

Multimodal integration and connectivity

The three under-construction corridors will be interoperable, providing seamless movement and will converge at Sarai Kale Khan. Multi­mo­dal integration will be established across different transport modes such as the metro (seven Delhi metro lines, the Meerut metro, the Guru­gram ra­pid metro and the Bawal metro), interstate bus terminals (Sarai Kale Khan, Kashmere Gate, Anand Vihar, Panchgaon and Panipat), bus terminals (the Kaushambi Bus Depot, Sahi­babad bus adda, Ghaziabad New Bus Adda, Mu­radnagar Bus Adda, Bhaisali Bus Adda, and the Bawal, Gannur and Pa­nipat Bus Stands), railway stations (Hazrat Ni­za­muddin and Anand Vihar) and the Indira Gandhi International Air­port (via the Aerocity metro).

Additionally, the RRTS infrastructure will pro­vide local transit (metro) services in Meerut over a stretch of 21 km, with 13 stations (stoppages) to cater to the local mobility requirements.

Subsystem framework

  • Signalling and telecom: The Delhi-Meerut RRTS corridor will be the world’s first rail corridor to implement the European Train Control System Level 2 (ETCS L2) signalling, based on long term evolution (LTE) communication ser­vice with Hybrid Level 3 functionality. The project will also deploy interoperable automatic train operations with ETCS. Another first for the project is the integration of platform screen doors (PSDs) with the ETCS signalling system, utilising Packet 44 for train and PSD synchronisation. This makes it one of the mo­st advanced signalling projects in the wo­rld, positioning India at the forefront of innovation and technology adoption. State-of-the-art ETCS L2 technology is being used in the RRTS for the first time in India and will achieve the twin objectives of interoperability (vendor independence) and efficient high speed operations with increased safety, higher line ca­pacity and improved headways.
  • Rolling stock: In 2020, as a major push to the Make in India initiative, NCRTC announ­ced that the entire rolling stock for the Delhi-Me­erut RRTS corridor would be manufactured in the country. Additionally, as against the Make in India bid requirement that at least 75 per cent of the quantity be manufactured in India, Bombardier Trans­por­tation India Private Limited’s winning bid proposed to manufacture 100 per cent of the rolling stock in Savli, Gujarat, using 83 per cent local content.
  • Fare collection: NCRTC is adopting the automatic fare collection (AFC) system for the corridor. Similar to the procurement of rolling stock, the nodal agency invited bids under Make in India guidelines and is based on the hybrid annuity model. Under this, the first step involves selecting a system integrator for ins­tallation activities, followed by a financial institution for acquiring services.

The AFC will offer QR code-based ticketing (digital and paper). Each ticket vending machine will be equipped with a credit/debit/ prepaid card reader that complies with the Europay, MasterCard, Visa and RuPay standards for non-cash transactions. This will ensure seamless, simple, comfortable and quick contactless entry/exit. Additionally, co­m­muters will have the convenience of using any National Common Mobility Card.

Non-fare revenue streams

In order to ensure the long-term financial viability of the RRTS project, NCRTC has been exploring various avenues to generate non-fare box revenues. The organisation has decided to include panel advertising, experiential advertising, retail shops, semi-naming rights, real estate development and consultancy as part of its strategies. It will soon se­lect its partners for activities such as outdoor and indoor train wrapping, le­asing of mobile towers and optical fibre, and provision of last-mile connectivity, as well as multi-level commercial areas above its Sarai Kale Khan and Anand Vihar stations. It will also offer brands exclusive rights to sell certain categories of products at their stations.

Technology impetus

NCRTC has developed in-house competence in utilising OpenTrack simulation softwa­re, whi­ch takes inputs from tracks, signals and telecommunication, and rolling stock. The results of such simulations help in optimising track layouts, formulating train operation plans, designing tunnel ventilation systems and achieving energy optimisation. NCRTC has also extended its expertise by providing consultancy services to the K­e­rala High Speed Rail (Thiruvanan­tha­pu­ram-Kasara­god) project. Additionally, the agen­cy will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of track alignment designs for the 180 kmph train operation, through its open rail designer platform. In-house capabilities are being developed to re­view alignment using the software. The alig­n­ment is further integrated with Google Maps, which enables the generation of a digital terrain model (grou­nd surface) from the existing topography survey. This tool also allows for designing the vertical alignment, reviewing the horizontal alignment, identifying critical locations of the alignment that may hinder speed potential, hi­gh­li­ghting components requiring modifi­cati­on and generating automatic annotation of plan and profile drawings.

The Systematic Program Evaluation for Effi­cient Delivery of Project (SPEED), a cloud ba­s­ed platform, is another in-house tailor-made solution for infrastructure projects. The system oversees all critical aspects such as pre-construction, construction, co­st monitoring, review meeting, quality and em­ployee self-service. This platform also aids in the timely identification and mitigation of po­tential risks (particularly those involving third parties) and managing pre-construction risks.

Leveraging technology at the construction stage

NCRTC is using the latest technology, cutting-edge tools and industry best practices to ac­hieve optimisation in planning, efficiency in execution and effectiveness in monitoring and managing risks, ensuring timely and cost-effective project delivery. At the construction stage, NCRTC uses technologies such as Primavera P6 and SPEED for project planning and monitoring, drones for documentation, and collaborative de­sign. The RRTS project extensively incorporates the seven di­mensions of BIM. By integrating BIM with the geo­graphic information system (GIS) platform, NCRTC has created a digital twin of the RRTS project. Additionally, virtual reality applications are being employed, enabling engineers to participate in immersive collaborative meetings and review designs on a 1:1 scale.

  • CDE: The Common Data Environment (CDE) ser­ves as a cloud-based platform for do­cu­me­nt and drawing sharing, as well as approval of workflow management. It functions as a document management system and file approval system, while facilitating BIM implementation. The CDE allows for viewing, annotation and commenting of 3D BIM models and DWG drawings directly within the browser, without the need for additional costly third-party solutions/software. It helps in creating a digital repository of the entire project from inception till completion.
  • BIM and GIS: NCRTC is leveraging new and rapidly developing technologies such as BIM and GIS in construction management. BIM offers advantages in the form of rich geometric and semantic information throughout the building life cycle, while GIS encompasses a bro­ad field of geo-visualisation-based decision-making and geospatial modelling.

Construction practices

The construction of the Delhi-Meerut RRTS station is being carried out via the top-down me­thod, where construction begins at the ground level and then progresses underground. Near the station, four tunnel boring machines (TBMs) named Sudarshan have been deployed to construct tunnels for the corridor.

Sudarshan 4.1, the first TBM, has been deployed for the construction of the tunnel go­ing towards New Ashok Nagar; the second TBM, Sudarshan 4.2, has completed the construction of the parallel tunnel; Sudarshan 4.3 has been deployed for the construction of the tunnel towards Sahibabad; and the fourth TBM, Sudarshan 4.4, has commenced constr­uc­tion of the parallel tunnel.

Operations and maintenance

In July 2022, NCRTC signed a 12-year contract with Deutsche Bahn Engineering and Consul­tancy India Private Limited, a subsi­diary of Deutsche Bahn AG, the German national railway company, for the comprehensive operations and maintenance (O&M) of the RRTS.

By adopting this model of long-term private participation for O&M activities, NCRTC has taken the first step towards achieving the ob­jective of the 2017 Metro Rail Policy, which ad­vocates private sector participation in regional rail and metro rail projects.

Key challenges

The project faces several key challenges such as accommodating both high speed RRTS and low-speed metro on the same track infrastructure; creating a mechanism to eliminate the need to interchange between corridors; ensuring that co­rridor extensions remain independent of vendor lock-in; designing a mission-critical LTE-ba­sed safe train communication network; facilitating predictive and preventive maintenance; and ensuring accuracy of execution, matching with geo-coordinates in drawings.


Net, net, with the implementation of the RRTS,  balanced and sustainable economic development of the NCR is possible. The quality of life for people in the less privileged segments of so­ciety will improve with the increase in economic activity. The RRTS will be a boon for the country, given its population explosion. The expansion of the RRTS will play a crucial role in enhancing intra- and inter-city connectivity and is essential for providing last-mile connectivity, a gap that feeder buses have so far failed to bridge.