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New Delhi gets its brand new Metro

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar



IT'S HERE: United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurating the new Delhi Metro underground line on Saturday.

NEW DELHI: The ambitious Delhi Metro project crossed a major landmark on Saturday with United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurating the new 7-km Kashmere Gate-Central Secretariat underground corridor. Opening the line by pulling a lever, Ms. Gandhi hoped that this state-of-the-art section -- running through the heart of the Capital and completed way ahead of schedule -- would prove to be an example worth emulating for other projects as well.

Speaking in Hindi, Ms. Gandhi -- who bought a ticket and took a ride on the system -- lauded the role of all Metro workers and officials in doing a fine job and said Delhi's face would change with the expansion of the Metro network. Noting that increasing population and vehicular density was a matter of concern for all metropolitan cities, she said the Metro would help in reducing congestion and ensuring that people reach their places of work on time.

Observing that the real impact of the Delhi Metro project would be felt only when it is fully implemented, she hoped that the upcoming Barakhamba-Dwarka corridor, which would mark the completion of Phase I of the project, would also be completed on time.

Ms. Gandhi also made a fervent plea to the people to ensure cleanliness, safety and upkeep of the system so that it attains real success and the coming generations benefit from it.

Union Urban Development Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said while the new section was the most important and challenging one, its success would depend on its use by people for going to offices, colleges, schools and markets.

The Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi, B.L. Joshi, said in the historic city of Delhi that had been built seven times the new Metro section would reduce travel time from the old Walled City to the new Lutyens' Delhi to just a few minutes.

It was an eagerly awaited gift for the people, he said, considering that the section passes through some of the most congested parts of the city and promises to ease congestion on the roads and pollution a great deal. Besides helping Delhi's cause in staging the 2010 Commonwealth Games, he said, the project implemented so far had also brought in a new travel culture. Describing the Metro as a good solution for traffic problems due to rising fuel costs, he said by 2020 Delhi would have eight Metro lines traversing a distance of nearly 250 km.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said the project was a feather in the Capital's cap and something India can truly be proud of. "An ancient area," she said, "will now get connected with the world-class Metro".

Catering to crowded places like Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk, she said, the new section would add over 70,000 commuters daily to the existing 130,000 daily passengers. "And while thus far about 1,000 bus trips have been reduced due to the Metro, another 1,000 would be reduced with the new section becoming operational. And by the end of Phase I - which would cover a total of 65 km -- about 22,400 buses and thousands of private vehicles would hopefully be replaced by the Metro with nearly 22 lakh people using the system."

The decongestion on the roads will also help improve the average speed of buses from around 10 km per hour at present to 14.5 km per hour and people will have a safe, comfortable, quick and reliable mode of transport. The Chief Minister said the Metro had been an integral part of the Delhi Government's transport policy and the dream of commissioning the Metro in Delhi had been realised due to excellent Centre-State coordination in which there were no drawbacks or fallbacks.

The hero of the colossal project, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Managing Director E. Sreedharan, said the new underground section -- 6.6 km in length with six fully air-conditioned stations -- had been completed eight months ahead of schedule. Describing it as the most difficult and formidable section to construct, he said the aesthetic elegance of Lutyens' Delhi had been conserved while care was taken that the least disturbance was caused on the surface.

Noting that ridership would increase with the opening of the new section, he said the frequency during rush hour on all Metro routes now would be brought down to five minutes from seven minutes so far.

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