“The Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) will have a long-term impact on India’s railway industry,” declares Vinay Kumar Singh, MD of National Capital Region Transport Corp. (NCRTC) emphatically, as the gentle winter sunlight filters in through the large windows of his very spacious cabin. An Indian Railway Service of Engineers officer, Singh, 55, is known for his no-nonsense approach.
The reasons behind Singh’s confidence are many. For starters, trains on the Delhi-Meerut RRTS corridor will run at an average speed of 90-100 km per hour. “It is an intercity train of high frequency and speed—its main USP. It is faster than even private cars that usually give an average speed of 40 km per hour in peak city traffic,” says Singh.
Delhi-Meerut RRTS is also the country’s first truly interstate urban rail project. Joint venture NCRTC’s owners include Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana. Approvals for the first corridor were received in March 2019 and work began in June. Despite the many challenges posed by Covid-19-induced lockdowns, NCRTC ensured that construction work remained largely unaffected. “In all probability, we are going to start the Delhi-Meerut section by March 2023, three months ahead of the schedule, says Singh, adding, “The project has been completed within the sanctioned cost and time.” Expected to cost more than Rs 30,000 crore, Rs 11,440 crore has already been spent on the first corridor till November 2022.
Shailesh Pathak, Director at the Indian School of Public Policy (ISPP) in Delhi, commends the conception and implementation of the project that can serve as a role model similar to the Delhi Metro. “The efficient and timely implementation of the Delhi-Meerut RRTS project can be a success story that can be replicated for other railway projects.”
The project has several other firsts to its credit. Unlike in metro rail projects where each line is independent, all three RRTS corridors are interoperable. In the eventuality of contingencies such as a technical failure or civil unrest, train services can be run using other depots. NCRTC is deploying the latest European Train Control System (ETCS) technology over long-term evolution (LTE) radio for RRTS operations for the first time globally. In Meerut, Metro rail services will be operated on the same line as RRTS. “This has helped in achieving savings of Rs 6,500 crore of public funds, with RRTS only losing around 12 seconds in running time,” says NCRTC’s Singh.
Private operators have been roped in for the maintenance of the rolling stock and infrastructure. Consequently, the rolling stock will be managed by French company Alstom and infrastructure, including the operation of services, by the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn. “We realised if we bring in private operators, we can bring in a lot more efficiencies... and we can focus more on ensuring the viability of the system through land monetisation, transit-oriented development and value financing,” states Singh.
The project, according to ISPP’s Pathak, will not only help in decongesting Delhi but will also encourage more people to move to Meerut. The logistics sector is another beneficiary. “The cost of transporting products from Meerut to Delhi will fall drastically,” he says.
Land prices on certain sections of the corridor have already risen four times in the past four years.
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