Changing Delhi map makes Ring Railway redundant

Ring railway
With a rapid decline in ridership, the Ring Railway is slowly fading from the city's map into oblivion. From running 13 inter-city train services earlier, the line has begun to operate only six since the first week of February.

The rail service, which had been the lifeline of the city since 1975, has become redundant as the geographical make-up of the city changes drastically, and other modes of transport like the Metro and buses gains popularity.

While there has been talk of reviving the Ring Railway, with the Transport department pointing out the importance of easing road traffic by encouraging rail travel, the Railways department has little hope in this regard.

Lack of commuters

A Northern Railway spokesperson pointed out that patronisation for the Ring Railway witnessed a sharp fall due to several changes in the Capital's geography. "Road connectivity to the stations is poor and there is no feeder service to ferry passengers to an from the stations. We wrote to the Delhi government on several occasions, but there has been no response."

Officials said the city's geographical make-up has changed drastically over the last two decades. "Unlike Mumbai, which has seen longitudinal expansion, thereby letting the local train service retain its significance, Delhi has expanded in a circular manner. The Ring Railway had come up along the Ring Road and fed nearby localities like Nizamuddin, Safdarjung, Lodhi Colony, Brar Square, Sarojini Nagar and Chanakyapuri. But the Ring Road is no longer at the periphery of the city, so it no longer serves its purpose," a spokesperson said. "Though a number of people still use it because the services are very cheap, the system has become redundant over time."

Officials said during weekends, the ridership dwindles to such an extent that the authorities find running trains along the line an exercise in futility. Seven train services running between Nizamuddin and Shakurbasti and Patel Nagar have been suspended during weekends since February 5 on a trial basis for three months.

Despite talks on putting the line out of service, officials maintain that the network is still important as goods trains ply on sections such as Nizamuddin to Pater Nagar and New Delhi.

No revamp

Over the years, no significant step has been taken to develop the network or even revamp the existing system. The trains are rickety, and the Railway and the Delhi government have often passed the buck over fixing matters relating to road connectivity and feeder service to the stations.

Even E Sreedharan, Managing Director, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), has said with both the Metro and Ring Railway running on broad gauge, it would be feasible to integrate its routes with the Delhi Metro system. No formal communication has taken place in this regard so far.

CWG facelift

Despite all this, the Railways had sanctioned Rs 3 crore to provide the railway stations a facelift before the Commonwealth Games, in case visitors walked into the stations. Seven stations near the Games venues Chanakyapuri, Sarojini Nagar, Inderpuri Halt, Lajpat Nagar, Sewa Nagar, Lodhi Colony and Safdarjung received a facelift. The surrounding area was improved through the construction of pathways, roads were re-surfaced, station buildings were revamped, platform surfaces were improved, boundary walls were repaired, benches were installed and new signages put up.

Most of the stations on the Ring Railway do not have proper entry or exit points and there are no proper roads leading out of the stations. Most passengers have to walk through residential colonies to the reach the connecting road.

The Ring Railway was introduced in 1975 and upgraded for the 1982 Asiad. Around 24 additional services ran on the line during the 1982 Games to handle the passenger load. At present, trains run seven clockwise and six anti-clockwise with a peak frequency of 60-90 minutes during the morning and evening rush hours.

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