Delhi Metro's Magenta Line set to ease connectivity but holistic solution needed to tackle congestion woes

On 15 September, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union released an order entitled The journeys made by workers without fixed or habitual place of work between their homes and the first and last customer of the day constitute working time which pertained to Tyco, a Spanish fire protection and commercial security specialist. In 2011, Tyco closed its offices in various provinces and assigned all its employees to the central office in Madrid. The distances between the workers’ homes and factories, and the homes where they installed and maintained security equipment was sometimes more than 100 kilometres. File image of the Magenta Line of Delhi Metro during trial. News18 The Court of Justice declared ‘where workers, such as those in the situation at issue, do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent by those workers travelling each day between their homes and the premises of the first and last customers designated by their employer constitutes working time within the meaning of the directive.’ Office goers commuting to work in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, which covers an area of 1,484 square kilometres and has offices spread out in the widening adjoining towns of Noida (Uttar Pradesh) and Gurugram (Haryana) don't have the luxury of such a law that will put paid to those endless hours commuting to work. In Delhi, according to a study done by Centre for Science and Environment in 2016, the average morning and evening peak traffic speeds were recorded at 28 kilometres per hour and 25 kilometres per hour and the off-peak speed stood at 27 kilometres per hour. The number of registered vehicles in the capital crossed the 1 crore mark last June. The brand new Magenta Line of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is expected to ease the life of those travelling from Noida to Gurugram, because commuters won’t have to get off at the crowded Rajiv Chowk to switch to the Blue Line going to Noida or the Yellow Line going towards Gurugram. Now, those on the Blue Line can hop on the Magenta Line on the Janakpuri station in west Delhi and get off at Hauz Khas station in south Delhi that falls on the Yellow Line to board the train to Gurugram. On this new line, which comprises 16 stations, travel time has been reduced by 30 minutes. Professor Pravesh Biyani, who is researching optimisation for signal processing and communications, machine-learning, and transportation at IIIT Delhi, took some of his students for a quick survey of the Magenta Line. Biyani pointed out two areas of concern: Janakpuri station has nearly 500 steps and it takes 10-odd minutes to get from one platform to another. The other is that the Hauz Khas station is 29 meters deep (five levels). In fact, it is the deepest metro station in Delhi. Yet another concern is that commuters may or may not be comfortable about facing congestion by boarding and de-boarding trains at stops in the journey; three to four stations into the trip, the metro is already packed. No doubt a new train service will be beneficial, but as Biyani puts it: What's wrong must be acknowledged and fixed even amid the jubilation of celebrating something new. One such issue is last mile connectivity. As per the DMRC website, 149 low-floor buses are operational, each with a capacity of 18 and 25 standard floor buses of 900 mm floor height—27 seaters with a capacity of 20 standing commuters—are also operational. The website further mentions ‘08:00 hours to 20:00 hours at a frequency of 10 to 15 minutes depending upon road traffic density. However, if an operator wishes, he can operate before/beyond these hours’. What’s visible in these feeder buses is a drop in the frequency, efficiency and cleanliness standards that the metro trains adhere to. The other options are rickety cycle rickshaws and e-rickshaws. The concept that Delhi needs at this juncture is multi-modal transport, which. In the India Infrastructure Report 2010, the authors Sanjiv N Sahai and Simon Bishop defined ‘multi-modal transportation’ as a scientific term for journeys that involve some kind of transfer from one type of travel or mode to another. The report stated: ‘Known as Vision 2021, the linchpin of the approach is to develop a citywide Metro service rivalling that of London in size, buttressed by a series of bus priority corridors covering nearly 300 kilometres, Light Rail Transit, and Monorail’. It cited the example of TransMilenio, the bus rapid transit (BRT) system of Colombia that ‘stations are built to minimise the distance travelled to change from a feeder to a mainline bus without needing to leave one’ and ‘route integration is secured through a series of ‘feeder routes’ (309 kilometres) linked to dedicated bus lanes (84 kilometres)’. The Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) Ltd, an equal equity joint venture of Govt. of NCT of Delhi and IDFC Foundation with a focus on urban transportation, lists the development of Multi Modal Transit Centers (MMTCs) at Kashmere Gate, Anand Vihar and Sarai Kale Khan as one of its projects towards the consolidation inter-state buses, railway, local buses, Metro, Mono Rail and Light Rail. There are metro stations at the former two locations but from Sarai Kale Khan, which is a critical bus terminus for buses to Rajasthan and Haryana, the closest station is Lajpat Nagar and that is a good 6.9 kilometres away. The other good news on Delhi's traffic movement front is the recent announcement of the completion of the Signature Bridge. The construction of the bridge that will connect the Outer Ring Road on the western bank with the Wazirabad Road on the eastern side of the Yamuna began in 2010 and was to be completed in 2013. However, it was delayed by five years. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced it will be complete by October. The East-West corridor will connect developing areas like Yamuna Vihar and Nand Nagri to the capital and smoothen the movement of inter-state traffic from Ghaziabad, Shahibabad and Loni on the east of the capital to Azadpur, Burari, Mukherjee Nagar, Mall Road on the West. Shishir Bansal, a civil engineer with Delhi Tourism, has been part of the Signature Bridge project since its conception. He told Firstpost the bridge will only divert traffic from one point to another unless the proposed signal-free scheme is implemented along the road that goes from Majnu ka Tila to Khajuri Khas. This is a heavily congested stretch. “The talk about making the area signal-free has been going on since more than three years. The State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) have also prescribed that the area be made signal-free. Unless bottlenecks are removed from key intersections, the desired cut in travel time won’t be achieved,” he said. The Signature Bridge is expected to cost up to Rs 1,511 crore and in 2016, the Delhi Metro was allotted Rs 5,579 crore in the Union Budget, a 31 percent increase from the previous year’s (2015) budget, owing to the expansion of the rail network across the capital. To leverage benefits of its swanky new transport infrastructure, small but critical changes that complement it are needed.