Despite increased traffic, Delhi saw its lowest number of fatal accidents in a decade in 2014. Delhi Police data reveal that 1,595 deaths were reported (1,559 accidents) in 2014, compared to 1,754 in 2013; 1,866 in 2012; 2,110 in 2011; 2,153 in 2010; and 2,325 in 2009.
Apart from aggressive implementation of traffic rules, experts suggest that one of the major reasons for the fall in road accidents in the last decade coincides with the metro gradually becoming the principal artery of public transport with increased numbers of commuters using it. Today, Delhi’s metro boasts of an average daily traffic of over 25 lakh commuters, making it the city’s most preferred mode of public transport.
According to a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) survey, the number of vehicles on road fell by around 3.9 lakh per day in 2014. And, given that two-wheelers (after pedestrians) contribute the most to fatal accidents, the fact that many commuters now use two-wheelers only for last mile connectivity to metro stations has contributed to reducing accidents.
“Unlike open urban rail systems like in Mumbai, Delhi metro is safer as it is a closed system. Apart from reducing accidents on roads, cases of run-overs or people falling to death from trains are also ruled out,” says Anuj Dayal, Executive Director (Communications), DMRC.
Experts say carbon emission from the metro network is the least compared to other modes of transport. “Though CNG buses have helped reduce pollution levels as well, urban rail networks like metro pollute the least,” says P.K. Sarkar, Head of Transport and Planning, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.
Delhi metro is currently spread across a 190-km network. With work for the third phase in full swing, the network will extend to around 330 km in the next couple of years. Being one of the biggest urban infrastructure projects in the Capital, the metro has created large business and job opportunities. “Now everybody wants to own residential and commercial space close to the metro. Even the government is pushing for transit-oriented development (TOD),” says Mr. Sarkar.
The Delhi Development Authority has already started work on TOD near Karkardooma metro station in East Delhi on the Dwarka-Vaishali line as a pilot project. Spread across 60 acres, it will be a residential-cum-commercial hub, with 4,800 homes, plazas, public spaces, commercial and office spaces, residential areas and restaurants.
Besides, say officials, the metro in Delhi has also led to indirect employment generation. “All contracts awarded to companies by DMRC promote indigenisation. It is mandatory for companies to engage Indian companies wherever possible. Besides, several vendors of DMRC have now established manufacturing units in India,” says Mr. Dayal. Thus, Rotem manufactures rolling stock in Sawli, Gujarat, and Astom is producing near Chandigarh. Initially, metro tokens were being made in Japan, but now a manufacturing unit has come up in Noida.
Best for high density areas
Compared to other modes of mass transit networks, experts say the metro is the best suited for a populous city like Delhi. “The choice of mass transit and its success is directly proportional to the demand based on density of population. Besides, the right of way on roads also becomes a determinant in choosing the nature of mass transit system,” says Mr. Sarkar.
The carrying capacity of the metro is 80,000 to 90,000 people per hour per direction traffic (phpdt). The capacity of buses (in mixed traffic) is only 10,000 to 15,000 phpdt. In case of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), it could go up to 20,000 to 30,000 phpdt. Monorail’s capacity is 15,000 to 20,000 phpdt, while for light rail it is up to 35,000 phpdt.
“Monorails are best suited for narrow streets as they can manoeuvre curves better. Light rail trains could even run on the street along with road traffic, while the metro needs to be fully segregated. It is the artery of the city, but it can’t go where the density is poor, else it becomes unviable. The choice has to be entirely need based,” says Mr. Sarkar.
After Delhi’s success story, metros have been cleared in several capitals across the country, with Mumbai and Bangalore getting online in the last couple of years. However, there is a visible absence of standardisation in terms of quality and experience. Even in mechanical infrastructure such as rolling stock, there is difference. Even within Delhi, different rolling stocks are used on different lines. Officials say that, despite technology upgradation being a dynamic process, there is scope to standardise rolling stock, electrical equipment, signalling systems, etc.
“It is good for manufacturers as well. With metros coming up in several states, standardisation would help both manufacturer and operator. Things have started moving in that direction,” a senior metro official said.