The standoff between the Centre and AAP over the Delhi leg of the Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) is stalling not one, but two projects.
The central hub of the RRTS, of which the first phase is a Metro-like service between Delhi and Meerut, followed by an extension to Alwar and Panipat, is Sarai Kale Khan. According to the design, the three routes are supposed to merge at the spot. Sarai Kale Khan is also home to an Interstate Bus Terminal, the Nizamuddin Railway Station and the Nizamuddin Metro Station on the Pink Line.
The Delhi government has been planning to revamp Sarai Kale Khan and provide connectivity between the Metro, railway station and the bus stand using travelators and skywalks. According to officials in the Delhi government as well as the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which is behind the RRTS project, the bone of contention is whether the station would be built overhead or underground. While RRTS wants an overhead station, Delhi government is insisting on an underground one before it gives its nod to the project, to be be co-funded by the governments. Till a decision is made, the revamp of Sarai Kale Khan will remain stalled.
Initial plan: A transit hub to decongest city
The Sarai Kale Khan terminal was supposed to become a transit hub, with the Delhi Metro, ISBT and three proposed Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) projects coming together at the spot. Two other lines of the RRTS project were also supposed to originate here. The aim of the ambitious RRTS project is to decongest Delhi by bringing towns such as Alwar and Meerut within an hour’s reach. According to officials, if the project takes off, it will give people the option to work in Delhi and stay in these towns. But with disagreements over whether to take the overhead or underground route unlikely to be resolved soon, the dream of making Sarai Kale Khan a transit hub seems far from becoming a reality.
Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Puri, in his letter to Kejriwal dated October 26, said that building underground will increase the cost of the project by Rs 4,000 crore.
“Till we don’t know where the RRTS station will be built, the construction at ISBT will have to wait. Our plans are approved and we are ready to start, but before that, a decision on RRTS station is crucial,” said a Delhi government official.
Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot did not respond to calls seeking a comment.