Early in 2009,when the financial closure of the Delhi Airport Metro Express Line was signed,an optimistic Delhi Metro and the Reliance Infrastructure-led concessionaire painted a larger than life image of the high-speed corridor,linking the international terminal of the Delhi airport to the heart of the city.
Three years later,and barely a year into operations,the line has many problems to call its own it failed to meet the deadline to start operations,could not follow the 20-hour operational schedule,had to bring down the speed of trains from stipulated 120 kmph to 80kmph and was finally closed due to safety hazards.
It was announced that at least 40,000 commuters will use the high-speed link daily though R-Infra kept a more realistic target of 25,000 passengers per day but the highest number it touched was 20,000.
Officials said factors taken into consideration for the estimated ridership had changed.
When the projections were made,it was assumed that Terminal 3 will soon take over the entire load of Terminal 1 and there would be one point for both domestic and international flights. But with a majority of domestic airlines still using Terminal 1 of the airport,the Metro lost out on many riders.
Lack of connectivity between the two terminals made matters worse. Officials said the airport handles over 1.10 lakh fliers per day,while the airport Metro ferries only as many as 12,000 commuters to the IGI Airport daily,a dismal 10 per cent of the total target commuter base.
The link also suffers from poor connectivity between the line and the rest of the Metro network. Dwarka Sector-21 is the only station where the Airport Metro is integrated with the Delhi Metro at the platform level.
At New Delhi station,commuters have to exit the Delhi Metro station and walk at least 300 metres to reach the Airport Metro station. Inadequate signs add to commuters confusion.
An underground pathway was proposed to link the New Delhi railway station with the Airport Metro station,but the proposal was turned down by the Delhi Metro. Officials said trains like Shatabdi,which ferry commuters who are a potential passenger base for the Airport line,arrive at platforms 1 and 2 at the Paharganj end,while the Metro station is at the Ajmeri Gate section of the railway station.
The upcoming Metro station on the Mukundpur-Yamuna Vihar corridor of Phase-III skirts the Airport Metro station at Dhaula Kuan. The Delhi Metro has asked R-Infra to plan a foot-overbridge connecting the two stations that are about 700 metres apart.
The concessionaire had requested DMRC to integrate the Metro lines at this station,but the Delhi Metro turned it down citing land acquisition issues. Had the upcoming station been integrated,commuters on the Delhi Metro network from East and West Delhi would have had direct access to the airport,just by a single change of train.
The location of Aerocity station was proposed closer to Mahipalpur Chowk and NH-8,expecting a catchment area on the busy intersection. But the station was plotted at a different location,about 400 metres away from the intersection and on a deserted road,rendering it almost inaccessible.