There is new hope for the revival of the little known Ring railway line in Delhi as Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, in his budget speech last month, talked about reviving this network.
Neglected by both people of the city and the Railways, the circular line, which could have served as an alternative mode of transport for Delhi, has been dying a slow death.
The Ring railway line, which starts from the Hazrat Nizamuddin station, ends its full circle at the same station after traversing a distance of 35 km with halts at 21 stations along the route. The Railways currently operates five trains in the clockwise direction and an equal number of trains in the anti-clockwise direction from the Hazrat Nizamuddin station in south Delhi.
Though the frequency of the trains should be 90-120 minutes, they never run on time. One of the passengers waiting at the Patel Nagar railway station in West Delhi said, “The train is never on time, but I travel on this line because there is no Metro yet near my work place, so I have no choice.”
The 10-coach train arrived one-and-a-half hours late, and barely had 200 passengers.
Arun Arora, divisional railway manager, Delhi, said, “The stations en route the Ring railway system lack ground connectivity as they are at isolated locations. There are many stations, like Patel Nagar, Naraina Vihar, Inderpuri, which do not have built roads that access these stations. The Delhi government should work to provide better connectivity to these stations, both through better roads and transport. Heavy encroachment in most stations and along the railway tracks is also impediment.”
While travelling along the route, this correspondent saw encroachment at the Inderpuri station where people have built their homes on the platform. Some stations do not even have a proper platform, while others have encroachment in between the railway tracks.
“The entire route has been encroached upon and this is a security concern. We can only revive this line once the unauthorised encroachment is shifted or relocated. A joint action plan between the Railways and the Delhi government could help to revive this line,” Arora said.
Sharma Prasad, who travels regularly on a train from Kishanganj to Lodhi Colony to sell painkillers, complained about the discontinuation of the evening service on this line. He said, “With the spread of the Metro network, many people have chosen alternative modes of transport and this train now runs in the morning but is mostly empty.”
Repeated attempts to contact Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai failed.
The Ring railway line was laid in 1975 as the Delhi Avoiding Line, primarily to service freight trains and provide relief to the heavily congested Delhi main route—New Delhi and Old Delhi line. This line was, however, upgraded during the 1982 Asian Games to facilitate the movement of spectators and since then, local train services have been operating on this route.
“This line has a capacity of 74 trains, but currently, we are operating 94 trains and the route is stretched to the limit. The existing infrastructure cannot be utilised for more passenger trains without reducing the freight capacity as that would cause huge losses to the Railways,” Arora said.