Monday, June 27, 2016

Delhi Metro: Blueline Blues

Stranded: Delhi Metro Blueline

Is the Delhi Metro unprepared to cope with its own rapid expansion? How do passengers cope with sudden disruptions in the suburban network?

Things that you read in the papers, shake your head in disappointment, and then flip over to the next page. It takes a first hand  experience to jolt you out of the detached, disinterested way in which most of us go through the daily grind. I got mine today.

At 15:30 today, I went down the ITO station to a business meeting at Dwaraka Sector-12 . On a normal day this journey takes about 40-60 minutes and I was quite sure that I would reach in time. About an hour later, at Uttam Nagar on the outskirts of Dwaraka, the train suddenly stopped. For the next one hour annoucements on the PA system mentioned a "technical snag", and then about "disruption in electrical supply" which would be "repaired soon". At 17:45 the train slowly crawled to the next station.

By this time it was clear that I would have to reschedule my meeting. So I went down for a chat with the metro staff before taking a return train to Noida. "Oh, this sort of thing keeps happening", said the man at the turnstiles, "There is no way to predict how long the repair work is going to take...40 minute, or four hour, your guess is as good as mine!"

A fee passengers who had stepped out to look for alternate transport came back dejected. As soon as news of the network failure got around, the taxi and auto drivers had promptly switched to "surrge pricing", a nifty term for fleecing helpless people.

Nearly an hour later, at 18:30 the train came to a stop at Rajiv Chowk. There was an unbelievable mass of humanity outside the windows, and as soon as the doors slid open, commuters exploded into the compartment, and then, the doors would not close because folks on the outside just did not want to let go. It took a lot of coaxing and cajoling from the guards to get the train rolling again. The same scene was repeated at the next major crossing - Yamuna Bank.

I got out of the Blue-Line at 19:30, full four hours after I entered into the network.

DMRC is clearly under severe strain. The Delhi network currently handles an average ridership of 2.7 million people a day, of which the Blue-Line (the longest with 44 stations) handles a million passengers - 64 percent of the load.

Is there a pattern to the network failures along the Blue-Line? Is there a better way of communicating such failures to the commuters? Is there a more cost effective way of evacuating passengers in emergency situations?

DMRC has an active PR department but it needs to go way beyond issuing the usual press-releases. Disruptions like these present opportunities to prepare the city for bigger emergencies.


* 27 June 2016 -

* 4 June 2016:

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