Ring Rail service chugs into oblivion

New means of mass transit, encroachment make it less viable

It was Delhi’s showpiece during the Asiad Games in 1982, but the suburban Ring Railway service in the national capital seems to have lost its relevance with the emergence of  new modes of mass transport, like Delhi Metro.

While 12 trains still operate on weekdays, compared to Delhi Metro, a minuscule number ride on them.

Railways officials said the service, which runs on a dedicated track called ‘Delhi avoiding line’, is plagued with several problems like encroachment near the stations, and lack of approach roads and feeder buses to the station. Moreover, with alternative modes of transport like Metro becoming the lifeline of the capital, the Ring Railway is fast slipping into oblivion.

While the average ridership of Delhi Metro, which currently has its network spread over 200 kilometre, is 1.8 million per day, the Ring Railway service,  is 40 kilometre long, has 22 stations and the  average daily ridership of the service is a meagre 4,700.

“Delhi is not a linear city, which is ideal for the success of such rail services. Though we call it a ring rail, it’s not exactly ring-shaped. It runs on the Delhi avoiding line. Moreover, the stations as well as the approach roads are heavily encroached,” said Ashwani Lohani, Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi Division. 

Railways officials said it is technically difficult to increase the number of trains, which can increase the ridership. “Presently, there are 12 trains operating on the line. At best, we can scale it upto 20. Even if the trains run to full capacity, the maximum ridership would go up to 20,000. In that context, the service has more or less lost its feasibility because people have better and alternative means of transport like Metro,” a railways official said on condition of anonymity.

“The line was always meant for freight. Therefore, goods’ trains get priority as there is an optimal section capacity utilisation rule - the number of trains that can travel one after the other on one track,” he added.

The Ring Railway service was introduced on a track laid in the late 70s so that the large number of goods trains originating, terminating, or passing through the city could bypass the main passenger stations at New Delhi, Old Delhi and Hazrat Nizamuddin.

The official said the service can’t be shut down because thousands of people are still using it. As far as the removal of encroachment on railway stations and the approach roads is concerned, the railways officials said it is not happening because of lack of political will.

The officials said the railway can’t expect DTC-run feeder buses on stretches that are not economically viable. While  railways officials contend the Ring Railway has lost its relevance, it has significant benefits like being economical and giving a pollution-free ride.

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