MR Vinay Kumar Singh, managing director of the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC), is a satisfied man these days, and not without reason. In just over three years since taking charge, Singh has been able to bring to life a project that had remained on the drawing board for more than two decades.

The NCRTC was set up by the government of India and the state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to design, implement, finance, operate and maintain a network of Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) commuter rail lines. The eight-line network will connect Delhi with so-called Tier-2 cities - typically regional hubs with a population of 1 million - in adjoining states with trains operating at 160km/h.

The idea was first mooted in 1998-99 in a study commissioned by Indian Railways (IR). The proposal was re-examined in 2006 in light of plans for metro projects in some of the cities in the National Capital Region (NCR). In 2009, a functional transport plan for NCR, identifying eight RRTS lines was approved by the Indian Cabinet. Four years later, the NCRTC was incorporated, and Singh took over as the corporation’s first managing director in July 2016.

“In the initial years, several administrative and institutional issues needed to be sorted out,” Singh told IRJ. “But we have moved ahead rapidly, after prime minister, Mr Narendra Modi, sanctioned the first 82km line linking Delhi, Ghaziabad and Meerut last year, a project costing Rs 302bn ($US 4.2bn).”

Civil works

Civil works contracts have been awarded for two packages on the first line, and construction of the 17km Sahibabad - Ghaziabad - Duhai priority section has begun. Duhai will be the location for a depot for the line. The priority section will form part of the first 38km section from Sahibabad on the eastern side of Delhi to Meerut South, which is expected to open in 2023. This will be followed by the 16.6km section from Sahibabad to Serai Kale Khan in Delhi, which will become a transit hub offering connections to IR’s Hazrat Nizamuddin main line station, the metro and Serai Kale inter-state bus station. This section is expected to open a year later, followed in 2024 by the final 37.4km northern section from Meerut South through Meerut Central to Modipuram which will have three underground stations. The line will be mainly elevated apart from 14km underground and 1.45km at grade sections.

A global tender for the acquisition/manufacture of 210 cars at an estimated cost of Rs 20bn has also been floated. About 30% of the trains will be imported, while the remainder will be manufactured in India under a technology transfer arrangement.

“Our estimates are that the line will have a daily ridership of more than 800,000 passengers.”

Mr Vinay Kumar Singh, managing direvtor of the National Capital Region Transport corporation

The project is going ahead following the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to drop its earlier proposal to build a separate metro line. “With this decision, the state government has achieved a cost saving of Rs 63bn,” Singh says.

The NCR has a population of 46 million (according to the 2011 census) and accounts for 7% of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but around 73% of commuters use their own vehicles rather than public transport. “Our estimates are that the line will have a daily ridership of more than 800,000 passengers,” Singh says.

The RRTS network will be built to high standards, with a design speed of 180km/h and a maximum operating speed of 160km/h to achieve an average speed of 100km/h including station stops. The objective is to be three times faster than a metro.

The three phase 1 lines are: the 82km Delhi - Ghaziabad - Meerut line, the 164km Delhi - Gurugram - SNB - Alwar line and the 103km Delhi - Panipat line. Phase 2 envisages the construction of five additional lines by 2032, specifically:

  • Delhi - Faridabad - Ballabhgarh – Palwal
  • Ghaziabad – Khurja
  • Delhi - Bahadurgarh – Rohtak
  • Ghaziabad - Hapur, and
  • Delhi - Baghpat - Baraut. 

The first three RRTS lines will require a fleet of 600 coaches and six depots, and are expected to have an estimated daily ridership of 2 million passengers. The double-track standard-gauge network will have ballastless track and will be electrified at 25kV ac. Trains will be formed of aerodynamic stainless steel or aluminium coaches, which are 3.2m wide and 22m long and will have predominately economy-class accommodation, with one business class and women-only coach per train. The trains will have CCTV, mobile phone and laptop computer charging points, and luggage space. Trains and stations will be universally accessible to disabled passengers, and stations will be integrated with other modes of transport such as the Delhi Metro.

“The real benefit of the RRTS system is that it will provide for seamless travel, as the system will have multi-modal connectivity.”

Vinay Kumar Singh

The RRTS network will offer much shorter journey times to passengers compared with travelling on congested roads or by slow conventional trains. For example the 75km journey from Meerut to Delhi will take less than 55 minutes by RRTS compared with 1h 25min for mail and express trains running on the existing line with an average speed of 55km/h. RRTS is expected to cut the travel time between Panipat in Haryana state and Delhi Airport from 3h 30min by road to 80-85 minutes, while the trip from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi Airport will fall from the present 3 hours by road to 40-45 minutes by RRTS.

“The real benefit of the RRTS system is that it will provide for seamless travel, as the system will have multi-modal connectivity by integrating with the Indian Railways network, inter-state bus terminals, airports and the Delhi Metro,” Singh explains.

The system will bring benefits to the working class, labour force, industrial workers and students, apart from having spin off effects such as the creation of new economic/industrial zones and transit oriented development, he added.

The project has been drawing an encouraging response from suppliers. Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Hyundai-Rotem, Mitsubishi, and Siemens were among around 40 global companies represented at a pre-bid conference recently organised by the NCRTC.

“Since the project is the first of its kind in India, NCRTC is keen to draw upon the available global expertise from countries that operate similar systems,” Singh says.