Going Underground

by Shashanka Nanda


Just came off a ride on the newly opened second phase of the DMRC underground stretch between Kashmere Gate (KG) & Central Secretariat (CS). Here's an account of the same:

I had to go for a client meeting in Pitampura, which is 25km long pain the you know what drive from my office. So for a change, I tried reaching there via the metro. Took an auto till Central Secretariat station, which is just next to IR Headquarters at Rail Bhawan & got myself a ticket (er... token) for Rs. 13 that was the fare till my destination. I entered the platform, which is 2 levels below the ground surface. The first level acts as the concourse/ ticket counter and doubles up as a subway for pedestrians to cross the road or passengers to reach the opposite platform. As I entered, the platform and was inspecting the overhead rail (acting as catenary & subject of much discussion of late on IRFCA), a shiny rake switched over from the opposite track and halted on the platform.

It was the 1500 service to Vishwavidyalaya (VV), and I took up position in the front coach right behind the driver. As many of you know, there is a small porthole in the emergency exit door which allows passengers to view to the control desk. At sharp 1500, the train set off with a sharp toot. The horn is the only thing I don't like about the metro. Its just too damn harsh, and in the closed confines of the tunnel, the sound is amplified and assaults your eardrums. The run from CS to the next stop Patel Chowk is a sharp down gradient which I estimated at about 1:90 or 1:100. From the front coach, I could right through the corridor type vestibules and the floor of the train rose almost by half a foot as one walked towards the rear. The acceleration was pretty smooth and we touched a maximum of 63kmph on the run to Patel Chowk.

Departing Patel Chowk (PC), we accelerated towards the next halt, Rajiv Chowk which is plain simple Delhi lingo is good old Connaught Place (CP). CP's landmark Central Park has been dug up totally to construct huge underground station which will serve as the interchage point between the Blue (Dwarka - IP Estate) Line and the Yellow (CS - VV) Line. Both lines on this station are at separate underground levels. While I could not inspect the station during this trip, but be assured that me and my camera will be there soon to capture what will soon be a tourist landmark in its own right. A sizeable crowd got into the train, which was expected as CP is Delhi's premier shopping district. The max speed on the PC to CP run was 67kmph.

The next stop was New Delhi, which as the recorded voice in the train announced is a stop which allows passengers to switch to the "Indian Railways' New Delhi station". The Metro station at New Delhi is connected directly via a subway to PF12 of NDLS, which will be boon for travelers. However, luggage beyond 15kg is not permitted by DMRC, though I guess this might be relaxed a bit. The run to NDLS was real sprint with the train touching 75kmph on this run. At NDLS, more people got in, including about a dozen porters who clearly had come in for a joyride. Their wide eyed, slack jaw expressions clearly showed the wide gap between the standard IR train/station & the ultra modern DMRC network. After all its a far cry from their base NDLS which is smelly, crowded, infested with rats, prowled by drug addicts & pickpockets!!

The next run took my train right into the bowels of mother earth. Nestled 22m under the congested bylanes of Chawri Bazar (CB), one of Delhi's oldest & famous markets lies the DMRC station. This is the deepest station on the DMRC network, and an engineering marvel in itself. The station and the line under Old Delhi was a mega challenge, which was accomplished with bare minimum disturbance to the denizens of the locality. We touched a max of 65kmph on the run to CB.

Moving on, we headed towards Delhi Main which connects the DMRC network to IR's Delhi Junction. Quite a few passengers who had come off long distance trains boarded the train here, but none were seeing carrying ISO container sized suitcases or trunks which one normally associates with train travelling Indians. The speed from CB to Delhi Main was 74kmph.

Delhi Main to Kashmere Gate (KG) was the last stretch of my journey on the underground section, after which I switched to the elevated (Red) Line towards Rithala. The max speed on this section was 75kmph and I reached Kashmere Gate in a mere 12 minutes from my starting point. And for the knowledge of those who don't know about Delhi, this run on the road can be least performed in 25 odd minutes and that too when you are Kimi Raikonnen and you your bum is resting on the seat of a Mc Laren Mercedes MP4/20. (Ok, so now who know where my allegiance lies!!)

A few other observations along the route:

  1. All the platforms on the underground section are of the island type, which lessens the cost of putting up separate escalators or lifts. The island platforms pose a problem for the operator (driver), whose chief duty is to open and close doors at each halt. He has to get up each time from his desk and check as his desk is on the left of the train, while the platforms are always on the right.
  2. 2. There are currently 10 rakes running on the underground section, of which I crossed 3 on the way. 2 of them had a blue colored cab, while one had a black colored cab. Check http://www.irfca.org/photos/jan-delhi/metro_livery
  3. 3. 60-70% passengers got off at Kashmere Gate, out of which a large proportion continued on the Red Line which bodes well. 4. The mobile service works alright on the underground section, with full signal strength on my network (Airtel) all along the run. Curiously though, as I had noted earlier on my first in Jan from KG to VV, the signal strength drops dramatically as we slow down while approaching a station. Any idea, why this happens?

On the journey to Pitampura on the Red Line, a few other things were noticed:

  1. The rake in which I traveled #148 in the blue cab livery had a proper analog speedometers as compared to a analog 'looking' meter on the underground trains. Is there a difference between the driver controlled trains on the Red Line and the automatic ones on the Yellow Line.
  2. Most of the advertising space on Metro stations beyond Kashmere Gate are still unsold as are most of the shops. Looks like this one is not working for DMRC as planned.
  3. The speeds on the elevated line beyond KG are much lesser compared to the Yellow Line as the inter-station distance is quite less. The max speed on most stretches is in the mid 40s, with a max of 67kmph from Rithala to Rohini West. (I traveled this section for the first time today as well, after my meeting)

Well, these were my initial observations. Will try and go around during the weekend and check out the newly opened stations as the facilities as well. Watch this space...

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