The Delhi Ring Railway is part of the Delhi Suburban Railway. The Ring Railway is a circular rail network in New Delhi, India, which runs parallel to the Ring Road in Delhi and was conceived during the 1982 Asian Games. Started in 1975 to service goods initially, it was later upgraded twice for the 1982 Asian Games and the 2010 Commonwealth Games, when 24 additional services were started. Its circular route is 35.5 km long and the whole route includes 22 stations.
The train takes 90-120 minutes to complete, both clockwise and anti-clockwise, via Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station. With a return ticket for the entire journey costing 12, compared to the Delhi Metro, which is around 60, it is generally preferred by poor and lower middle-class families. It runs seven clockwise and six anti-clockwise trains at a peak frequency of 60-90 minutes, during the morning and evening rush hours.
However in the coming decades, Delhi has spread far beyond the Ring Road, making the ring railway largely redundant. Nevertheless, prior to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, seven stations near the sports venues, namely Chanakyapuri, Sarojini Nagar, Inderpuri, Lajpat Nagar, Sewa Nagar, Lodhi Colony and Safdarjung Enclave received a massive facelift at the cost of 3 crores. The system is not popular among commuters and has been a total failure as far as public transport is considered. Delhi Ring Railway is considered as an example of failed mass transit system.
The major reasons for failure of the system are- lack of workable connections to other methods of transportation as well as a low density population in the areas of reach. The stations’ entries and exits usually open into narrow, stinky and dirty alleyways, which is often more than 1 km away from the main arterial road. The network is now utilized as a freight corridor, though limited passenger EMU train services are available during peak hours.
There are 22 stations along the ring rail route namely- Hazrat Nizamuddin, Jangpura, Lajpat Nagar, Sewa Nagar, Lodhi Colony, Sarojini Nagar, Safdarjung Enclave, Chanakyapuri, Sardar Patel Marg, Brar Square, Inderpuri, Naraina Vihar, Kirti Nagar, Patel Nagar, Daya Basti, Kishanganj, Vivekanandapuri, Sadar Bazar, New Delhi, Shivaji Bridge, Tilak Bridge and Pragati Maidan. These EMUs cover many congested areas of South, Central, West and North Delhi and so it is a boon for the people who travel by roads and experience nasty and long traffic jams on their way.
Over 5000 people use the network daily in order to save time and money. These train journeys offers rare views of the city’s interior parts like the wild ridge, heritage acres, monuments and the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri. Much like the modern mass rapid transit systems, the EMUs have a separate compartment for women. However, due to the unpopularity of the ring railway system, the women compartment along with the general ones remain mostly empty and it is considered unsafe by many commuters.
Most of the 22 stations along the network have been facing neglect and isolation as these places are located either in the outskirts or in the deep interiors. The Indian Railways have outsourced tickets to private contractors, who complain of abysmal sales. The officials have admitted that the ring rail network has been bearing losses.
However, they are hopeful of a revival if the Delhi Government could take up this issue and improve the network by setting up pickup and dropping points for feeder buses and integrating the system with the metro and DTC(Delhi Transport Corporation) buses. If all these measures are taken and the ridership improves, then all stations and other infrastructure will be upgraded.
With Delhi Metro and DTC bus services growing at a rapid pace, there has been very little focus to improve the condition of the ring railway network. Feasibility studies have also been done, and in deference to the commuter demand, there were also plans to start EMU services from Gurgaon. An integrated rail-bus transit(IRBT) system to connect Delhi with the satellite towns of Gurgaon, Ghaziabad is being proposed by the government. A feasibility study has already been completed, and a steering committee has been appointed to monitor the project. The IRBT will have two dedicated tracks.
A Delhi-based architect named Madhav Rajan, who had come up with an award winning project to turn the entire circular stretch as a pedestrian friendly urban space, says its revival is not feasible because the track was not originally intended to be a urban transport corridor. It generally loops around a low density city centre. About 40% of the area are under forest and hence, it is unlikely that the ridership may not improve in the network. The government of Delhi and India together should collaborate and come up with a concrete plan in order to modernise and popularise the dying ring rail network as quick as possible.