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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 09:37 GMT
Indian PM launches Delhi metro
Indian PM at the Delhi Metro launch
Vajpayee buys the first ticket on the Delhi Metro
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has taken the first ride on the first train of a brand-new metro system for the Indian capital, Delhi.

Delhi bus
Delhi's transport system is bursting at the seams
Minutes earlier he inaugurated the first section of the mass rapid transit system which will cover an area of over 60 kilometres by 2005.

A large part of the system will run on elevated tracks while the remainder is underground - the second such system after one in Calcutta.

The system is being seen as the answer to Delhi's traffic problems and it is also hoped it will lower air pollution levels.

Dream turns reality

Policemen had to hold back hundreds of people who had gathered to watch the sleek coaches of the first train glide past.

Mr Vajpayee said the people of Delhi had finally been able to realise a long-held dream.

"Commuting will become much easier, there will be less congestion on the roads and pollution levels will also drop," he said in a speech to mark the occasion.

The metro is being built below the streets of the Indian capital while life above ground continues largely undisturbed.

Metro Facts
8km of total 62 km opened
3 lines once completed
Inaugural fare: 4-7 rupees
The first section of the Delhi metro which has been opened is just over 8 kilometres (5 miles) long - from the east of Delhi, terminating at Tis Hazari, north of the centre of the city.

Passengers can travel on fully-air conditioned South Korean made rail cars.

The one-way fare is seven rupees - about 15 US cents.

The BBC's Adam Mynott says this is the inauguration of a remarkable engineering feat.

State of the art

Huge earth-cutting machines are grinding their way through the soil and rock beneath the city while 13 million people get on with their lives 17 metres above.

When phase one of the metro is finished by the end of 2005 there will be more than 60 kilometres of track snaking through the capital.

The cost is estimated at more than $2bn. Engineers working on the metro say it will be the most up-to-date system in the world.

It is hoped the metro will carry two million passengers a day, cutting the number of cars and buses clogging Delhi's streets and helping clean the air of one of the most polluted cities in the world.

See also:

24 Dec 02 | South Asia
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