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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 06:51 GMT
Metro delight for Delhi residents
Delhi's metro train begins its first trial run
The first phase runs on elevated tracks

Long suffering commuters in the Indian capital, Delhi, are looking forward to a special Christmas present.

From Wednesday they can begin travel on the city's brand new metro rail system, said to be one of the most sophisticated in the world.

It marks a change from travelling in overcrowded buses or the capital's manic three-wheeler scooter taxis.

It will be like travelling in a different country

Delhi Metro spokesman Anuj Dayal
Delhi Metro rail officials have worked feverishly in the past few months to meet the deadline.

"All set to go," says a smiling Anuj Dayal, chief spokesman of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation a day ahead of the opening.

"We are bringing to Delhi a world-class transport system - it will be like travelling in a different country," he says.

Hitech system

Delhi is home to 14 million people and the authorities have planned the Metro through some of the city's most congested areas.

"We should have started building a Metro system earlier, in the 50s," says Mr Dayal.

"But we are trying to make up for lost time."

Children of metro workers look on in delight
Delhi residents are delighted with the new system
The system has sourced equipment from leading manufacturers around the world including France, Sweden, Japan and South Korea.

All stations are equipped with computerised ticketing systems and automatic turnstiles.

Commuters will use smart cards which can be detected by sensors placed along the turnstiles.

Excitement

The first phase to open to the public is an elevated corridor connecting a north-eastern suburb with the interstate bus terminal in north Delhi.

Residents are already contemplating what life is going to be like post-Metro.

"I spend hours travelling in overcrowded buses," says Rajeev.

Construction began only four years ago
"Now I can look forward to travelling in air-conditioned comfort in half the time."

Vinod Chowdhury is a bank teller who says he is often late to work because of an erratic bus service.

"The buses are never on time - you can wait endlessly for one. And when it does appear, it's often so crowded that you have to wait for the next one."

Others are excited about travelling on a sophisticated rail system.

"We've heard that everything is computerised," says Akshay.

"You can keep your ticket in your wallet and walk through the automatic gates - it will be detected."

Real estate boom

Women travellers are particularly pleased.

"We have a tough time travelling on crowded buses - we often get pinched or harassed," says Rashmi.

"I've been waiting for this day for a long, long time."

But there are others who are also looking at the Metro as a welcome development.

Vinod Anand bought a flat in the distant suburb of Dwarka two years ago.

It's about time we had something to be proud off

Vinod Chowdhury
"When we first moved here my wife complained bitterly. We were cut off from all our friends and miles away from everything.

"But that's all I could afford."

Dwarka is to be linked by the Metro by September 2005 and Mr Anand says property prices have already started shooting up.

"We will be linked directly to Connaught Place [the business district]. And the value of my flat will be considerably higher then."

Developers have begun eyeing space near Metro stations for its commercial potential.

"Station complexes will have restaurants, shops and ATMS," says Mr Dayal.

Businesses can hope to transform many of the areas through which the Metro will run and which lie in some of the less economically developed parts of Delhi.

"It's about time," says a smiling Vinod Chowdhury.

"It's about time we had something to be proud of - and which can bring Delhi on par with cities around the world."

See also:

17 Sep 02 | South Asia
19 May 02 | South Asia
10 Apr 02 | South Asia
08 Apr 02 | South Asia
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