Are you still languishing in traffic and obsessing that horn button of yours while losing your temper at that silly call center driver? Or has missing your flight become commonplace? Delhi walas do not fear. The Delhi Metro or should I say DAMEPL (Delhi Metro Express Pvt. Limited) has recently unveiled the spanking new Airport Express Line. But the question that remains is if it is the first class experience it claims to be or is it a white elephant? Read on to know more.
How it started
The Tendering process for this project started in September 2007 after which on Jan 23, 2008, Reliance Infrastructure and the CAF consortium was awarded a 30 year contract. Although originally this project was scheduled to complete around India’s Commonwealth Games, teething troubles in shifting Airport operations to the new terminal T3 delayed the opening of the Airport Express line to February 23 2011.
Features of the Delhi Metro Airport Express Line The Airport Express Line has been designed with a high measure of comfort and high speed safety. Also since the Spanish firm CAF has also designed similar airport express lines in Hong Kong and London, travelers from those regions might have a sense of Déjà vu. It’s nice to see that DAMEPL hasn’t stinted on features and has included amenities like lifts, escalators, baggage trolleys, porter services, wheelchair and lots more. Also the passenger cabins boast of adequate space for your bulky suitcases and also have a dedicated baggage compartment should you need more baggage space.
Passenger Coaches of the Airport Express – A class apart
After stepping into one of the spanking new Airport Express Line coaches, you feel transported into a foreign country as you leave behind Delhi’s heat, smoke, dust and noise. Decked with fancy LCD screens which give information on your flights, comfortable seating arrangements, ample luggage space and air-conditioned coaches zipping @105 km/h make it apparently clear that this isn’t your normal commuter’s metro. All in all it’s like luxury high speed travel at the fraction of the price.
The rolling stock (fancy name for trains) for the Delhi Metro Airport Express line boasts of some innovative and high technology engineering. Built by Spanish experts CAF with a special emphasis on making the coaches silent, everything from flooring, insulated walls and windows have been engineered so that they are as silent as possible. Even the wheels have added lubrication to make the trains silent and comfortable. Also the trains are built so that they can be operated without a driver. This driverless technology (also known as ATO, Automated Train Operation) allows the train to be operated without a driver and allows the train to accelerate, brake, adjust speed or stop on its own. We don’t know about you, but somehow an automated train in our environment (with all the metro stoppages) doesn’t seem a good idea. So as of now, there is a driver as a failsafe or manual override so that he/she can take over in case the situation demands.
Check In @ Airport Express Line Stations
3 stations along the Airport Express line namely the New Delhi Station, Shivaji Stadium and the Dhaula Kuan stations will be offering the check in facility which will enable you to bypass check in hassles at the airport. As of now the following airlines are offering the check in facility
- Air India
- Jet Airways
- Kingfisher Airlines
However there are a few guidelines that you might want to know before using this facility so that you avoid any unnecessary hassles.
Ticket Price of the Airport Express
The good news is that ticket prices for now are being discounted. The lowest fare is Rs 20 and the highest fare is Rs 100. After the discount offer expires, the lowest fare will be @Rs20 and highest fare Rs 180. For more details have a look at the airport express line fare chart. Now if only DAMEPL would extend that discount…
Delhi Metro Express Line Timings
The Airport Express Line’s first train leaves at 6 am and the last train leaves at 10pm from both the stations at New Delhi railway station and at the Dwarka Station. However there might be further revisions from time to time based on the passenger load on the Airport Express line and other external factors. So the wise thing to do would be to check out the official website for the latest updated timings for the Airport Express.
Additional Services Available
The Airport Express line offers a few cool value added services like taxi services, porter services and trolley services. You get an airport taxi service or dial a taxi at 011-30802080 in case you need one for your further journey. If your bags are too heavy to life, you can get a porter for Rs 50. Baggage trolley services are absolutely free
Washrooms or restroom facility
With the paucity of restrooms in India, it’s good to know should you need to take a leak or freshen up, you can do that in comfort in spotlessly clean toilets.
Things the Airport Express line could improve
So by now you must be pretty blown away with Delhi’s Airport express line’s amazing facilities, high speed trains and spectacular stations. But the question is, are there any flies in the ointment? Unfortunately there are quite a few areas where the Express line can improve leaps and bounds. We have listed things that we noticed needed improvement as follows
- Although the connectivity to T3 is spot on with a passenger walkway, connectivity to Terminal 1D (where most low cost airlines are present) is patchy with passengers having to take a taxi or bus from the Airport Metro station. Yes there is a shuttle bus facility to Terminal 1D, however if you are a visitor, you can’t use it
- If you are using the regular airport and changing over at the New Delhi Station for the Airport Link, you will have to buy another ticket for using the Airport Express line. We think that there should be one ticket that should work for both Delhi Metro and the Airport Express line which would save passengers a whole lot of time along with being convenient
- Incomplete stations look like construction wrecks and spoil the Airport Express line experience. But with time this will improve as the stations near construction.
- A major downside of the Airport Express Link service is that it’s hours of operation are from 8am to 10 pm. Keeping in mind most international passenger arrive in the wee hours of the night or early morning, this service will be absolutely useless to them.
- Security is manned by CISF who do become very jumpy in case you choose to photograph the stations and the train.The Delhi Metro Airport Express Line officials maintain that photography is banned along the Airport Express line; however there is no signage which says so anywhere.
Keeping everything in mind the usefulness of the Airport Express Line cannot be disputed. However, it will have significant challenges in terms of how it can handle large ridership volumes, natural disasters and more importantly the threat of terrorism and security. Also it misses out on a significant chunk of international travelers who arrive late night or early morning. Time will tell how successful the Airport Express line will be. For now with people raving about the world class Express line’s cost savings, speed and comfort, it seems to be the king of Delhi’s public transportation system and the Delhi Metro’s crown jewel.