After a world-class airport terminal, Delhi can now look forward to a new world class railway link between the airport and city centre.

After inspecting the Airport Express Link, which connects the city centre to the airport by metro rail, the Chief Minister, Ms Shiela Dikshit, announced that the line is ready and set to start operations in 10 days. The start of regular operations will cut down the travel time from the city centre to the airport to just 18 minutes from the current over 60 to 90 minutes.

The Link service will feature six-coach trains supplied by Spanish company CAF, each seating 800 passengers and capable of reaching a maximum speed of 135 kmph. Passengers making use of the Link will also have the option of checking in their bags at three Link stations — New Delhi, Shivaji Stadium and Dhaula Kuan — rather than at the airport.

While the three Link stations are fitted with check-in counters with automated baggage handling systems, it is not clear as to how many airlines would be present at these terminals at the time of the launch. Officials indicated that a mix of domestic and international airlines are likely to make use of the new check-in facility.

A passenger travelling from the city to the airport will arrive at the metro station at the IGI Airport's Terminal 3 which is integrated with the main terminal area and will not need to step out on the public road to get in and out of the arrival/departures area.

The line, built at a cost of Rs 5,700 crore, boasts world-class features such as platform screen doors for increased safety and automated ticket vending machines for passenger ease. This is the first such metro line in the country which connects the airport to the city.

“The line is ready for operations. It has been built very beautifully. The formal opening of the line will take a month, but the trials/operations will start within a week,” Ms Dikshit told reporters on Saturday.

Delhi Metro's Managing Director, Mr E. Sreedharan, said the line would be opened to the public after CISF personnel take charge of security at the stations. Around 150 to 200 CISF personnel could be posted along with vehicle-borne Quick Reaction Teams at all six stations of the 23-km corridor.

The project is being undertaken by Reliance Infra, the company in charge of operating the line for 30 years. Initially, the trains will run at speeds of 105 kmph but according to Mr Sreedharan, trial runs at 120 kmph will begin next week.

d.das@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 5, 2011)
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