This blog was originally supposed to be titled A Day on the Delhi Metro, but since it took me two days to travel the entire length of the metro system (because I got off at a lot of stations and explored the areas around), and since the photographs here include two more subsequent visits to the metro and it's surroundings, I couldn't use that title. :)
In any case, my aim was not just to travel the entire system (though that would have been a fun little project on it's own), but also to explore how the metro interacted with the city, what parts of the city it reached, and to try and ascertain whether and how the metro is changing and shaping the city. Till this trip I had never been to most of the places in north, west and east Delhi that metro traveled to (my earlier forays into those parts of the city were mostly restricted to areas around the Inner Ring Road). Come to think of it, metro hasn't been extended yet into south Delhi, which means that my experience of the metro system till this trip had been limited to a few stations in central Delhi!
Delhi Metro is still a nascent system in many ways. It began operating in 2002, and most of the routes that have been opened till now (3 lines in total) are from Phase I of it's construction, which was completed in 2005, covering some 65km (the first line began functioning in 2002 before Phase I was completed). Phase II is scheduled for completion by 2010, though some of the line extensions from Phase II are already in operation. In fact, in just a few days (sometime in mid-November 2009) the first major line extension of Phase II (connecting Yamuna Bank with Noida) will open, with other major line extensions and three entirely new lines opening between then and September 2010, all in time for the October 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Phase II will add about 120km to the existing system. Subsequently, Phase III will begin construction and is scheduled for completion by 2015, adding another 100km or so.
Note: I had to obtain permission from metro's (DMRC) head office to take photographs inside the two stations that are shown here. Usually photography in the stations and on the lines of metro is not permitted. The other photographs I've taken for this post are from outside the metro system. It would have been really nice to take photos of the city from the elevated metro tracks, but since this is not permitted I didn't take any.
Another note: Instead of endlessly repeating "the metro" in this post, I've often just written "metro" as a noun to denote Delhi's Metro.
I've realized that riding on the elevated sections of metro is a great way to get a feel of the city. One is usually traveling at roof height, so wide vistas of the urban landscape around are visible. The relative low density of construction in Delhi has made it possible to construct a largely elevated metro system, as opposed to the kind of underground system found in other cities. Some people complain about this, saying that the elevated tracks spoil the "look" of the neighborhoods they goes through and the city as a whole, but I say what looks are you talking about but I think that the city and its people will adapt to this. Just as roads are not considered eyesores anymore, neither will the elevated metro system.
So with all that, here is my gallivanting-through-the-entire-metro-system story. I've actually collapsed my two days (and two additional short forays) into one narrative, therefore the description is not chronological as per the order that I visited the particular stations/areas. Instead the narrative is now sequenced geographically, i.e. by which station comes first on a particular route etc. Hopefully this won't take away from the story.
Click on images to enlarge.
Start at Pragati Maidan
I began at the Pragati Maidan station, which is my "home base" for now. From next year onwards the under-construction Jangpura station on Phase II's "Violet" Line will become much nearer. Pragati Maidan is Delhi's main exhibitions ground, which is partly what this station serves.
Pragati Maidan station
I got permission from Delhi Metro headquarters to photograph the Rajiv Chowk and Karol Bagh stations. I visited the stations on a Sunday morning, which is the reason for the lack of crowds at Rajiv Chowk.
A bit of overheard-on-metro trivia: Since Connaught Place was officially renamed Rajiv Chowk (sometime in the 1990s), successive (Congress) governments have been futilely striving for the name change to take hold in public imagination. A few weeks ago on the metro I overheard a conversation about how metro has succeeded in popularizing the new name, since the Rajiv Chowk station has been called as such since its inception, so more and more Delhiites are getting accustomed to the name.
Rajiv Chowk station
Waiting for the Blue Line early on Sunday morning
The next three images depict the break-down of passenger queues waiting to get onto trains. The queue is quite intact while passengers wait for a train, and even as the train comes into the station. But once the train stops, the queue soon disintegrates into a much more familiar blob crowding the action (in this case the sliding doors). And this is during completely off-hours when there is no question of trains being too overcrowded to get in. Vying for a place to sit is what this crowding is for!
Queue intact while waiting for train
Queue holds as train zooms in
Queue, what queue?
Stairs connecting Blue Line platforms (above) to Yellow Line platforms (below), and the walkway over the Blue Line tracks
Waiting for the Yellow Line
Streamlined art deco-ish assistance booth
Train coming into a Yellow Line platform
Metro entrance at Connaught Place (sorry, above ground it's still Connaught Place, not Rajiv Chowk!)
A few stations away from Rajiv Chowk on the Blue Line is the elevated Karol Bagh station. This section of metro has some fascinating mid-20th c. houses lining the street that the tracks are elevated over (i.e. Pusa Road). Elevated stations in different parts of the metro system have different looks and feels, and I wish I could have taken photos on a few more stations to get a comparison. But you can get a basic idea with these Karol Bagh images.
Karol Bagh station
Houses near the metro line
Station architecture and engineering
These stations are designed to allow a 6-lane road to pass underneath
Rajouri Garden station is higher than usual to allow for the metro tracks to span over the nearby Inner Ring Road flyover.
Rajouri Garden station
Metro track spanning over Ring Road flyover
The trend is to take the metro close to existing commercial areas, and create new commercial areas near existing metro stations. Metro authorities are encouraging this via commercial real-estate development on and around metro property. It is quite likely that stretches of the city along the metro tracks will become more and more commercial with time, and residential areas will recede a little away from the tracks.
Shopping mall near Rajouri Garden station
This is an example of the metro cutting through a crowded part of the city. Note the older elevated road running parallel to the metro line (visible in the second image).
Tilak Nagar station
I had never really been to Janakpuri before, and got to see the Janakpuri Business Center for the first time, which the metro line now runs next to.
Metro track running next to Janakpuri CBD
New commercial construction near Janakpuri West station
Janakpuri District Center - offices and retail
Dwarka is a relatively new development at the edge of present day Delhi, but metro gets to it already. The newness of Dwarka is indicated by the vast empty spaces around the stations. Again, I assume these spaces have been earmarked for future commercial development, while apartment complexes (visible in the background in the first photo) are located at a distance away from stations.
Dwarka Sector 9 station
The other side of Sector 9 station
Apartments close to metro tracks
Commercial development underway close to stations
We've heard of NIMBY, but PIMBY (Please In My BackYard), really? (The sign reads "Metro View Apartments")
Dwarka is at the western end of the Blue Line, so I got back to Rajiv Chowk and took the Yellow Line north towards Jahangirpuri. The Yellow Line famously goes below Old Delhi, and has made taking one's car into always-crowded Old Delhi unfashionable. The underground station at Chawdi Bazaar (Hauz Qazi Chowk) probably has the most glaring new-world/old-world difference between the metro system and the outside world that it services.
Entrance to Chawdi Bazaar station
Hauz Qazi Chowk above the Chawdi Bazaar station. The station's skylight is at the center of the chowk
The Kashmiri Gate station, like Rajiv Chowk, is an interchange station, and the route between these two stations sees some of the highest ridership in the metro system. The small stretch between the two stations, which is barely a few kilometers long, also happens to be the stretch that services Old Delhi, the Old Delhi railway station, as well as New Delhi railway station. On top of all this Kashmiri Gate is also the location of Delhi's main inter-state bus terminal. Needless to say, this stretch is way overcrowded most of the day.
Speaking of overcrowding, metro currently runs all its trains at 4 cars long, while it looks like all the stations in the system are designed to accommodate trains that are 8 cars long. With the opening of many Phase 2 lines in the coming months, there is news that some trains will become 6 cars long. I'm not sure what the reasoning is for keeping the trains short for now (probably economics), but the need to make them bigger is already very apparent!
Kashmiri Gate station
One of the many Kashmiri Gate station entrances
Vidhan Sabha (Old Secretariat)
North along the Yellow Line from Kashmiri Gate is the Old Secretariat, which now houses the offices of Delhi's administration (Vidhan Sabha), so it gets a station of its own. I doubt that very many administrators use metro to get to their place of work!
Vidhan Sabha station entrance, with the two white towers of the secretariat visible behind
The station for Delhi University's main North Campus. In the first of these two images, note the (few) auto-rickshas and many cycle-rickshas waiting near both station exits. The number of cycle-rickshas is particularly high on the right side of the image, waiting for rides to the nearby colleges. Many of the colleges are just beyond walking-range, which is the perfect distance for cycle-rickshas.
I think this might be indicative of a metro/cycle-ricksha nexus that could emerge with the metro system's expansion throughout Delhi. As metro stations pop up all over the place, they will be near to but just beyond walking-distance from many locations. The cheap, maneuverable and eco-friendly cycle-rickshas can in effect double and triple the "human powered" access range from metro stations. Maybe metro should invest in a feeder cycle-ricksha service instead of feeder buses!
The Adarsh Nagar station is another one where the differences between the station/system and the outside world are stark. Right outside this station is a squatter settlement that contrasts startlingly with the modern, orderly and clean metro system. I think I'm going to write another post elaborating this difference and the issue of access.
Adarsh Nagar station and its environs
After reaching Jahangirpuri on the Yellow Line, I returned to Kashmiri Gate station and took the Red Line westwards towards Rithala. Shastri Nagar station on this line is to me a perfect example of the middle-class and working-class landscapes that much of the metro goes through. Currently with residential colonies on both sides (which have more traditional commercial areas within and nearby), these stations may not get the kind of concentrated commercial development around them that we see in other places, but rather could have more "strip" commercial development along the tracks.
Mural on Shastri Nagar station
Shastri Nagar station and its environs
The Red Line track snaking its way through north-west Delhi
Inderlok is a future interchange station. The existing Red Line platform is to the left, on top of Parsavnath Metro Mall on the ground floor. The new Green Line trains coming from and going towards Mundka will terminate on the platform to the right, now nearing completion.
The Red and Green lines that meet at Inderlok are on different gauges, on account of what sounds to me like very political decisions made in the past regarding metro's gauge. The whole issue of different gauges on the same system seems very messy to me, and hopefully this won't lead to too many complications in the future.
The Inderlok station premises has yet another mall on it (below), the design of which is indicative of the kind of ... ahem ... "modern" aesthetic that metro seems to wants to project - with lots of glass and aluminum facing. On a separate note, the mall does not appear to be very busy right now.
Mall at Inderlok station
The district center at Netaji Subhash Place was another that I had never visited, and I spent some time there exploring the area.
Metro station and track with Netaji Subhash Place in the background
Looking towards the metro station
The nearby Pitampura TV tower. Don't miss the "Toe Away Zone" sign!
Netaji Subhash Place
Panorama of Netaji Subhash Place, covering an approximate 225 degree view from within the area
An open court between buildings, with the metro line visible in the background. Does the fork and spoon sculpture in the middle indicate a "food" court? :)
Seelampur is also on the Red Line, but to the east of Kashmiri Gate in north-east Delhi, across Yamuna river.
End at Welcome
Welcome is the name of an area in east Delhi just ahead of Seelampur, in the overall Shahdara area. A good place to end the blog!