When a Metro train ran for a while its doors flung open, it caused shock and awe not only among passengers on board but millions others who appreciate in DMRC being a brand they not only trust but take deep pride in.
Die-hard fans might argue against citing an aberration as a general rule but a dispassionate study of declining service standards over the years shows Delhi Metro has failed to keep up pace with the quality benchmarks it set for itself.
From a leaked video of a couple going up close and personal in the safety of DMRC corridors to trains getting stuck in tunnels to perennial malfunctioning in day-to-day operations, Delhi Metro brand has indeed taken a hit. In 2009, CAG had questioned Delhi Metro’s quality control and bidding process.
It is erroneous to say that it is not concerned of the ensuing damage but there is little evidence of major correction on the ground. The apparent fall of service standards has, however, failed to dampen the enthusiasm of commuters partially because there has not been any improvement over the years in alternate mode of public transport. Consequently the Metro continues to be the best default service.
Long known as a brand that evokes trust and confidence, Delhi Metro might like to look at how marquee transportation brands like Air India have withered away due to its inability to sustain service quality. Unlike Air India, DMRC isn’t a financial laggard but technical snags and cracks in pillars in the past couple of years have put a question mark on the agency’s leadership after the exit of E Sreedharan.
Thursday’s door malfunctioning has made sensational headlines but it is not for the first time the Metro has courted controversy. In 2012, a man was dragged from one station to another on the Noida-Dwarka route after getting stuck between the doors, hurting his hands and ankle.
The Metro, which ferries about 23 lakh passengers per day, is slowly getting delayed due to technical glitches, signaling problem and even faulty overhead electrification. Are these early signs of Delhi Metro getting inefficient, overburdened or simply lax?
In the last one month, commuters have had a harrowing experience. On July 1, due to the fault on the Blue Line from Dwarka Sector 21 to Noida City Center, commuters suffered. On June 21, a technical snag caused major disruption in running of trains. In this case, some foreign material got entangled in the overhead electric (OHE) wire near Rajouri Garden station due to a thunderstorm.
Mangu Singh, head of Delhi Metro, then explained that the OHE system, in which a 25kV line goes over the train, was used for the first time in India. The list of snags that followed due to problems in the OHE is long. When Delhi Metro started its operation in 2002, it was known for its timeliness and efficiency. The project was completed on schedule and within the budgeted cost. After gaining success in operation, Metro went on an expansion spree overlooking efficiency in work standard. Not only technical snags, even cracks were found in pillars. Cracks were also found in the cantilever on which the station rests in 2013 on the Noida route after which two engineers were suspended.
Doubts have been raised over completion of Phase-III expansion of Metro in scheduled time. As per a report by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), the overall progress of seven stretches under Phase-III was just 32 per cent till March, 2014. In the first two phases, Delhi Metro has laid 190 km of lines in Delhi-NCR. On completion of Phase-III, about 3.9 million commuters are expected to use the Delhi Metro daily.
Delhi Metro is a symbol of pride not only for its customers but also for those who do not use it. Is it time for the management to revisit the basics that made us all love it in the first place.