India’s first driverless prepare evokes delight, pleasure amongst passengers younger and outdated


New Delhi, December 28 

From pride and excitement to surprise and a little bit of apprehension, several young and old passengers went through a gamut of emotions as they rode the country’s first driverless train on a Delhi Metro corridor on Monday.

The first train of this service driven by next-generation technology ran from Janakpuri West station to Botanical Garden station of the 37-km Magenta Line as the DMRC leaped into an elite club of metro networks globally.

Inaugurating India’s first-ever driverless train operations on the Delhi Metro’s Magenta Line on Monday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government unlike its predecessors has taken growing urbanisation as an opportunity and asserted that metro train services will be extended to 25 cities by 2025 from the current 18.

Among the first riders was infant Aarav (3) who sounded very excited, as his father told him that “no driver was piloting the train”.

“It is being driven by a remote control,” the little boy said, much to his family members and co-passengers delight.

And indeed the train is controlled centrally from the Operations Control Centre (OCC). However, a roaming attendant will be present initially but would be gradually withdrawn to move to Unattended Train Operation (UTO) mode.

While most of the passengers knew about this new train, many commuters who took the train from various stations on the Magenta Line were actually oblivious to the fact that the train was driverless.

Riya Sharma (18) and Gurpreet Kaur (17), Delhi University students and friends who live in Palam area, were excited about their ride.

“Yes, we know about this new, driverless train and the PM had flagged it off in the morning. We are feeling very proud as it is not just Delhi Metro’s but India’s first driverless train. Also, I did not feel much of a difference, from a regular metro train,” said Kaur, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in commerce.

She said the day news came out about it, the driverless train had become a topic of dinner table talk in her family.

Sharma, pursuing bachelor’s in English literature, said, “It is my first metro journey since the services were shut due to COVID-19-induced lockdown”.

“And I never thought, I will step right into a driverless train. Only after boarding it and seeing the decoration and mediapersons inside did we realise that we had entered a driverless train. Quite exciting. I was afraid a bit, but felt ok, after entering it,” she said.

But, it wasn’t just kids and youth who took the first driverless train on a landmark day for Delhi Metro and the country, marking a major technological feat for the country.

With the commencement of these new-generation trains, the DMRC entered the select league of “7 per cent of world’s Metro networks” which can operate services without drivers, officials said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday tweeted in Hindi to congratulate people of Delhi.

“From today, the first automated driverless train service of Delhi Metro has become operationalized. Today, your ‘Delhi Metro’ has joined a league of select cities in the world. Our Delhi is developing fast,” he tweeted.

Shaheen Bagh resident S Z Naiyer, 60, boarded the train from Dashratjpuri station, along with his wife Taiyeba Naiyer.

“I am feeling very proud and it’s a great achievement for our country and Delhi Metro. We had taken the metro on Magenta Line from Shaheen Bagh metro station to Dashrathpuri station on December 26 and returning today on the same route in a driverless train. So, it’s like a new era we have entered into, from where we were two days ago,” he told PTI.

His wife said she was not feeling afraid but just worried what will happen in case of a medical or other emergency.

But not everyone who travelled in the driverless train knew they were part of history in the making.

Vinay Rawat, 30, entered the train at Hauz Khas interchange station on way to Botanical Garden station. He sat with a ukelele in his hand and absorbed in his world, listening to music through earphones.

When asked if he was aware that this was a driverless train, he exclaimed, “Is it, I had no idea”.

“I saw the floral decoration on the coach while boarding, but then I thought, it was for New Year season,” he said.

Rawat, a resident of Greater Noida, and an amateur musician, said he is currently looking for a job and travels every weekend to his friend’s place in Saket in south Delhi.

“After learning that it is driverless, I am feeling a bit apprehensive, but, I have full confidence in Delhi Metro and they must have taken all the measures needed,” he said.

Vipin Kumar, 22, who works for a private bank boarded the first driverless train from Munirka, and said, “It feels like a regular metro ride, but it is exciting to be part of this journey”.

Sisters Ayesha Pangali and Ritika Sapkota also boarded the metro for the first time after the lockdown.

“We did not know it was a driverless train, we just thought it was a regular one, but after boarding it, we saw the digital display and fellow passengers also told us about it,” Ayesha said.

In his address via video-conferencing in the morning, the prime minister said the launch of the driverless train and start of the National Common Mobility Card, also inauguarated by him on Monday, at the Airport Express Line of the Delhi Metro are an attempt to make urban development future ready. 

This new driverless train becoming a reality is also evidence of new aspirations of the people of India, he said. PTI



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