New Delhi: Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which operates the nation’s showcase metro system, is in danger of going the Indian Railways way – into the red.
DMRC seems to be coming under the same pressures as the railways: any increase in fares faces immense political opposition. Running its operations at fares fixed in 2009, the corporation is struggling to meet increasing cost. It has for years been pushing for a fare hike, which it says is essential for continued safe operations and maintenance.
The ministry of urban development (MoUD) – the nodal ministry to deal with Delhi Metro matters – has yet to constitute a new Fare Fixation Committee (FFC) that is mandated to revise the fares. Instead of the existing 15 fare slabs ranging from Rs 8 to Rs 30, the corporation has proposed five, ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 50, which if implemented, would bring it 38% more revenue. DMRC has repeatedly reminded the ministry to constitute the Fourth FFC to consider the proposal.
The proposed fares in the five-slab system are Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 30, Rs 40 and Rs 50. DMRC says the rounded figures will be of great help as there is a huge problem of coin availability and dispensing change to users. According to the corporation, it had taken up the coin shortage issue with the Reserve Bank of India at the highest level, but even the central bank said it could do little to improve the matters.
Starting from May 2012, the DMRC has been sending regular letters to the ministry reminding it about the urgent need to raise fares. ET has accessed the series of letters. The last one was written by DMRC chief Mangu Singh to MoUD Secretary Madhusudan Prasad on February 19, 2015, where he stated that the costs of all inputs – electricity, salary, wages and maintenance – required for operations and maintenance of metro rail had gone up considerably.
Electricity tariff has increased by more than 94% since fare was last fixed, the DMRC managing director wrote. He said since the DMRC structures are now 13 years old, they “need higher upkeep and maintenance”. The delay in the constitution of the FFC, Singh added, is having an “adverse impact on the financial health of Delhi Metro”.
A senior MoUD official confirmed DMRC’s demand. “The matter should be resolved soon,” the official told media.
Government sources said E Sreedharan, the man behind the Delhi Metro, had tried his best to insulate the system from political interference and had even devised a formula for periodically increasing the fares.