Two years after Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) took over operations of the Airport Express Line from the concessionaire, Reliance Infra and CAF, the 22.7 km corridor has seen an operational turnaround, suggests an internal study.
The study, which has analysed the high-speed line from the beginning of its operations on February 23, 2011, to its current performance, has found that the operating ratio (total working expenses to earning) of the metro corridor has come down from 2.7 to 1.08 despite a 66.6 per cent slash in fares.
The changes in the running of the Airport Express Line were discussed at a recent board meeting of the Delhi Metro. Officials informed the urban development ministry about the measures taken to revive the line. Apart from efforts to rebuild the “credibility” of the line by stabilising services, Delhi Metro slashed fares from Rs 180 to Rs 60, worked on better facilitation for commuters travelling between the Indira Gandhi International Airport and New Delhi railway station, optimised cost of operations and focused on property development, said sources.
Officials said the ridership was 10,000 passengers a day, before the DMRC took over the line in July 2013. The ridership touched 32,000 passengers on October 29. “Over the past few months, the average ridership has been 27,000 commuters per day, almost 66.98 per cent increase over the past one year,” said Sharat Sharma, director (operations), DMRC.
The Airport Express Line, due to its high investment, was conceived as a public-private partnership, with DMRC responsible for construction and the concessionaire for operation and maintenance.
After initiating operations in February 2011, the concessionaire had suspended services on July 8, 2012, citing faults in the civil structures constructed by Delhi Metro. Operations were resumed on January 23, 2013, with a restricted speed of 50 kmph. With an increase in the journey time to 40 minutes and a hike in fares from Rs 100 to Rs 150, and eventually to Rs 180, the ridership fell from the initial 18,000 to 10,000.
Though the concessionaire had estimated 75 per cent revenue from property development and the remaining from the fare box, the desired revenue could not be generated. The operator spent Rs 7.02 crore per month on salaries, energy consumption and repair and maintenance, but earned a revenue of Rs 2.6 crore.
“When we took over the line, Delhi Metro already had a 167 km existing network and as for manpower and expertise, we were already well-equipped. But running a high-speed line was a different ballgame altogether,” said Sharma. “Our first priority was to rebuild the credibility of the corridor. It had shut down due to a technical fault and the fares were exorbitant. So we first ensured that the train operations were on time…We also rescheduled the timings of our first and last trains to cater to the Shatabdis… Then we slashed the fares. It produced immediate results.”
While the salary component and the expenditure on energy were taken care of as DMRC had a system in place, the improved reliability of its services and increase in footfall has helped the DMRC draw property developers on the corridor.
Out of its target of Rs 18 crore under property development this fiscal, the DMRC has already met Rs 10 crore. “We are aiming at bringing up the speed of the trains to more than 100 kmph, thereby reducing the travel time, and have a host of other initiatives lined up to make the corridor cost-efficient,” said Sharma.