With phase II of Mumbai Monorail set to be operational soon, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on Friday gave approval to increase its fares to over twice the existing fare. “The fares will be increased once we begin operating phase II. The increase is in line with Metro fares that the MMRDA will be operating. It is not as per the Metro One fares and the slabs are much larger. We needed to increase the fares as we are incurring huge losses. We are not even able to meet the security charges,” said U P S Madan, Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA.
As phase I from Chembur to Wadala was hit by poor ridership of barely 17,000 a day, MMRDA expects it to improve after phase II, from Wadala to Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk, begins operations. However, transportation experts have expressed concern higher fares may further deter commuters from using monorail.
“With increased fares, the monorail will become exclusively for those who can afford it. The monorail connects areas which are currently inhabited by people from the middle-class or the lower-middle class and they may not be able to afford it, leaving them with the only other alternative — BEST buses. It goes to show the government’s priority is not the masses but only those who are reasonably well to do. Metros and monorails are given more importance so that Mumbai appears as a world-class city while most commuters cannot afford them,” said Sudhir Badami, a transport expert.
The shortage of rakes has affected monorail services. While 10 rakes are available, phase I was operating with only four rakes as the others were non-functional. Phase II is also set to begin operating with only six rakes. “This means they will be able to carry only 6,000-7,000 commuters per hour as opposed to their advertised 20,000 per hour. If they have to carry more commuters they will have to increase the number of rakes,” said Badami.
Another expert, who did not want to be identified, said the fare increase may not be a bad idea but could have been delayed. “While we all hope that ridership will improve once phase II begins, it is not going to be a phenomenal increase. So they could have begun services with low fares and once it became popular, they could increase fares. They are anyway ma-king losses they could bear them for a little while longer,” he said.
Two coaches of the monorail were gutted in a fire on November 9 and since then services of phase I have also been stopped. They are likely to resume only with the operations of phase II. “The fire has also damaged their credibility and many commuters will now think twice to take the train. It is not like the suburban rail service where people have no other alternative. It is only an expensive toy train for which people have alternatives. However, if they manage to provide good service, people are likely to forget the incident and opt for the monorail,” he said. However, MMRDA believes the higher fares will not affect ridership. “The low fares was to encourage commuters to shift to the public transport. But people now understand the value of public transport and they will continue to use it,” said Madan.