Commuters of Mumbai’s first Metro will continue to pay the existing fares, with the Bombay High Court refusing to allow its operator to hike fares owing to the recent recommendations made by the Fare Fixation Committee (FFC) constituted by the Centre.
Justices A S Oka and Gautam Patel sought to hear the matter “in-depth” before finally deciding if the fare hike as desired by the Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra)-led Metro operator was justified. Accordingly, they posted the matter for next hearing on January 29, 2016.
The judges said they had gone through the FFC’s report and the matter required a detailed hearing for them to arrive at any conclusion. The committee had allowed the MMOPL to charge a tariff of Rs 10-110 for the 11.4-km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro in July. Based on the committee’s recommendations, the MMOPL had last month announced a maximum fare hike of Rs 5 from December 1, taking its maximum tariff for single journeys to Rs 45 from the current Rs 40.
The three-member committee was constituted to resolve the long-drawn fare fixation issue between the state government’s Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) and RInfra-led Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL). A bench headed by the former HC chief justice had in January this year ruled in favour of the private operator allowing it to hike its fares. However, back then, the FFC was not constituted — a factor observed by the HC Thursday.
The MMRDA, through its senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, opposed the FFC’s recommendations, arguing that the operator was supposed to suffer losses for the following eight years after the project’s completion. Chinoy argued that the operator was to break even in the ninth year.
Senior counsel Prasad Dhakephalkar, who appeared for the MMOPL, said his client was finding it difficult to recover operational costs and disallowing the fare hike would dent it even further. The bigger worry, he argued, was the status quo on existing fares till the final outcome of the case and if the court ultimately found the FFC report to be correct.
The development authority was insisting on a fare structure of Rs 9-13 as per the concession agreement when the Metro line was opened for public use in June 2014. However, the MMOPL, being designated as the Metro rail administrator as per the Metro Act under which the project was brought midway, fixed the tariff at Rs 10-40. The MMRDA has a 26 per cent stake in the MMOPL.