The Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL), which operates the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro rail, told the Bombay High Court Monday though the company had undertaken the project to ensure quality services, it would continue to do so only till it could afford to. According to the operators, if the company continues to face financial losses, it may have to eventually shut down the services.
“I am bleeding right now and am willing to bleed a little more so that I don’t increase the fare right away. I may have to close down eventually. I have undertaken this project to see that quality service is made available and will continue to do so till I can afford it,” said senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, representing MMOPL. He emphasised that they were a private body and not a welfare state.
An HC bench is conducting the final hearing on a bunch of petitions — including one filed by MMRDA — challenging the fares fixed by the committee for the Ghatkopar-Versova Metro corridor. Another petitioner is Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam.
The Fare Fixation Committee (FFC) fixed fares for the corridor in the Rs 10-110 band. After it submitted its report, MMOPL announced it would increase the fares by Rs 5 from December 1, 2015 and had proposed five slabs — Rs10, 20, 25, 35 and 45 — instead of the current four of Rs10, 20, 30 and 40. The proposed fare hike was withheld after the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) approached the court.
Dwarkadas said the operator should be allowed to explore other means of generating income like commercial exploitation of Metro stations, tracks etc. “We have the right to do so right now but with their permission,” he added. At present, there is a limit to commercial use of properties. We are businessmen. We will look at bringing a change and increase the amount by Rs 5 to test waters. How can this hurt anybody,” he asked.
Appearing for the MMDRA, senior advocate Aspi Chinoy said non-fare earnings formed a small percentage of revenue, which was about 5 per cent. “The Metro is carrying 50 per cent less than the projected riders, which is around 3 lakhs per day. If they increase fares further, it will have a further negative impact on the number of riders,” Chinoy argued.
Dwarkadas, however, pointed out, “The present local trains being run are overcrowded, have open doors, have gaps between the train and the platform. The Metro was provided to ensure better infrastructure. It is a partnership where the private enterprise would provide capital and the government would provide land. In cites like Delhi, a system like this would help reduce pollution. It is a mass rapid transport system which also serves a higher public purpose.”