The long-standing deadlock between the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and its monorail contractors, the consortium of Larsen & Toubro-Scomi Engineering (LTSE), over trip rate is likely to be resolved soon. A one-member committee submitted its report on the issue last week. If LTSE agrees to the recommendations, MMRDA will shell out more to operate and maintain the Chembur-Wadala corridor once operations resume from September 1.
“The report has been submitted and now we hope that LTSE will accept its recommendations. It has suggested increasing the trip rate. We will disclose the figure only after they agree to it,” said R A Rajeev, Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA. While the report, prepared by former Central Railway General Manager Subodh Jain, has recommended that the rate is increased from Rs 4,600 per trip for the 8.9-km corridor — the rate in place until services were disrupted in November following a fire — it has also rejected the contractor’s demand for Rs 18,000 per trip.
“The earlier trip rate was a part of their three-year contract with MMRDA. Now that the contract is over they can demand a higher trip rate but it still has to be reasonable and they cannot make undue profits from public money. They need to get something but they should make profits by their efficiency,” said Jain, also a former member of the Railway Board.
While he did not reveal the suggested trip rate, he said, “After considering various parameters I have suggested a sustainable and economic trip rate. It will come to Rs 2.50 per passenger per kilometre.”
The report, which was submitted on August 16, has arrived at a trip rate by studying the operation cost of the Delhi Metro and the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro corridor apart from taking into consideration the existing costs borne by the contractor and the rate analysis of operating the system. “I have taken into consideration the fact that it costs much more to operate and maintain the Metro corridors. While I broke down the fixed costs of operating the corridor, there’s not much we can do about the operating costs as they are governed by statutory requirements,” he said.
The contractor had sought that the fixed costs and operational costs of the corridor be separated. The fixed costs include payment of staff, security, electricity, etc and operational costs simply means the cost incurred in running the trains. “According to them, of the Rs 18,000 per trip they were demanding, 70 per cent includes the fixed costs. If we are to give them fixed costs separately they will have no interest in running the trains efficiently,” Jain said.
As the Mumbai Monorail is the country’s only monorail corridor there is no benchmark to compare it with in India. “We are comparing it with the Malaysian monorail as that is also operated by Scomi. We need to examine each and every item and see why it cannot match international standards. Various issues have been flagged and these need to be resolved. I have complete conviction that the monorail can be as financially efficient as the Metro if it is operated efficiently,” he said.
In his recommendations to reduce costs, Jain has also suggested that the staff at any given station be capped to 50 people and they all, including security, be deployed only in two shifts instead of the existing three shifts. He has also recommended that the fares should not be hiked until it runs to its full capacity.
The monorail has remained dysfunctional for almost 10 months after a fire gutted its two coaches at the Mysore Colony station on November 9, 2017.