Having completed four months of operation this week, officials of the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) are satisfied with the initial ridership figures, stressing that things would take time to stabilize.
According to data available till October 18, nearly 6 lakh people used the Kochi Metro this month handing KMRL a revenue of Rs 2.28 crore including ticket sales and advertising earnings. 8.3 lakh people in September and 6 lakh people in August used Metro services, official data showed. But the highest ridership was recorded in July, the second month of operation when 9.97 lakh people rode the trains. June and July saw a lot of joyriders coming from the northern and southern districts of the state just to hop on the metro.
“We are seeing more people taking the Metro on holidays than working days. The response is good so far,” said Reshmi CR, joint general manager, corporate communications at KMRL.
Metro officials expect a boost in ridership figures in October, especially after train services, were extended to the shopper-heavy MG Road stretch earlier this month. With this extension, trains are now plying between Aluva and Maharaja’s College (16 stations in all) over an 18.4 km stretch. MG Road is home to a spattering of shopping malls, designer stores, and jewellery shops and sees heavy crowds on weekends.
The first phase of the project will see, in the coming years, nine more stations over a seven-km route with services culminating at Thripunithura. A second phase of the project will see Metro pillars going up till Infopark through Kakkanad, the IT hub of the city.
However, Metro officials say land acquisition is the biggest hurdle especially as the train travels through areas such as Champakkara where several landowners are protesting over compensation being offered to them.
Football fever works in favour of KMRL
Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in the city, which is playing host to a number of matches of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, is attracting a lot of metro riders, especially those arriving in the city from the Malabar region. People arriving by long-distance trains at the Aluva station, Ernakulam Town Station or the Ernakulam Junction station are using the Metro to escape the traffic on the roads below. Since the matches are scheduled at the 5 pm and 8 pm slots, the Metro helps control rush-hour evening traffic.
Frequency of trains was increased and services were extended till the matches concluded in order to help football fans reach their destinations faster and safer.
Smart cards and monthly and daily passes
KMRL has tied up with Axis Bank to set up the Automated Fare Collection (AFC) system and offer commuters the Kochi-1 smart card. The personalised cards gives people a 20% discount on the existing ticket fare, otherwise purchased through paper tokens. The smart cards, that come with a PIN, can be used for shopping purposes as well.
KMRL officials said nearly 7,000 people have smart cards currently with the facility to get a card only open at selected stations. But from November 1, the facility will be offered at all 16 stations.
Monthly and daily passes aimed at commuters travelling for work will be launched in the coming months. These passes will come with discounts on the existing fare.
Focus on alternate advertising models
Since ticketing generates only a fraction of the revenue, KMRL is looking seriously at alternative models of money-making. Chinese consumer electronics company Oppo has been given exclusive branding rights for the Edapally and MG Road stations, for which KMRL is earning Rs 6.60 crore and Rs 5.50 crore per year respectively. The Edapally metro station sits alongside the LuLu shopping mall, one of the largest in India, and which attracts thousands of people every day. In fact, the Edapally station sees the highest footfall for KMRL for this very reason.
Tenders have been invited for external and internal branding of the trains as well. “We are getting good inquiries, let’s see,” said an official.