CM Prithviraj Chavan may give costly Mumbai metro ride a miss

Written by fe Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: Jun 8 2014, 15:12pm hrs
Prithviraj ChavanAnil-Ambani led Reliance Infrastructure maintained its earlier argument and said that the fares have been fixed by the board of MMOPL.
The much-awaited Mumbai metro has got embroiled in a legal dispute over tariff, a day before commencement of its operations, with the state-run Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) moving the Bombay High Court against the operator over the fare hike. The matter is slated to be heard on Monday.

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said he would inaugurate the service, which is expected to ease traffic congestion on the citys roads and provide much-needed relief to commuters using the overburdened suburban railway, only if the operator Mumbai Metro One (MMOPL) agreed to stick to the original tariff quoted in the tender.

Debashish Mohanty, a director of MMOPL, however, said they would go ahead with the launch of the service on the 11.4-km line from Versova in the western suburbs to Ghatkopar in the east through Andheri on Sunday even if the chief minister did not come for the inauguration.

I have agreed to inaugurate the metro service on the condition that the company sticks to the tariff mentioned in the tender. If it wants to go for a hike, it should approach the tariff fixation committee justifying the reasons, said Chavan who addressed the media separately.

It has to be the decision of the chief minister (whether to inaugurate the service or not). We have invited him and are awaiting confirmation, Mohanty said.

However, the Anil-Ambani led Reliance Infrastructure maintained its earlier argument and said that the fares have been fixed by the board of MMOPL. The company reiterated that the government of India had extended the Central Metro Act to Mumbai Metro Line 1 project, according to which MMOPL had been made the projects Metro Rail Administrator.

The project is being executed by MMOPL, a special purpose vehicle created to undertake the project on a PPP model. The partners in the project include MMRDA, Reliance Infrastructure and Veolia Transport of France with 26%, 69% and 5% stakes, respectively.

With this, the board of MMOPL was authorised to fix the initial fare, and not the state government alone. The MMOPL board has 11 members of which eight are from Reliance and three are from the government of Maharashtra.

The development cost for a metro per kilometre is estimated by analysts at R150-200 crore for elevated portions and R400-500 crore R400-500 crore for underground stretches. According to the Central Metro Act, decisions on subsequent fare revisions will then be taken by a fare fixation committee, which will be formed by the government of India with a High Court Judge as the chairman and additional secretary-level officials from the central and state governments as nominees.

This committee will not have any member from MMOPL, MMOPLs chief executive officer Abhay Kumar Mishra Mishra said.

This committees recommendations will also overrule the terms of fare revisions as were mentioned in the original concession agreement between MMRDA and MMOPL, he said.

To begin with, MMOPL will be offering promotional fare of R10 for the first month of operation, irrespective of the distance travelled on the 11.4-km line. However, the fares notified by the board of MMOPL for the route are as R10 being the minimum fare and R40 being the maximum.

On Saturday, even as Reliance announced the fare slabs as R10, R20, R30 and R40, Chavan said that the fares would have to be at the level that was decided in the concession agreement with MMRDA that stated that R9 would be the minimum fare and R13 the maximum.

At present, the metro will be thrown open to the public from 12 noon on Sunday, and then from Monday onwards, the services will run from 5.30 in the morning to 12 midnight. There are 16 trains with four coaches each which have been put in operation to begin with. It will have 270-280 trips in a day, with frequencies between trains ranging from 2-4 minutes during peak hours and around 8 minutes during non-peak hours. Peak hours, Mishra said, would be 8.30-11 in the morning and 5 to 7 in the evening.

Each train will have capacity of carrying 1,500 passengers. The metro expects to carry 11-12 lakh passengers per day. Depending on the traffic, MMOPL may look at increasing the number of coaches to six by 2017-2018. However, Mishra said the project will not break even in the first year of operation. The project is being executed by Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), a special purpose vehicle created to undertake the project on public private partnership (PPP) model. The partners in the project include Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Reliance Infrastructure and Veolia Transport SA of France with 26%, 69% and 5% stakes respectively.