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 city’s 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 project’s 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