Airport Express issues may be resolved by end of month

Written by Rajat Arora | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 21 2014, 11:22am hrs
A resolution of the issues concerning Delhi Airport Express Metro Line, now operated by DMRCunder an interim arrangement, is likely by the end of this month. With the Election Commission giving special permission to the government to hold the meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM concerned), the latter will take a call soon on whether to continue with the present arrangement or find a new concessionaire for the metro line.

The issues to be sorted out by the EGoM include how to get the debt of R2,000 crore to the consortium of banks led by Axis Bank repaid. Reliance Infra-led Delhi Airport Metro Express (DAMEPL) had pulled out of the project in June last year, citing faulty rail lines. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had earlier highlighted serious irregularities in a report and said undue financial benefits went to Reliance Infra. Reliance Infra had, however, claimed a termination payment of about R2,800 crore.

The metro rail project connecting the city centre to the airport under the public-private partnership (PPP) model was run by DAMEPL, a joint venture between Reliance Infra and Construccionesy Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) of Spain.

The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group company says DMRC is obliged to pay a termination payment equivalent to 130% of equity and the entire remaining debt. However, the arbitration panel, which is supposed to sort out the dispute between DMRC and DAMEPL, has not yet started its hearing. DAMEPL was making monthly losses of R4 crore on the operations.

If the Express Line goes to DMRC, then its promoters the state government and the central government will have to take the burden of the debt. The challenge before the urban development ministry is how to make the Airport Express Line financially viable, said a government official.

The 23-km line was built at a cost of R5,700 crore, including R2,800 crore invested by Reliance Infra-promoted DAMEPL. DMRC had built the civil structure on the line and the ADAG company took care of operations and maintenance under a 30-year agreement.

Services on the line were suspended from July 7, 2012, to January 22, 2013, due to technical problems and after reopening, the speed was reduced and the ticket prices were hiked, which led to a decrease in passengers.