Justifying the unilateral Metro fare hike announced by Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL), Reliance Energy told the Bombay High Court here on Thursday that Mumbai would welcome it.
“There is no basis for the government to say that the fare hike will drive away the passengers. They will welcome it. Taking into consideration the time, convenience and comfort, it is highly superior,” senior counsel Iqbal Chagla said.
The return fare between Versova and Ghatkopar will be Rs. 80. Mumbaiites will have to pay Rs. 10 for 1-2kms distance, Rs. 20 for 2-5 ks, Rs. 30 for 5-8 km and Rs. 40 for 8-12 kms
Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has called these rates exorbitant. “The proposed increase in price is illegal, unjustified and arbitrary, and is being sought to be implemented without following the due process,” MMRDA said in a rejoinder filed before the court on Thursday.
It further said that the fare hike would not be in the interest of the citizens of Mumbai.
“If the public gets any perception that the Metro is for the rich, it will have long-term implications where regular members of the public would not use the same. It would lead to less than optimum use of the assets of the Metro and cause grave and irreparable harm to the petitioner,” MMRDA said in its rejoinder. It reiterated Maharashtra government’s aim to make rapid mass transit system available to Mumbaiites at competitive rates.
But the MMOPL which has 74 per cent share holding by Reliance Energy and Veolia Transport SA, claimed the hiked fares were “rational, reasonable and fair”. The promotional fares which have already been decided by all the stakeholders are Rs. 9 to Rs. 13. These rates are applicable right now as promotional rates. The MMOPL has announced to implement new fares between Rs. 10 to Rs. 40, after July 9.
In its affidavit filed before the Bombay High Court on Thursday, MMOPL claimed the fare hike was determined by following the cardinal principles of transport sector. “Willingness to pay by the commuters based on the value of time of the commuter, affordability to pay fare considering the benefit of the new mode, and benchmarking the fare with other competing modes of transport vis-à-vis services provided by them”, are the three principles mentioned in the affidavit.
The MMOPL affidavit has also relied on a letter written by the Central government to the State of Maharashtra on February 7, 2014. The letter has been signed by Prakash Singh, Director of MRTS-1 of the Union Ministry of Urban Development.
It states, “It is clarified that for the initial fare fixation, no Fare Fixation Committee recommendation is necessary. However, for subsequent fare revisions, a Fare Fixation Committee is a must.” The letter has been addressed to the Government of Maharashtra’s Urban Development Department Principal Secretary.
MMOPL has claimed that hiking the fares is within its powers. It has said that it consulted experts Systra MVA Consulting (I) Private Limited and SBI Capital Markets Limited before increasing the rates. Systra MVA Consulting is an expert in undertaking traffic surveys, related to Metro. “We have consulted them to arrive at the most optimal passenger fare revenue,” the affidavit stated.
In a detailed chart elaborating on the fare hike and a comparison with the other available modes of transport, MMOPL has said that Metro will be the most convenient and time-saving mode available to the citizens. It will be around 1.5 times of what the BEST will charge, the affidavit has claimed.