‘Public transport is social service'

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Managing Director E. Sreedharan in his office. Photo: V.V.Krishnan

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Managing Director E. Sreedharan in his office. Photo: V.V.Krishnan   | Photo Credit: V_V_Krishnan

The man who made public transport a lucrative and feasible option for Delhiites and brought in a new culture of orderliness in a city known to be brash and impatient, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation's outgoing Managing Director Dr. E. Sreedharan says the way forward for the city is a comprehensive, integrated public transport system.

“In the past 12 years, the DMRC has been able to give Delhi a world-class metro covering 190 km and 140 stations, which also includes the high-speed, high-profile connection to the international airport. This is the fastest growing metro outside China…I feel satisfied and proud that we have been able to give the Capital such an excellent transportation system that carries an average of 18 lakh passengers every day,” he says.

A public transport system, says Dr. Sreedharan, is a service and should not be treated as a business. According to him, the other major public transportation system in the city, the Delhi Transport Corporation, is a “government failure” and is not able to meet the demands of a growing city.

Speaking about the frequently changing leadership of the DTC, Dr. Sreedharan says: “For any organisation, the leader should be there for a sufficiently long time so that he grows an attachment …a commitment to the organisation.” He adds that though the State Government is spending a lot of money on the DTC, the Corporation does not seem “very well looked after”.

On the other hand, the Delhi Metro has developed a model managed with 40 per cent government funding and 60 per cent borrowing. “We have the responsibility to service and pay back the loan which we are doing very regularly and meticulously. On the whole, not only have we been able to give a good transportation system, we are also doing so at a very low price to the government,” he says.

Another reason why the city has taken to the metro, says the DMRC chief, is its affordable fare. “The Delhi Metro has the third lowest fare in the world, after Kolkata and Cairo metros. But these depend on heavy subsidies from the government, while we are given no subsidy from any government,” says Dr. Sreedharan.

About improving the overall public transportation in Delhi, he says: “The DTC and the Delhi Metro put together are presently carrying only 40 per cent of total transport requirement in the city. That is not enough. We should carry 60 or 70 per cent of the total requirement.”

The Delhi Metro chief recently wrote to the Delhi Chief Minister saying that the city needs almost a three-fold increase in its bus fleet, with narrow low-floor buses, better integration between DTC and metro services and bringing in stringent disincentive measures to curb personalised vehicles.

According to Dr. Sreedharan, the Delhi Metro will be carrying around 4 million passengers by the end of DMRC's Phase III construction. The DTC, however, needs to triple its existing fleet of 6,500 buses: “They [DTC] should go for narrow buses at quick intervals. That is what the public wants. There is no point in a bus coming every 20 minutes and that too fully crowded,” he says.

The other important feature of public transport capacity building is feeder buses. “The DMRC started with 120 buses and we want to increase the number to 1,000, but we are not getting encouragement from the State Government…It is also necessary to have a common ticketing system…to increase the use of public transport. We presented a proposal to the State Government around three years ago but they did not allow us to proceed further,” says Dr. Sreedharan. A common ticketing system, he adds, is a highly technical system which will have to be developed by technologists.

The ever-increasing number of private vehicles in the city also needs to be curbed by bringing in stringent measures: “Vehicles are a status symbol for the wealthy in Delhi. The Government should come down heavily on them [private vehicle owners] and make them pay for the pollution they are causing. They should pay for the congestion they are causing on the road,” he says.

Public transport services in a city, says Dr. Sreedharan, should not be treated as business. “It should be looked at as social service,” he says.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 6:49:12 PM |

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