Fare reduction for Chennai Metro Rail will help increase patronage

Commuters say high fares are one of the reasons why the system has not been able to achieve expected ridership figures; but CMRL officials cite high power costs, say such ticket pricing is needed for effective upkeep of stations and smooth operation of trains

December 20, 2023 12:00 am | Updated 12:03 pm IST

Representation image. File

Representation image. File | Photo Credit: M. Karunakaran

On December 17, when Chennai Metro Rail had fixed a fare of ₹5 for e-QR tickets like static QR, WhatsApp, PayTM and PhonePe tickets, trains were running full. From nearly 1.4 lakh to 1.5 lakh people who normally travel on Sundays in metro , the ridership (the number of people travelled) rose to about 2.4 lakh on December 17. 

On the weekdays, it is tough for any commuter to secure a seat if they take a ride during peak hours. Nearly 2.7 lakh to 2.8 lakh people travel a day by this system. Yet, even eight years after the launch, the metro hasn’t gotten anywhere close to the projected ridership figure of 7 lakh passengers a day which was indicated in the detailed project report (DPR). Though numerous factors may be attributed to it, including the alignment and the lack of last-mile connectivity, commuters say that higher fares were one of the central reasons. They say whenever discounts are announced, there is a huge influx of passengers and Chennai Metro Rail could consider bringing down the fares a bit.

S. Santhanam, of Chrompet, and a metro traveller, said that hundreds of people still shy away from using this system because of this reason. “The suburban system witnesses packed coaches because of how affordable it is. We don’t expect them to reduce it to that extent but at least bring it down a little so that more people switch from using their vehicles to this system,” he adds.

He notes that even if fare reduction is not feasible, they can introduce special monthly and yearly passes with reduced fares for students and senior citizens. “Students and office-goers form a huge chunk of their travellers. If they bring in special passes for school and college students, more people will be interested in using the system because of how dependable it is,” he adds.

K. P. Subramaniam, an urban planner and a retired professor of urban engineering from Anna University said that in the future, traffic congestion is expected to get much worse with vehicle population increasing. Hence, it becomes even more imperative to make mass transit systems affordable for people.

“One of the primary reasons why the Chennai Metro Rail system is not able to touch the ridership mentioned in the DPR, which was prepared in the planning stage, is because everyone can not pay for these fares daily. . If they decrease the fares marginally, the number of people travelling will go up significantly and it is possible to touch the ridership figures. They will certainly be able to meet the operating expenses and make profits too,” he says.

Chennai Metro Rail should view fare reduction seriously, attempt it on a trial basis at least for a few months, see the growth in ridership and then make it a permanent measure, if feasible. “They should also do a large-scale study by asking commuters of their other mode of transport and also residents from each station zone if they use this mode of transport [metro, confirm]. If they don’t, then this study will help them understand why they aren’t taking metro and fix the gaps in the system,” he adds.

Now, with the Phase II project coming up at ₹61,843 crore and the network of this project, extending to as much as 116 km, it becomes significant that affordable fares are fixed. “When you build such a cost-intensive project, it will become a total waste if it is not used to the maximum extent. They should hold consultative meetings with the public and then decide on the fares,” Mr. Santhanam says.

Better safety, ease in travel

According to officials of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), it is extremely difficult to sustain and manage the maintenance if they decrease the fares any further. In comparison to other systems like suburban rail or MRTS, the ease of travel and safety is better in metro and it has been feasible to keep up the standard for the last eight years, owing to the existing fare structure, an official says. Also, maintenance aside, a major portion of their expenses is towards paying for electricity and unless they get a subsidy on that, it will be very difficult to bring down the fares, an official says.

“As such, in 2021, we brought down the maximum fare to ₹50 from ₹70. We have been able to meet the operational expenses due to the present revenue that we get. If we need to have a good upkeep of stations and run the system, it is essential that we continue to operate this way. Though we haven’t managed to touch the project ridership figures, it is to be noted that the number of people travelling is consistently increasing every month,” he adds.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.