The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has rapped the Delhi Metro for shortfall in the ridership and cited higher fare structure in comparison to other modes of public transport as the reason.
In its audit report on the Phase-I of the Delhi Metro, the CAG said according to the projection of 1995, 31.85 lakh passenger trips per day were expected on the completion of the project in 2005. The subsequent projection of 2003 showed daily ridership of 22.60 lakh.
"With this extent of ridership projection, benefits of speedier and safer travel for commuters, abatement in atmospheric pollution, reduction in fuel consumption and accident rates and decongestion of roads were expected," the report said.
It said the highest daily average ridership attained was, however, only 6.62 lakh in November 2007, which was 21 per cent of the original projections and 29 per cent of the revised figure.
The report said higher fare structure of Metro in comparison to other modes of public transport, lack of proper connectivity and feeder bus system for adjoining areas to the metro stations were the factors responsible for the low ridership.
"For commuters the cost barrier went beyond the cost of Metro tickets. It included cost of travel from the residence to the metro station and from the station to the workplace," it said.
But, sources in the DMRC said the Metro fares are one of the lowest in the world. "The maximum fare is Rs 22 while Delhi government has fixed a maximum fare of Rs 25 for AC buses introduced recently," they pointed out.
The report also said despite low ridership, there was congestion on the metro during peak hours. The congestion was attributed to "various factors such as lower number of passenger cars, sub-optimal speed over the rail network, lower frequency of trains and absence of differential fares during peak hours".
The DMRC said that efforts to boost ridership were a continuous process and the company had already extended the operation hours.
The CAG said the DMRC should generate and sustain ridership by utilising the surplus capacity available during off-peak hours and through measures that provide and offer better facilities to commuters.