The NITI Aayog has requested the prime minister’s office (PMO) to take a call on increasing Delhi Metro passenger fares, saying unaltered ticket prices for the past seven years could compromise service quality of the Capital’s popular public transport system.
Metro fares were last revised in 2009.
NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya wrote in a letter to Nripendra Misra, principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that “at the current level, the fares are inadequate for the provision of high quality services and maintenance”.
Panagariya expressed reservation over the delay in implementing recommendations of a Centre-appointed “fare fixation committee”, which suggested an initial steep hike to make up for the seven years.
He requested the PMO to review the matter with the Union urban development ministry.
Urban development secretary Rajiv Gauba heads the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) board, which also has the DMRC chairman and the Delhi chief secretary as its members.
The corporation has written repeatedly to the Delhi government as well as the urban development ministry in the past several years to increase passenger fares, citing rising operating cost.
Since 2009, electricity tariff has recorded a more than 90% spike. The power bill accounts for almost 30% of the Metro operating cost.
In 2015-16, the DMRC suffered a net loss of Rs 708.5 crore, the urban development ministry had informed Parliament.
“There is considerable evidence pointing to the fact that without such increases, Metro service and physical infrastructure deteriorate, over time,” Panagariya wrote in his letter.
In its report last September, the committee formed to suggest Metro fares said the minimum ticket price should be increased from Rs 8 to Rs 10 and the maximum from Rs 30 to Rs 50.
But apprehensive of an adverse political impact on the city’s municipal polls scheduled this year, the Centre as well as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has put on hold the decision to raise fares.
Delhi government officials are part of the DMRC board, which is mandated to take a final call on increasing fares.
The board met last November but could not take a decision. It wanted more time to go through the committee’s recommendations.
Panagariya said in his letter to the PMO that a fare hike will help Metro maintain its services and infrastructure at its current standards.
Sources said the Delhi government and Union urban development ministry want to delay a decision as they think it will be politically inexpedient to increase the Metro fare ahead of civic polls.
Since it started its service in 2002, Metro has expanded its network to 213km, connecting the national capital’s satellite cities such as Noida, Ghaziabad, and Gurgaon. It carries around 3 million passengers on an average every day, with about 1,300 trains making more or less 3,000 trips.
The fares were revised only thrice between 2002 and 2009. People paid a minimum Rs 4 for a ride for two years after the service began.