Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL) is free to increase the fares for the Mumbai Metro from Friday.
The Bombay high court on Thursday rejected an appeal filed by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) seeking an order restraining the metro operator and its chief promoter, Reliance Energy Limited (REL), from charging fares in excess of what had been agreed to between MMOPL and the MMRDA.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice BP Colabawalla also rejected the MMRDA’s plea to direct MMOPL to continue the present fare structure – Rs 10-15-20 for an additional three weeks. REL had earlier made a statement in court that MMOPL will continue the current fare structure till Thursday (January 8).
MMOPL is now free to increase the fares from Friday and introduce the initial fare structure proposed by it — Rs 10-20-30-40. The fare structure adopted by MMOPL from January 9 will continue till the time the fare fixation committee, constituted by the Central government, fixes regular fares.
MMOPL began Mumbai Metro operations by charging a promotional fare of Rs 10 per passenger, irrespective of the distance traveled. It, however, proposed to introduce a fare structure of Rs 10-20-30-40: Rs 10 for the first two kilometers, Rs 20 for 2-5km, Rs 30 for 5-8km and Rs 40 for a distance of more than 8km.
After the metro operator declared a proposed initial fare structure, MMRDA, a stakeholder in MMOPL, approached the high court insisting the fares should be Rs9-11-13, as provided in the concession agreement signed by MMOPL in March 2007. The authority contended that according to the stipulations of the agreement, the fares should be Rs 9 for the first two kilometers, Rs 11 for 2-5km and Rs 13 for 5-8km.
The MMRDA had approached the division bench in appeal after justice RD Dhanuka rejected its prayer for an injunction against MMOPL. The division bench refused to interfere with the single judge order primarily in view of the fact that the Central government has assured to make an endeavour to constitute the fare fixation committee by January 31, and the committee is mandated by law to decide the fare structure within three months of receiving the request for fare fixation.
Besides, the court also took into consideration the fact that the initial estimates were that the metro line would serve an average daily traffic of 4.10 lakh passengers, but actually the number has remained at an average of 2.65 lakh passengers a day, because of which the metro operator is incurring a cash loss of Rs85 lakh per day.
The judges also took note of the fact there was delay in constituting the fare fixation committee by the Centre. “The most unfortunate part is that the Union of India has been sitting on the file [to constitute the FFC] for over a year-and-half,” the bench observed while expressing displeasure over the inordinate delay.