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Delhi Metro proposes inviting private partners to run trains in Phase 4

The Phase 4 project has been pending approval for nearly three years, with the files seemingly stuck with the Delhi government.

delhi Updated: Mar 14, 2018 08:04 IST
Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi Metro,Delhi Metro Phase 4,Metro trains
Work for Phase 4 of Delhi Metro was supposed to begin in 2016 and be completed by 2021.(Burhaan Kinu/HT Photo)

With Phase 4 of the Delhi Metro facing delays due to a tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government over funding, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has proposed to the two stakeholders to involve private entities to run its trains, a top official said.

In the last week of January, the DMRC wrote to the Delhi government and the Union urban development ministry, each of which has a 50% stake in the corporation, requesting for approval of at least three of six proposed corridors. The letter also brought up trying a public-private partnership (PPP) for the Metro without elaborating how the model would work.

Explaining the PPP model, which would potentially reduce the initial investment required, DMRC chief Mangu Singh told HT that, under the plan, the tracks would be laid by the corporation and coaches will be procured by a firm selected through a bidding process. This entity would then run the trains in exchange for payment, he added. “We have given options on funding and one of the options is ‘unbundling.’ We can invite bids, and just like the cluster buses operated by DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd), they can come and run the trains. We will pay to them on per km basis with a minimum daily guarantee. We will just collect the fare and pay them. This can be tried on any of the lines to see if it works,” Mangu Singh said.

The 104-kilometre network proposed in Phase 4 is expected to add 1.5 million passengers to the Metro daily. It will benefit residents of south Delhi, giving them the option of taking the Metro to the airport and other neighbourhoods.

The project has been pending approval for nearly three years, with the files seemingly stuck with the Delhi government. Work was to begin in 2016 and be completed by 2021.

Delhi transport minister Kailash Gehlot alleged last month that files were not reaching state ministers for clearance, while Union urban development minister Hardeep Puri said earlier this month that the Centre was fed up of the delays and would go ahead with the project on its own. The Delhi government then responded that some of the proposed lines in Phase IV were not financially feasible.

In a bid to reduce the funds required to kick-start the project, the DMRC has also proposed that private parties be involved in running essential services in stations, such as elevators, escalators and AFC (automated fare collection) gates.

“Apart from requesting to approve three of the six corridors, we have given other options for funding. For instance, lifts, escalators and AFC gates can be given to private players after a bidding process. We will pay for them on a daily basis -- like you hire a taxi on a need basis instead of buying a car,” Singh said.

The DMRC, which had been seeking approval for six corridors costing ?48,000 crore, is now seeking approval for two phases -- first the Mukundpur-Maujpur, Tughlakabad-Terminal 1 and Janakpuri (west)-RK Ashram sections, and then the Rithala-Narela, Inderlok-Indraprastha and the Lajpat Nagar-Saket G-Block sections. The first three corridors will cost around ?29,000 crore. If the proposal to privatise a part of metro station is approved, the cost will come down, Singh said.

“It’s a great idea but the Delhi metro should also consider the asset recycling model and lease out the existing infrastructure. They can give the existing lines on lease for 20 years just like toll plazas on highways, said Jaijit Bhattacharya, president of the Centre for Digital Economy Policy Research, when asked about the latest proposal. “In allowing the private party to run a fresh line, there are too many complications. In the existing line, you know the number of passengers travelling and can easily calculate the per km cost,” he added.

Ryan Christopher Sequeira, the deputy manager of transport planning at DIMTS, warned of complications as well. “As a proposal, it is definitely feasible. But there could be problems in the future if the projection of ridership turns out to be incorrect. It all depends how the plan and contract is formulated. The model is good as it does not put onus on the exchequer. But there has to be reliable data for future projections,” he said.

First Published: Mar 14, 2018 08:04 IST