Delhi Metro 'second-most unaffordable' transport network in world: CSE

Delhi Metro that faced flak from the commuters and the Kejriwal government over fare rise last year, is the world’s second most expensive mass rapid transit system, says a report by the Centre for Science and Environment.

CSE did an analysis of what it takes to keep public transport and overall journey costs affordable for all city dwellers while modernising the systems. This is needed to ensure that new investments in modern systems – be it the Metro, or bus rapid transit systems, or modern and electric buses – can lead to an effective shift in ridership from personal vehicles to public transport in all Indian cities.

Delhi Metro saw a sudden drop in ridership following the fare hike (in May and October 2017) – approximately by 420,000 passengers by 2018, the report said.

Even though the report said that there was no absolute threshold to define affordability of public transport but internationally it is generally accepted that about 10-15 per cent of household income can be spent on transport as the upper cap for a system to be accepted as affordable.

For poor people, higher spending on transport leads to lower spending on housing, health and education, which therefore spirals them into greater poverty.

If one were to consider the middle-income groups (30 per cent of the population approximately), which are just above the lower income classes, one finds that after accounting for integrated journey cost (at a conservative estimate of 25 per cent of the system cost – a person using a Metro is likely to spend at least 25 per cent of the cost paid to the Metro to get to the station and then reach the destination from the station), AC buses and Metro are almost unaffordable for them too.

They have to spend, on an average, 9 per cent and 14 per cent to use an AC bus or the Metro, respectively.

It was also observed that it was ironical that when travel demand was exploding in cities the transport service providers were facing a crisis.

“Lack of funding and pricing strategy for integrated public transport systems and services are blocking progress. Public transport ridership is sliding in cities and service providers are running into losses, thereby rendering the services unaffordable,” the report observed.

No cohesive strategy is in place to reverse this trend, it added.

Experts at the time of Delhi Metro fare hike argued that it was needed to keep the corporation’s balance sheet healthy.

Since 2009, there was no increase in fares, while the input cost for the metro service has increased by over 105 per cent in energy, 139 per cent in staff cost, and by 213 per cent for repair and maintenance.

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