Is the fall in the daily ridership of Delhi Metro by about 200,000-250,000 a matter of concern?
Our operating ratio (revenue over cost) is 73 right now. If there had been no fare hike we would have crossed 100, which essentially means an operational loss.
How do you look at the two contrasting experiences which DMRC had — of increasing fares and fall in ridership on the main lines and cut in fares and increase in ridership on the Airport Express line? How can metro systems achieve a balance?
Right now, the airport line is running at an operational profit of Rs 180-200 million per year for the last two years. The fare revision has led to an increase in the overall operational profits of Delhi Metro. The two systems are different. The Airport Expressline, when it was developed, was done through public private partnerships (PPPs) and in order to give comfort to the PPP player, the concession agreement had an upper limit and the concessionaire could have started anywhere below.
Reliance Infrastructure was charging a lower fare when the line started, but when the operations on the Expressline resumed, the company raised it back to Rs 180 or so, which hit ridership. When we had to start running the metro after taking over, our purpose was to make sure that the system was put to use. We reduced the fare to the same level at which it was running the metro earlier. That is how the traffic came back and it is going up as we speak.
Was higher fare the only reason the metro operations became unviable for the earlier operator?
Its project was heavily dependent on property development since in 2006-07 the property market was booming, so it anticipated huge revenues from property development. Its projections were very high at that time, but when it came into action around 2010-11, the property market had crashed. Now, we have done substantial property development and that is why we are making profits.
After the inauguration of the first phase of the Pink and Magenta lines, where will your network extend to and how much will it be?
By the end of the year, our network, which would include Noida, Greater Noida, and Ghaziabad, would be over 350 km. On the Gurugram side, the Haryana government is not very keen on the extension of the airport line to the Dwarka Expressway. It appears they are keen on other sectors. DMRC had suggested extending the existing Dwarka Blueline metro to Gurugram. This would have given direct connectivity between Gurugram and West Delhi at not a very high cost.