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Chavan flags off Metro service

In a major turnaround, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan flagged off the 11.4-km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro rail service on Sunday. Chavan had earlier said he would skip the inauguration function unless Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL) stuck to the original fares proposed in the tender, at Rs 9, Rs 11 and Rs 13.

In its capacity as the Metro administrator empowered under the Metro Act, 2002, MMOPL had announced promotional fare of Rs 10 for a month and thereafter fixed fares of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 30 and Rs 40. It did not roll back these fares despite Chavan’s demand.

On Saturday, MMOPL director Debashish Mohanty had said the company would go ahead with the launch of the service on Sunday even if the chief minister did not inaugurate it.

MMOPL is a joint venture company comprising Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure, Veolia Transport and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).

Chavan said MMRDA, which holds 26 per cent equity in the project, has already filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against the unilateral fixation of fares by MMOPL. The petition is to come up for hearing on Monday. Admitting that there was a dispute over the tariff, Chavan expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved through court.

He argued that the fare should be decided by the Fare Fixation Committee to be chaired by the retired or sitting judge, with representatives of the Government of India and the Government of Maharashtra.

Chavan said the launch of metro services in Mumbai would revolutionise the way residents of Mumbai travel. The journey on the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar stretch will be covered in 21 minutes flat, which otherwise takes around one-and-a-half hours by road.

MMOPL will operate 270-280 services a day, carrying 1.1 million to 1.5 million passengers. Every coach can carry 375 passengers, while the entire train can transport 1,500 commuters.

Meanwhile, on the first day of the Metro service, around 175,000 commuters had travelled till 9 pm in about 200 trips, and the 200,000-mark was likley to be breached by midnight.

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