In a bid to boost ridership, Delhi Metro’s Airport Expressline has slashed its fares up to 40 per cent. Now, a single trip from New Delhi Railway Station to the Indira Gandhi International Airport will cost Rs 100, against the previous fare of Rs 150. Regular passengers using monthly passes can get a discount of 10 per cent on each journey.
However, the popular move raises questions over the commercial viability of the line which has been accruing a loss of Rs 4 crore every month. The fare reduction might add another Rs 1 crore every month to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC)’s losses. But DMRC officials close to the development argue that though the fare cut will hit the fare box revenue, it is the non-fare box revenue that is expected to rise.
The project, in its initial detailed project report, had estimated about 70 per cent of its earnings to come from real estate and property development. Property development at Dwarka Depot, retail activities at New Delhi and Shivaji Stadium stations are the key property development projects that DMRC is eyeing with increased ridership. Low ridership has been cited as the key deterrent by retailers for any proposed real estate development.
Apart from the fare cut, DMRC has taken a series of measures to boost footfall in the past one year. The frequency on the corridor has been improved from 15 minutes to 10 minutes with faster trains. To tap into the early morning traffic from New Delhi Railway Station, the services were rescheduled to start from 4.45 am. Reduced promotional fares on Sunday, further discounts through smart cards are some of the other measures announced by DMRC.
The average daily ridership currently stands at 13,133 compared to 10,069 commuters last year. The proposal to reduce the fares was under consideration of ministry of urban development for about six months. The move also comes at a time when DMRC is expecting a fare fixation committee to take up the issue of Delhi Metro’s fares, which have not been revised since 2009. Similarly, Gurgaon Rapid Metro is all set to raise its fare up to 90 per cent.
Other long-term plans also include linking Airport Expressline with the proposed rapid rail link. The extension of about 15 km to reach Iffco Chowk, Gurgaon and be integrated to rapid rail link from Alwar will cost about Rs 2,700 crore to DMRC. A fresh DPR has made for the same and will be submitted to the Haryana Urban Development Authority for approval.
DMRC had taken over the operations of Airport Expressline in July 2013 after Reliance Infrastructure’s Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt Ltd exited the project.
Built at a cost of Rs 5,800 crore, Delhi Airport Expressline project was one of the first public-private partnership projects for urban transport in the country.