New Delhi: For the second time in 2017, ridership on Delhi Metro has witnessed a sharp decline following a fare hike. While its average daily ridership had fallen to 25.7 lakh in June following a fair hike, down by about 0.8 lakh from the May figure of 26.5 lakh, in October daily ridership plummeted sharply to 24.2 lakh from 27.4 lakh in September following another increase in fares.
The latest data on Metro ridership has been obtained by news agency PTI through a right to information (RTI) query. The RTI response revealed that the Delhi Metro lost over 3 lakh commuters per day due to the sharp increase in fares which had also triggered a war of words between the Arvind Kejriwal government and the Centre.
The 11% fall in the month of October may indicate that a lot of regular passengers have now taken to other modes of transport, both public and private, in the wake of the fare increase and this may have been a major contributing factor in the higher pollution witnessed in Delhi during October-November 2017.
The 218-km network currently has six major lines. To shore up its revenues, the Delhi Metro had increased fares by a maximum of Rs 10 earlier in October. Following this Kejriwal had shot off a letter to union urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri, criticising the decision of the Delhi Metro board and demanding a roll-back of the fare hike.
He had stated that the hike was “too steep” and demanded that the Centre should have been “more considerate towards common man.” The Delhi assembly had also passed a resolution against the increase.
The Board had, however, rejected the demand stating that as per Section 37 of the Metro Railways (Operations and Maintenance) Act-2002 the Fare Fixation Committee’s recommendations were “binding” and “sacrosanct” and that the Centre had no authority to intervene in the matter.
On May 10 too, the fares had increased after the DMRC Board had approved the recommendation of the FFC to increase the fares in two rounds. At that point in time, the minimum fares were raised from Rs 8 to Rs 10 and the maximum from Rs 30 to Rs 50.
Following that fare hike too the ridership on Delhi Metro had dipped sharply by nearly 1.5 lakh per day in June in comparison to the same month last year. The fall was a relatively smaller 80,000 per day when compared to the previous month’s figures.
But as the data also reveals, the dips in ridership figures are short-lived as people return to the system after a while. However, considering the sharper decline this time, it may take a little while longer for the Delhi Metro to regain its passengers – whose presence is equally important for the corporation to have a healthier balance sheet.
Monthly variations, says DMRC
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has, however, issued a statement noting that “the drop in the ridership in the month of October 2017 is not solely attributable to increase in fares as there are otherwise monthly variations noted throughout the year.”
It has clarified that “in the month of October there were 5 Sundays in comparison to September with 4 where ridership is around 60-70% of the working day ridership. This monthly variation in ridership is dependent on the multiple factors like seasons, vacations, holidays, festivals etc.”
Further, the corporation said the month of October 2017 started with a long weekend/extended holidays due to Dussehra falling on September 30 followed by Gandhi Jayanti on October 2. The month also witnessed extended weekends/holidays due to Diwali, Chhath Pooja, Bhai Duj, Goverdhan Puja etc.
It claimed that the ridership after the fare revision for many days was actually higher than the ridership before the fare revision.
In 2016 also, it said the ridership dipped by 1.3 lakh from September to October despite there being no change in the fare structure.
In any case, it said, the fare revision has been done on the recommendations of the 4th fare fixation committee, which is a statutory body under the Delhi Metro (O&M) Act 2002.