Delhi Metro is second-most unaffordable in world: CSE

By Sidharatha Roy and Jasjeev GandhiokonSep. 06, 2018in Perspectives
Photo of a Delhi Metro train
Photo of a Delhi Metro train

NEW DELHI: The Delhi Metro is the second-most unaffordable in the world among Metro systems that charge less than half a US dollar for a trip, says a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), based on data from the UBS report on Price and Earning, 2018, among other sources.

The study found that after last year’s tariff hike, the average commuter in Delhi spends 14% of household income on Metro travel, second only to the 25% spent by Metro riders in Hanoi. For 30% of Delhi’s riders, the percentage of income spent on daily commutes was as high as 19.5%, it said.

DMRC said the study was selective as it only compared Metros with smaller networks.

Fare hikes have stirred policy debate: CSE

CSE said that the fare hike had led to 46% drop in ridership if one compares the projection of 39.5 lakh riders made two years ago for 2018 with the actual figure of 27 lakh at present.

Speaking at a conclave on “Towards Clean and Low Carbon Mobility” held on Tuesday, CSE’s Anumita Roy Chowdhury said the “shock” increase in Delhi Metro fares, carried out in two phases in 2017, had stirred a larger policy debate.

“Should metros seek to meet their future costs of loan repayment and other fixed (depreciation etc) from fares? Or should they look at other financing methods and nonfare revenue? This is not just about Delhi Metro but about a cohesive policy for all metros,” she said.

Roy Chowdhury said DMRC’s fare revenues were enough to meet the operating expenditure up to 2016-17, but the Fourth Fare Fixation Committee had taken into account forecasts of revenues and expenses to justify the fare hike. She said that while forecasting the gap between earnings and operating expenses in the future, it had not accounted for all of its non-fare revenue (consultancy projects etc).

According to CSE study, which will be released soon, 30% of Delhi Metro commuters have a monthly income of Rs 20,000 and increased fares mean they have to spend 19.5% of their income on Metro travel and last mile connectivity. According to CSE, globally up to 15% of household income is taken as the upper cap for transport to be affordable. The bottom 20% of households should not spend more than 10% of their income on transport. In Delhi, as much as 34% of the population stands excluded from basic non-AC bus services as it is unaffordable.

Speaking at the conclave, Delhi’s transport commissioner Varsha Joshi justified the fare revision. “If you don’t increase fares, the quality falls,” she said. Giving the example of the Metro feeder buses, which should have been an extension of the entire Metro experience, Joshi said that most people don’t feel like using them due to their dilapidated condition. Fares of feeder buses have not been increased in tandem with Delhi Metro fare hike. “Feeder buses should be as comfortable as the Metro,” she said.

Joshi said that Delhi Metro fares should be part of an indexed and graded system, so that “politics can’t enter that equation”.

Joshi also said that while Delhi Metro’s network was extensive, last mile connectivity needed to improve and the Delhi government was working on that.

She also said the target should be to move people from private to public transport. “Car commuters need to be pushed off the road and into Metro or buses,” she said.

“The Delhi government is augmenting transport infrastructure through land pooling in some areas. It is also considering using para-transit for last mile connectivity. While the government is planning to acquire 3,000 buses, there is a need to improve bus shelters and ancillary infrastructure,” she added.

CSE director general Sunita Narain said motorisation was assuming explosive proportions in India and locking in enormous carbon and pollution. “Growing dependence on personal vehicles for urban commute can lead to irreversible trends and damages,” she said. “Greenhouse gas emissions from transport, the third highest among all sectors, has recorded the steepest increase. This is also responsible for health-damaging toxic exposure,” Narain added.

Ashish Verma, associate professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore felt the public transport system needed to be made more attractive and reliable so that it can be used for door-to-door mobility.

First published by The Times of India

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