New Delhi: The central government has not responded to Delhi Metro’s application seeking aid to recompensate for the financial losses incurred during the coronavirus pandemic, said Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Chairperson Mangu Singh.
In an interview to ThePrint, Singh noted that the DMRC incurred losses amounting to Rs 2,856 crore in the past year due to the pandemic and the consequent nationwide lockdown.
The Delhi Metro did not operate for 169 days after the lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 March 2020.
“There was no revenue during this time and the expenditure was the same, except for some saving in terms of the power electricity bill,” the DMRC chief said.
The services resumed in a staggered manner from September onwards but according to Singh, the revenue generated since then has not been enough to compensate for losses.
DMRC officials told ThePrint that before the lockdown was imposed, the metro was earning approximately Rs 10 crore in revenue every day. However, currently, it is earning one-third that amount.
Similarly, 62 lakh commuters used the Delhi Metro daily before the Covid-19 pandemic but the number has now reduced to 20 lakh.
“At maximum, there are days it goes up to 25 lakh passengers,” Singh told ThePrint, adding that the corporation’s priority remained attempting to instil confidence in commuters about their safety measures.
And yet, all efforts to seek aid from the central government have been futile till now.
The corporation first wrote to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on 25 November last year. After no response was received, a reminder was sent once again on 14 January ti the ministry and the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, where metros are operational.
‘People crowd stations leading to protocol violations’
Delhi Metro resumed services after lockdown with strict guidelines in place. Social distancing, mandatory masking and thermal scanners have been set-up in all stations to ensure maximum security.
While the metro was initially lauded for its safety efforts, in the past month, several concerns have emerged about passengers violating social distancing and masking protocols.
According to Singh, this is because it is difficult to keep track of every single commuter.
“We have a system to know the number of passengers at one time in the metro on real time basis so the moment we feel there are too many people, we won’t allow anyone to enter at the next station, but of course some people even get off at the stations,” he said.
The DMRC chief added that lately more people are stepping out of their houses, and this leads to queues running up to 200-300 people outside the station.
The metro body has also sought permission from the central government to allow passengers to occupy all seats in the train earlier this month. Currently, only alternate seats can be used to comply with distancing protocols.
However, Singh clarified that DMRC has not asked for permission to run trains at full capacity.
“We have received a large number of complaints and representations from the public that if all other services have been resumed to full capacity, why not the metro, but they don’t understand that this is not in our hands,” said Singh, “We unnecessarily get a bad name.”
Contactless metro ticketing by December 2022
The Delhi Metro also plans to begin contactless ticketing by December 2022. According to the DMRC chairman, private companies and startups have been invited to bid on a new contactless ticketing system. The system is expected to be upgraded to QR code, cards and RuPay-based ticketing.
“We have invited expressions of interest for installations of QR code stickers, EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) ticketing systems and RuPay-based payments to upgrade the existing automatic fare collection system,” said Singh.
He added: “The upgrade is in-line with the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) standard, which is already operational on the Airport Express line.”
The indigenously-developed NCMC, was launched by Prime Minister Modi in March 2019 and allows people to pay multiple kinds of transport charges, including for metro and bus services across the country, through a common card.
The same card can be used in Delhi or Mumbai metro for example, said Singh.
Another important development of the Delhi Metro in recent times has been the launch of driverless trains. PM Modi had launched the first such train on 28 December, which is operational on the Magenta Line, connecting Janakpuri West in West Delhi to Botanical Garden in Noida.
Singh noted that there have been several operational advantages to a driverless train, especially in terms of speed since a lot of time was earlier lost in starting the train, testing the system.
By June, the Pink Line will also be driverless, he added.
The DMRC chief also said that they’ve finalised two contracts for buses for last mile connectivity. “The first bus is likely to operate by the end of this month and by November we will be in a position to introduce 100 low floor buses.”
Delhi Metro’s Phase 4 expansion
Phase IV expansion plans of the Delhi Metro are also ongoing and according to Singh, construction of three out of the proposed six metro corridors has been completed. The rest are expected to be completed by June.
The three corridors that were completed are Aerocity-Tughlakabad (16 stations), RK Ashram-Janakpuri West (22 stations) and Maujpur-Majlis Park (eight stations), while the pending three corridors are Lajpat Nagar–Chirag Delhi–Saket G Block (seven stations), Inderlok–Indraprastha (10 stations) and Rithala–Narela (19 stations).
“The process has been smooth however, there have been hiccups in between including permission for tree cutting,” said Singh.
The corporation has applied for permission from the forest and wildlife department to construct a portion of the Phase IV project in areas falling on the Ridge, which is considered Delhi’s green lung. The project will reportedly require the felling of 11,000 trees.
A petition was filed against the same with the Delhi High Court, which asked the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) formed by the Supreme Court to look into the grievance on 11 February.