Call to slash KMRL fares to make Kochi metro affordable

Govt. must ensure that maximum number of people use the transport system, says E. Sreedharan

While welcoming schemes that Kochi Metro Rail Limited is rolling out to woo students and other commuters to the metro, key stakeholders say the agency, which is incurring loss to the tune of ₹1 crore per day, has no option but to slash fares to make the transport system affordable.

The recent moves to increase passenger patronage in the metro were welcome, said ‘Metroman’ and noted engineer E. Sreedharan, who oversaw the project’s execution. “Right from the beginning, I was telling KMRL that the metro’s fare structure was very high and unaffordable for most people. From experience across the country, the thumb rule is that any metro agency levying fare that is over 1.5 to two times the ordinary bus fare, is making a mistake,” he said.

The Government, which was subsidising the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) to the tune of ₹120 crore per month, must also ensure that maximum number of people travel in the metro so that ordinary people too benefit from the system built using public funds, he said. KMRL must further bring down the fare structure so that more commuters travel and the revenue-expenditure gap reduces in the long run, said Mr Sreedharan.

Slamming KMRL for what he termed “wasting” four years since its commissioning to realise the importance of making the metro affordable for commoners, Sudheer Babu, an author of business management books, said the agency had preferred to look away even as the survey results reflected the call for a much lower fare structure.

“Even now, the metro fare is unaffordable for the middle and low income groups – taxpayers, who too funded the metro’s capital investment and are now contributing to mitigate its massive losses. More than a medium of transport, metro rail is a culture that is celebrated in other cities, considering its magnitude and the speed of commuting, bypassing congested roads. Sadly, KMRL began targeting affluent sections of society, most of whom continued to travel in cars despite the metro. Over four years since its launch, the metro has failed to live up to the hype that was created during its construction. Near empty stations and trains are proof that its business strategy failed, a lost chance at bettering the commuting experience in Kochi,” said Mr. Babu.

KMRL Managing Director Loknath Behera said the ₹1,800-offer for students to travel 100 trips was reduced to ₹1,200 based on requests from students and parents. “We are yet again collecting feedback on this. Students could also avail of the ₹80-pass and travel unlimited trips. We are working with stakeholders concerned to woo students and others yet again, through further discounts,” he said.

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