By bappaditya paul
Kolkata’s lifeline, Metro Railway, has registered an operating loss of around Rs 125 crore during 2012-13 fiscal ending 31 March. This is up by Rs 25.71 crore as compared to the loss that the Metro reported last year. As a result, Metro Railway’s operating ratio has jumped to Rs 326.97 from Rs 311 last year. This means, during 2012-13 fiscal, Metro authorities spent Rs 326.97 to earn every Rs 100.
The development may not have any immediate impact on commuters, but in the long run this is likely to affect Metro Railway’s upkeep and expansion plans as is already evident from this year’s Rail Budget allocation.
In this Rail Budget, Metro has received a total allocation of Rs 605 crore for its six ongoing projects as compared to the Rs 3,600 crore that was allocated during 2011-12. According to Metro officials, non-revision of the passenger fares for the past 10 years and the rising costs of electricity and other working expenses are the primary reasons for the ever-mounting loss.
The last time Kolkata Metro fares were increased was in 2002. “In 2009, we used to pay the CESC Rs 4.22 for an unit of power, in 2010 that rose to Rs 4.72 per unit. In 2011 it was Rs 5.16 per unit and in 2012 it was Rs 6.06 per unit. But this notwithstanding, our passenger fares remain the same as it was in 2002,” said a senior Metro Railway official.
At present Kolkata Metro charges Rs 14 for a 25.12-km ride from Dum Dum to Kavi Subhash (New Garia), as against the Rs 23 the Delhi Metro charges for a 25.15-km ride from Dilshad Garden to Rithala.
Besides, commuters using prepaid Smart Cards get a rebate ranging between 20 to 37 per cent depending on the amount they recharge.These days, around 5.16 lakh people travel by the Metro everyday and over 50 per cent of them use Smart Cards.
What is proving to be a double whammy for Metro Railway is that not only has its power bill gone up in the past few years, the consumption, too, is gradually on the rise due to increase in the number of trains.
“In 2009, our power consumption was 84.27 million unit, in 2010 it was 97.08 million unit, and in 2011 it was 98.87 million unit and in 2012 it stood at 105.49 million unit. As a result of this and also escalation in other working expenses, our annual cost for running a train now stands at Rs 44,691 from what used to be Rs 32,325 in 2009,” the Metro official said.
While Metro officials do not see the possibility of any immediate increase in passenger fares, they are now concentrating on earning additional revenue from advertisements on trains and at the stations. “The target is to minimise the losses to the extent possible.”
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 1 May 2013.)