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R INFRA TUSSLE OVER MUMBAI METRO FARES

Even as the final clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety is expected shortly, the much-delayed Mumbai Metro is set to be postponed further as the state administration has turned down the operator Reliance Infrastructure's demand for a steep hike in fares. RInfra's arm Mumbai MetroOne has sought almost a two-fold increase in fares compared to the fare already notified by the state government. As per the notification, the minimum fare would be Rs 9 and maximum Rs 13 in the initial year of operations. Then after every four year, the fare will increase by 11 per cent and at the end of the concession period-- that is by 2044-45-- the minimum fare would be Rs 24 and maximum Rs 37. However, according to sources, RInfra has sought a steep revision in the fares with minimum Rs 22 and maximum Rs 33, citing a near-doubling of its cost. "The company has sought higher fare citing huge cost escalation. But the government has already notified the fares so there is no question of any revision," Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority additional commissioner Sanjay Sethi told PTI. The minimum fare was already revised upwards from the original proposed Rs 6 to Rs 9 in the initial period. RInfra had argued that due to cost escalation as well as inflation, it would be difficult for them to sustain at the government notified rates. The cost of the project, which was earlier estimated at Rs Rs 2,356 crore, jumped 82 per cent to Rs 4,291 crore, largely due to delays in securing right-of-way from the Railways and civil authorities, as well as various other approvals from the Railways. The company approached the Research, Design and Standards Organisation of the Railways this February and got the approval on April 2. The project is now awaiting the go-ahead from the Commissioner of Railway Safety, currently carrying out safety checks. When contacted, an Mumbai MetroOne spokesperson said, "We are ready to start operations subject to final safety approval from CMRS." The company is opposing the fares fixed by the government and wants it to be revised as per the provisions of the Central Metro Act, as is done for other metros in the country including Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai. "The fare shall be fixed as per the provisions of the Central Metro Act, which are applicable to the project," the spokesperson said. 
The Mumbai Metro fares are envisaged to be 1.5 times of the BEST fares, which currently is Rs 6 for a minimum distance of 3 km. The Delhi Metro, however, considers AC bus fare as the benchmark for deciding its fares. Mumbai MetroOne is a joint venture between Reliance Infrastructure, French firm Veolia Transport and MMRDA and with the parties respectively holding 69, 26 and 5 percent. Meanwhile, Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) PS Baghel told PTI that the inspections are going on and the issuance of a final certificate may get delayed by a few days. "We are still in the process of inspecting various parameters and we will then come out with our observations. We will then co-relate our inspection report with our observations and thereafter a final report will be prepared. A final certificate to the metro may then be issued by May 1 or it may also get delayed by a few days," Baghel said. Since April 17, Baghel has been rigorously inspecting various parameters of running the metro in the city. He first visited D N Nagar car shed in Mumbai and then took a review of the entire metro system, which includes rolling stocks, workshop, depot, corridor, stations, track, etc. CRS safety check is the last statutory certification requirement before the 11.4 km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line is opened for public. After being satisfied with results of detailed tests and trials, the CRS would authorise Mumbai Metro One Private Ltd (MMOPL) to commence passenger operations on the line. However, social activist Anil Galgali said as per his information, the authorities want to start operations on the line only once the code of conduct gets over so that it makes a good impact for the people of Mumbai. Galgali, in a letter to CRS, has demanded that the metro be opened for Mumbaikars without delay and that this may not be made a political issue. "We demand an immediate opening of the project once the final certificate is issued for the convenience of the citizens of Mumbai. The project should not be used to score political brownie points," Galgali said. With opening of the line, the journey will be reduced to about 20 minutes on Ghatkopar-Andheri-Versova corridor, which at present takes almost two hours through various other modes of transport. 

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