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Durgapur chopper fare slashed

A Pawan Hans helicopter

Helicopter rides between Calcutta and Durgapur will cost Rs 1,000 less a trip from Monday.

State transport department sources said lack of demand for the helicopter service had prompted the rollback of the one-way fare from Rs 2,500 to Rs 1, 500.

“In keeping with chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s wishes, the transport department has decided to reduce the fare and make the route more popular,” transport minister Madan Mitra said on Thursday. “A round trip would cost Rs 3,000 now, slightly less than what one would pay for a road trip in a luxury car.”

Helicopter services in the state were started in December 2013 after the transport department signed an agreement with Pawan Hans. According to the deal, the government has to pay Rs 50 lakh for 40 flying hours a month to Pawan Hans.

“The average booking is less than 80 per cent, which is not viable. Passengers are few and five to six flying hours are wasted every month,” said a transport department official.

With the service struggling to take off, the transport department had entered into an understanding with Bengal Aerotropolis Private Limited where the promoters of the private airport in Andal, Burdwan, agreed to underwrite seven seats at Rs 4,200 a seat for a one-way trip “to promote the culture of flying” in Bengal.

With the new fare structure in place, the company would be shelling out more for every seat on flights to and from Durgapur and receiving less for each seat as well.

“With the slash in the Calcutta-Durgapur fare, a ride to all destinations would cost Rs 1,500 barring Malda, which would cost Rs 1,300,” said a transport department official.

Aviation experts said more subsidy might not help improve passenger count.

“Subsidies cannot be an alternative to traffic and industry-starved Bengal cannot guarantee enough traffic for a helicopter service,” said an official of a private helicopter company.