With Metro Railway pegging its fare for a two-kilometre ride higher than that of private buses, commuters have decided to take the easy way out. For them, braving a traffic jam is preferable to a pinch in their pocket.
The recent drop in fares of private buses in the first two-km stage — from Rs 2.50 to Rs 2 — has dealt a serious blow to Metro earnings. It incurred a loss of a crore in the past seven months from April to October.
“There is a record fall in ticket sales for the first time in Metro’s history. The last time we incurred a loss was in 1998, and it took us three years to recover from that,” said an official.
In a bid to find out the cause behind the sudden drop in ticket sales, the Metro authorities carried out a survey. “We found that the drop in bus fares was the cause behind our losses between April and October,” said P.K. Chatterjee, in charge of Metro’s commercial operations.
Sources at the Metro headquarters said the railway lost nearly 80 per cent of its commuters, travelling on Zone-I (up to five km). “The private and state buses are charging Rs 2 for the first two kilometres, whereas we charge Rs 4 for the same distance. The Zone-I fare was increased some time ago from Rs 3 to Rs 4, while the bus fares were revised in May this year. So how can we expect commuters to take the Metro'” asked an official.
The Metro Railway earned Rs 20.77 crore by carrying 469.92 lakh commuters from April last. This year, the earnings dropped to Rs 19.67 crore during the same period. The number of passengers was also less — 434.13 lakh — between April and October. “We have recorded a 7.61 per cent drop in passengers compared to the previous years. This caused a 5.31 per cent drop in earnings,” Chatterjee added.
The Metro Railway authorities recorded its last major loss in 1998. “We had to face a tough time four years ago following the fare hike. We started recovering from it gradually by improving our services. This year’s loss has again posed a hurdle for us,” said Chatterjee.
Sources said the Metro authorities are desperate to find a solution to the problem. “We will have to reduce the margin of losses as much as possible. We will concentrate on the Zone-I commuters. If necessary, some changes will be made in rates,” said an official. The Metro officials agreed that only an improvement in services could get them back on the right track. “A commuters’ survey may be conducted soon,” said the official.
The Pujas, however, saw Metro make a slight profit. “This year, we provided four-day special services for the revellers and earned Rs 47,18,632,” said an official.