By bappaditya paul
“Kolkata’s Pride” ~ the Metro Railway, recorded a loss of Rs 99.26 crore in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
This is Rs 15.35 crore higher the operating loss the country’s oldest tube railway reported the previous year. As regards the operating ratio, in 2011-12, Metro Railway spent Rs 304.72 for every Rs 100 it earned.
Although the Metro’s growing losses threaten the quality of services used by more than five lakh commuters every day, a fare hike to reduce the losses is unlikely this year, railway sources said. From April 2011 to March 2012, Metro Railway earned Rs 107.14 crore. Of this, Rs 91.37 crore came from passenger fares, and Rs 15.77 crore from other sources, such as leasing out advertising space and renting out commercial space at some stations.
The Metro’s working expenditure during the period was Rs 206.40 crore.
If the Rs 118.91 crore Metro coughed up for Pension and Depreciation Reserve Fund (DRF) is taken into account, its gross loss in 2011-12 was Rs 218.17 crore. The Railway Board decides the DRF contribution for each of the railway zones in the country.
Metro officials say the rising cost of power is the prime reason for the growing losses. “Metro fares have not been revised for a decade now, even as the cost of energy has gone up manifold. With seven air-conditioned rakes now being put to service, the volume of energy consumption has shot up,” a senior official said.Fares on the Kolkata Metro are only about half of fares on the Delhi Metro. In Kolkata, riders pay Rs 4 to Rs 14 (Rs 2.19 to Rs 9.43 for Smart Card users). In Delhi, riders pay Rs 8 to Rs 30. The Delhi Metro hiked fares by Rs 2 in 2010, according to a spokesperson.
Kolkata Metro deputy general manager and spokesperson Protyush Ghosh said he was “not the competent authority” to comment on whether his organisation has any plans to hike fares.
Another top-level official, who did not want to be named, said: “After the sacking of (Mr) Dinesh Trivedi for proposing a passenger fare hike in the Railway Budget, would anyone in the Railway Board even dare think rising the Metro fares in Kolkata? There is no chance of hiking the fare, at least, this year.”
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 25 April 2012.)