With an aim of promoting use of metro train service in the national capital and lending an ear to commuters, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu today took a ride on it and said efforts will be made to popularise the service, make it more viable and reduce travel costs.
The Urban Development Minister lauded the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation for the maintenance and organisation of the entire system.
"I feel this is the best mode of transport for people who want to reach early and comfortably. This (Delhi) metro or metros across the country are symbols of modern India. Our people have got capacity and calibre if we give them proper encouragement and opportunity they can do wonders," Naidu told reporters after taking a 15 minute ride on the Airport Metro from Terminal 3 of International Airport to Shivaji Park station.
Naidu interacted with commuters en route and took their suggestions about travel fare, transport facilities on stations and also increasing frequency of trains.
"I had the occasion to interact with commuters and their suggestions were to reduce travel charges, it is very high comparatively. I have asked officers to think about it and take the decision at the earliest about providing link connectivity.
"Whenever they (commuters) get down at the station to reach their homes, they should have connectivity through bus service that also can be organised by some extent by DMRC and also we can have proper coordination with the DTC also. People want little more frequency, that will come in the course of time," the Minister said.
Naidu said efforts have to be made to find out ways to make Metro more viable and self-sufficient.
"First of all we have to now think about ways and means of making metro rail viable. You cannot rely on subsidy for long. It has to be on its on and for that they (DMRC) are there in public partnership mode. People have bidded then the market was very high, subsequently the market was down so they are not getting adequate income as expected but through way of popularising this by providing commercial space to people they can get some more revenue," he said.
The minister said giving space for ATMs, food courts, advertisements can help DMRC generate revenue and other by popularising the facilities people will start using it more frequently.
"It is a two-way process if you want to increase the popularity you will have to give people the facilities and only then they would want to travel and vice versa," Naidu added.
The Urban Development Minster said government is planning to expand the Delhi Metro further to aid travellers thronging the national capital from border regions of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
"There are plans to expand Delhi Metro further which will happen in a planned manner. Mainly to cover Delhi and from here to Haryana, UP and Rajasthan. People travel from the border areas to Delhi every day. For them connectivity is important," Naidu said.
The Minister noted that due to increased vehicular traffic, travelling by roads has become difficult and that metro travel helped him save 40 minutes travel time that he would otherwise spend on the road.
"Travelling by road makes one tired and its depressing because you think that if this is the state of traffic in the national capital, what can be done? So metro is a good alternative transport system," Naidu said.
Encouraging his colleagues to use the Metro to commute, the minister said, "It is better for all VIPs who are travelling to the city to avail this facility and set examples to others and it is also a relief from traffic congestion.
"I had a very happy experience and I hope metro becomes more popular in the coming days so that the common man benefits from it."
The Minister said he has asked metro officials along with other partners to hold meetings to discuss how the system can be improved, to discuss how to reduce travel cost for commuters and increase the train frequency.
"I spoke to some passengers and they said the fare is high, this should be given some thought. Do not compare it to taxi or bus service.
"A lot of investment has gone into it and that too money is invested through public private partnership and they would obviously seek returns. Keeping that in mind I have asked DMRC MD to try to reduce the fares and increase the frequency and linking transport facilities and apprise me about the same," he said.
When asked about the Airport Metro, which Reliance Infrastructure's subsidiary Delhi Airport Metro Express Private Ltd (DAMEPL) terminated the concessionaire with DMRC, the Minister said, "I don't want to make any comment about the controversy on the dispute between these two but it will be sorted out at the earliest."
Currently, DMRC is operating the 22.7 km long Airport Metro Express line.
Naidu, who joined a long list of dignitaries who have taken a ride on the Metro, wrote in the visitor's book that "These are symbols of modern India and if properly used and popularised they will make life happy for the general public. Aam Aadmi must be the target. The Metro is prestigious and I felt very happy about the DMRC (sic)"
Speaking to reporters, DMRC Managing Director Mangu Singh said that whatever suggestions the Urban Development Minister has given, the Delhi Metro will work on it.
Asked about the challenges faced under phase III, Singh said, "Phase III as you all know is 140 km under construction out of which 55 km is underground, which is a big challenge. We are working on it. There could be hold up somewhere, doesn't mean work is stuck. Whereever we can speed up work we are doing it"
He also said that trial runs are underway on the Faridabad metro line, but it is not known when it will be operational.
On beginning operations on the Mandi House to Central Secretariat Metro line, Singh said, "We are awaiting (safety) approval to start operations on the Mandi House line."