Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan just flagged off the first Mumbai Metro train from Versova. The inauguration comes amid a continuing tussle between the state government and PPP player Reliance Infrastructure over fares.
The Metro was inaugurated with a promise of a flat fare of Rs 10 for a one-way trip regardless of the distance travelled, but the chief minister has said such a move will not acceptable as a temporary compromise and that fares must remain restricted by a government-controlled committee.
The MMRDA has already moved the Bombay High Court seeking an injunction against a fare hike.
Especially as it could be at least another five to six years before the next route of the proposed Mumbai Metro rail network is ready, the political implications of the first route being a resounding success are huge for the Congress-NCP.
The inauguration was marred by an ugly spat over a proposed fare hike. MMOPL, the SPV thta will operate the service, has proposed fares ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 40. The fares agreed upon in the concession agreement between the state government and the concessionaire, the Reliance Infrastructure-leaded SPV, were in the range of Rs 9 to Rs 13.
While the state government and MMOPL remained locked in a tussle, the newly buoyant city BJP, led by new MPs Gopal Shetty and Kirit Somaiya, threatened to force the opening if the state government did not announce an inauguration soon. The government slammed the BJP's efforts to pressurise it into a hurried opening, but the BJP in all honesty had won the brownie points. That the inauguration had to be hurriedly announced a day after Somaiya threatened to become the first traveller himself on Saturday, is also seen as a small political victory for the BJP.
Reports suggested that MMOPL went ahead an announced the opening on Sunday without taking the government into confidence. The CM was "invited" to flag off the first train, Reliance Infra chief Lalit Jalan was quoted as having said.
The next routes of the Mumbai Metro are along while away. Route two, from Charkop to Mankhurd, had to be sent back to the drawing boards after it emerged -- many years after it was conceived -- that the depots at either end will not be permissible as they were proposed on land falling under CRZ restrictions. Route 3 is the most ambitious, from Colaba to Seepz. This project faces stiff opposition from residents demanding that it be entirely underground.
Here's an image of the first Metro trail rolling out after the inauguration.
— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) June 8, 2014
The Mumbai Metro Twitter handle posted some updates too, including one when the first journey was completed.
— Mumbai Metro (@MumMetro) June 8, 2014
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Updated Date: Jun 08, 2014 12:07:58 IST