It was a trip to show all was well with the Delhi airport express line.
On day one of its stand-alone operation of the airport line, Delhi Metro Rail Corp on Monday assured commuters of an uninterrupted service by taking journalists on a ride.
But some fundamental questions continue to remain unanswered, after Reliance Infrastructure Ltd (R-Infra) withdrew from the partnership.
“We are yet to come up with a plan sustaining costs. We have just taken over at the operations and managerial level.
“Over 100 people from DMRC have come together as a team to ensure uninterrupted services to the commuter,” said Sharad Sharma, director operations-DMRC.
The employees of R-Infra asked the journalists in hushed tones if there was any information on the fate of their jobs.
About 500 people are employed by R-Infra for operations on the airport line.
Senior officials of DMRC have said they are yet to decide on the employment status of these people.
“We would continue to have them for another month, until we come up with a plan,” said Anuj Dayal, executive director corporate communications.
Since R-Infra has officially announced its exit from the concession agreement, DMRC officials said finding another partner for the airport line is the business of lenders from whom R-Infra has borrowed money for the project.
“According to the contract, it’s the lenders who have to find another partner, not us,” said Dayal, addressing the media.
However, the stage is all set for a legal face-off.
DMRC has reiterated the notice issued by Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt Ltd, the special purpose vehicle of R-Infra, to DMRC for termination of the agreement is ‘in violation’ of the concessionaire agreement.
The officials have admitted to monthly losses of Rs 4 crore (Rs 40 million) in running the airport line. “We have, the monthly expense of running the line is Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million) against the earning of Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million).
“We don’t have a plan yet to cover the losses,” said Sharma.
“No response was given on a possible hike in price of tickets and the question was brushed aside as a ‘matter yet to be decided’.
Replying to the allegations of ‘defects in the civil structure’, Sharma said: “We would never run a line that is not safe for the people.
“Security is our biggest concern. The line is completely safe to run the services.”
Although DMRC has assured the commuters of uninterrupted service, the bigger question is whether it has a plan to take care of the cost of running these services.
The costs to be settled under arbitration exceed Rs 670 crore (Rs 6.7 billion), along with 100 per cent payment of company debt and 150 per cent of equity.