Having completed four months of operation this week, officials of the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) are satisfied with the initial ridership figures, stressing that things would take time to stabilize.
According to data available till October 18, nearly 6 lakh people used the Kochi Metro this month handing KMRL a revenue of Rs 2.28 crore including ticket sales and advertising earnings. 8.3 lakh people in September and 6 lakh people in August used Metro services, official data showed. But the highest ridership was recorded in July, the second month of operation when 9.97 lakh people rode the trains.
“We are seeing more people taking the Metro on holidays than working days. The response is good so far,” said Reshmi CR, joint general manager, corporate communications at KMRL.
Officials expect a boost in ridership figures in October, especially after the train services were extended earlier this month to the MG Road stretch, which houses many shopping centres and malls. Trains are now plying between Aluva and Maharaja’s College (16 stations in all) over an 18.4 km stretch.
The first phase of the project will see nine more stations over a 7 km route, with services culminating at Thripunithura. A second phase of the project will see metro services going up till Infopark through Kakkanad, the IT hub of the city. However, metro officials said land acquisition was the biggest hurdle. Several landowners in Champakkara are protesting over the compensation being offered to them.
Football fever works in favour of KMRL
The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in the city, which is hosting a number of matches of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, is attracting a lot of metro riders, especially those from the Malabar region. Officials said people arriving by long-distance trains at the Aluva station, Ernakulam Town Station or the Ernakulam Junction station were using the metro to escape the traffic. Since matches are scheduled at either 5 pm or 8 pm, it helps them avoid rush-hour traffic. Moreover, KMRL had increased frequency of trains and services were extended till the matches concluded to help the spectators.
Smart cards and monthly and daily passes
KMRL has tied up with Axis Bank to set up the Automated Fare Collection (AFC) system and offer commuters a smart card, which gives people a 20% discount on the existing ticket fare. The cards, that come with a PIN, can be used for shopping purposes as well. KMRL officials said nearly 7,000 people had smart cards currently. From November 1, the smart card’s will be available at all 16 stations and monthly and daily passes will be launched in the coming months. These passes would come with discounts on the existing fare, officials said.
Focus on alternate advertising models
To look for additional income apart from ticket sales, which generates only a fraction of the revenue, KMRL has given Chinese electronics company Oppoexclusive branding rights for the Edapally and MG Road stations. KMRL is earning Rs 6.60 crore and Rs 5.50 crore per year respectively from it. The Edapally metro station, which sees the highest footfall, sits alongside the LuLu shopping mall, one of the largest in India, and which attracts thousands of people every day. “Tenders have been invited for external and internal branding of the trains as well,” said an official.