Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Overhaul city transport

Overhaul city transport

December 15th, 2009
By Our Correspondent
Tags: BMTC, transport system in Bengaluru

Dec. 14: On the face of it the high-end Volvo buses have given a facelift to urban transport in the city. But a closer look at the services they offer show that they have not captured the imagination of the upmarket Bengalurean they are catering to in the hope that there will be fewer cars on the roads in future with people preferring to opt for the airconditioned buses instead.
Sadly, the buses are seeing very little occupancy, leaving the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) with huge operational losses. The corporation seems to have however decided not to discontinue the services, provoking a great deal of speculation as to why. While BMTC officials maintain that the Volvo buses are part of the brand building strategy of the corporation, which has not given up on persuading the upper middle class to use the public transport system, others allege that the corporation is giving in to pressure from the Volvo lobby and making huge, but wasteful investment in the high end buses,which are giving it no returns in terms of revenue.
BMTC officials acknowledge that Volvo buses which were first introduced three years ago in 2006 are not making profits on any of the routes, including to the Bengaluru International Airport. The occupany rate on all the 59 designated routes, is below 20 per cent, they say.
“The Volvo buses are proving a big burden on the corporation. Still, it is not only continuing with the service, but is also adding more of them in the name of upgrading its transport system,” say some of BMTC’s critics, pointing out that it is planning to purchase nearly 300 high-end buses which include air conditioned TATA Marco Polo buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
Some transport experts maintain the BMTC’s decision to continue with the high- end buses goes against the concept of providing a sustainable transport system for the city. They smell political interference in the issue. Says social activist, Vasanthkumar Mysoremath, “The purchase of high-end buses is nothing but adventure capital investment. When Volvo buses were introduced for the first time, the BMTC paid Rs 93 lakh for each of them, although they give very little mileage and their maintenance cost is very high. While these buses are being purchased for the so-called upmarket commuter, who doesn’t even care to use them, people who travel by ordinary buses have to put up with crowded services as there are not as many of them as required to meet the demand. This is nothing but a betrayal of the ordinary Bengulurean,” he charges.
Rajath Sheshadri, a traffic engineer recalls that the BMTC was forced to withdraw the Hop-on Hop-Off Service within a month after the specially designed, air conditioned low floor buses were introduced in the Central Business District (CBD) due to poor occupancy .
“Alhtough the corporation suffered a huge loss as a result no one is held accountable for this,” he regrets Traffic expert prof M.N. Srihari too feels the BMTC is not giving much thought to the pros and cons before buying the high end buses which cannot have a profitable run in the city. “If the BMTC introduces a 1000 such buses, we may not have any space on the road at all,” he warns.

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