Delhi Metro’s feeder bus system, which was lauded as a unique feature designed to enable commuters to conveniently interchange from one mode to another, has come in for repeated criticism for the poor quality of buses it offers. Though the fare structure of these buses is at par with the Delhi Transport Corporation buses (Rs.5 for 0-4 km; Rs.10 for 4-10 km; Rs.15 for travel over 10 km), they neither match up to the service offered by the swanky new low-floor DTC buses nor provide the air-conditioned comfort of the metro trains.

No wonder, commuters demand that the quality of feeder buses should match those of DTC if the new fares are to be justified. They complain that the feeder buses even lack basic features, are always crowded and are more often than not delayed. “Since the frequency of the buses is very low, the buses are always crowded,” said a commuter who regularly uses the facility between GTB Nagar and Rithala station.

The Delhi Metro’s website specifies that buses can seat only 18 to 20 people with room for 10 standing passengers but these calculations are seldom followed, said another commuter.

“The feeder buses only become available every 10-12 minutes and are also very crowded,” said 22-year-old Pratiksha, who regularly uses the facility from the Pitampura metro station. “This is more so as private contractors have been put in charge of managing the facility and they pack in as many passengers in the bus as possible to maximise their profits.”

When asked by The Hindu what is being done to bring the feeder buses up to the standard in terms of performance, safety and comfort, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Managing Director Mangu Singh said: “To further improve the quality of our feeder bus services, we are procuring 300 new buses which will operate on the State Transport Authority approved routes.”

While the tender for the non air-conditioned feeder buses was issued as early as October last year, the process of procurement of buses is still going on and these buses are not expected to hit the roads till mid-2013. The buses will operate from 72 State Transport Authority approved routes and cover nearly 60 metro stations with a seating capacity of up to 30 people.

Presently, some of the metro stations providing feeder bus services include Shastri Park, Pitampura, Rohini West, Kirti Nagar, Laxmi Nagar and Tilak Nagar. Whether commuters are satisfied with the service or not, agencies are using feeder buses as a means to advertise products by pegging it as a way “to make the product reach the masses and classes”.

However, in June this year, the Delhi Metro was criticised by a Delhi-based advocacy group, HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth), for indirectly advertising tobacco products.

In a letter, the NGO had stated: “Indirect/surrogate advertisements of tobacco products… have been displayed at many prominent and most busy metro stations like Rajiv Chowk, Kashmere Gate and Central Secretariat etc. Feeder buses have also been seen painted completely with tobacco advertisements around several Delhi Metro stations.”

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