Delhi Transport Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely on Monday silenced the critics of the low-floor buses by pointing out their advantages as he delved into how these buses had been purchased at lower rates than in BJP-ruled States and how their cost of operation and maintenance was also lower than ordinary DTC buses.

Speaking during a Call Attention Motion moved by Leader of Opposition V. K. Malhotra and BJP’s Chief Whip Sahab Singh Chauhan on the fire accidents involving low-floor buses, Mr. Lovely said only one-low floor bus has caught fire so far. That was on December 3 when a fire from rear tyre spread to the bus body. In all other incidents, he said, the buses had only stopped due to technical snags.The Minister said the matter had been wrongly reported by some news channels and while caution was advised, panic should not be unnecessarily spread. “We had called the Tata Motors officials earlier and warned that negligence in maintenance would not be tolerated,” he said.

Mr. Lovely pointed out that while the annual maintenance contract with Tatas was of Rs. 10 crore, a sum of nearly Rs. 4 crore has been withheld from it as penalty. “Also, we have not paid them Rs.150 crore from the purchase amount yet and warned that if the upkeep is not proper then their contract could be cancelled.”

He said the problem of jamming with the rear wheels was due to greasing, a plastic part and some alignment with a groove.

Taking on the Opposition for their criticism of the new buses per se, the Minister said Delhi has 950 Tata low floor buses and 40 of Ashok Leyland. He said while the purchase cost here was Rs. 49 lakh for non-AC and Rs. 59 lakh for AC buses, this was much less than what BJP ruled states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh or Karnataka had paid for similar buses.

Making a point-by-point reply of the allegations and questions raised by various MLAs, he said these buses complied fully with the Disability Act of 1995 and promoted comfortable travel for the disabled.

To further buttress the argument that these buses were more economical, Mr Lovely said while the running cost of a low-floor bus is Rs.39.80 per km that of an ordinary DTC bus is Rs.62.87. He said the maintenance cost through the AMC was much less at Rs. 10.62 per km after 12 years as against Rs.19.30 per km for other DTC buses.

“Besides, Tatas and Ashok Leyland are the best companies in the bus business in India. If the BJP believes there are others who can provide better maintenance, it should suggest their names.”

Mr. Lovely said the low-floor buses had also proved to be the safest. During 2009, while Blueline buses killed 126 people on the roads and ordinary DTC buses left 37 dead, the low floor buses were involved in only two fatal accidents.

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