The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) had, in 2009, planned to add at least 4,300 new buses to its fleet of 5,700 by March 2012 to cater to the increasing travel demand in Bangalore as well as to induce private vehicle-users to prefer public transport.
Ironically, BMTC's fleet strength has increased by just about 400 buses during this period even as the corporation has failed to woo private vehicle-users who were looking for other alternatives in the face of steep increase in petrol prices. The sharp fall in fleet augmentation had a telling effect on the performance of the corporation, whose operational efficiency witnessed a sharp decline over the years.
Ranganath H.S., a BMTC patron, regretted that he has been witnessing frequent irregular services of buses across the city since about two years. Though BMTC got an image makeover about five years ago, it has failed to keep the tempo even as one can witness hundreds of commuters waiting for buses at major bus stations in the evening hours, Mr. Ranganath said.
According to statistics available with the corporation, it had inducted over 1,600 new buses to its fleet between April 2004 and March 2008, taking the numbers from 3,300 to 4,800.
These buses were bought out of BMTC's own funds. And, between April 2008 and December 2009, about 1,000 new buses were inducted, funded under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
The Union Government had agreed to fund buses under JNNURM bearing 35 per cent of the project cost while BMTC bore 50 per cent and the State Government 15 per cent of the cost of about Rs. 300 crore. Not a single bus was procured between January 2010 and June 2011. The corporation inducted 339 new buses, including 51 air-conditioned, in 2011-12, and 170 new buses, including 74 air-conditioned buses, since April 2012.
Even though the corporation could not induct new buses at desired numbers, it did not hesitate to scrap old ones and sent over 400 buses to the junkyard during the last two years. A senior BMTC official wondered about the rationale behind scrapping old vehicles in a situation where no new buses were being inducted and demand for bus services was ever increasing.
BMTC at one time had the youngest fleet among urban public transport corporations in the country. The average age of vehicles was about 3 lakh km in 2009 and it increased to over 5 lakh km in 2012 because of reduced induction of new buses.
As a result, the number of breakdowns has increased, from 1,865 in 2010-11 to 2,402 in 2011-12. This also led to an increase in the cancellation of services, from 2.5 per cent per cent to 3.2 per cent. These figures are on record and in reality, they are at least 10 times more, conceded a senior BMTC official.
While BMTC got about 170 new buses since April this year, it is expected to get another 800 before the end of the financial year, said another officer. Non-availability of Euro IV complaint buses during the last two years had been the reason for the decreased induction of buses, he said.