With no ordinary buses in sight, commuters forced to board expensive, air-conditioned coaches
With the Vajra (Volvo) fleet of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation continuing to remain white elephants, BMTC appears to have invented a new method of making them earn more — to operate these higher ticketed services in lieu of ordinary buses.
At a time when most of the ordinary BMTC buses do the vanishing act during the crew shift change — between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. — these swanky air-conditioned buses take their place.
BMTC has about 700 air-conditioned coaches, some 600 Volvo and 100 Marco Polo (Tata) in its 6,000-strong fleet. While the earning per km of these buses was about Rs. 53 during December last, the cost of operation per km was about Rs. 57, according to BMTC sources.
Though Vajra buses have been given a dedicated departure bay at the Kempe Gowda Bus Station (Majestic), it is common to see them occupying bays meant for ordinary services during crew shift change. About a year ago, Vajra buses were given Bay 1 at KBS so as to serve dedicated customers and to prevent them occupying the platforms for too long during off-peak hours.
Kempanna, who was waiting for an ordinary bus for Attibele at KBS in the afternoon, said he did not see a single Attibele-bound one for almost half an hour. At the same time, he saw at least three Vajra buses going towards Attibele and Electronics City.
Fed up with long wait, some of the commuters boarded the Varja buses, he said, and added that he could not afford the fare.
Similar was the story of Girijamma, who was waiting for a bus to Kadugodi at KBS. “Already fares on ordinary services are too high. How can one expect poor people like us to take a Vajra service paying at least five times more?”
Rajashekhar S., a private firm employee, said he had been observing Vajra buses entering bays meant for ordinary services during off-peak hours. This is common particularly on platforms for buses towards Hosur Road, Bannerghatta Road and HAL Airport Road, he said.
Asked why he was on platforms meant for ordinary buses, a Vajra driver told The Hindu he had been directed to do so by higher-ups. “We don’t get passengers during this time on the Vajra bay,” he added.
BMTC Managing Director Anjum Parvez said he was not aware of this practice and he would inquire into the matter.
A BMTC source said Vajra buses were not patronised by commuters on sectors other than the IT corridor. Even on this sector, Vajra buses ply empty during off-peak hours, the source admitted.