Durga Puja revellers can expect a smooth and comfortable ride on Kolkata roads with the West Bengal government’s transport department inducting five 41-seater Volvo buses into its existing fleet on Thursday.
Bought under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme, the buses will operate on a public-private partnership model, and the prices of tickets have been kept within the reach of the middle-class people.
Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu said that while 26 buses under the JNNURM scheme were plying in the city, 19 more would soon be introduced. He hoped the new buses would be able to mitigate the problem of shortage of public transport to some extent.
Mr. Kundu’s statement comes a day after Union Minister of State for Urban Development Sougata Roy blamed the State government for being slow in requisitioning for the 1200 buses for the city that were approved under the JNNURM.
Commuters faced an acute shortage of public transport following the implementation of the Calcutta High Court’s order of phasing-out all pre-1993 commercial vehicles from city roads to check pollution. About half of the 9000-strong-fleet of private buses in Kolkata went off the roads, leaving them in the lurch.
Even the 400 extra buses that the transport department pressed into service proved to be insufficient. Commuters faced a harrowing time waiting at bus stops and travelling in over-crowded buses.
Mr. Roy also raised questions against the State government’s decision to lease out the buses obtained from the JNNURM scheme to private operators.
Reacting to the objection, Mr. Kundu said: “We have not violated any rule and have taken the decision only after prior discussions with the Centre.”