The Union Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has had to scale down the specifications for buses run under its flagship programme, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), to bridge the gap in demand and supply.

A senior official of the Ministry said unlike the accent on design and production of cars, good quality buses are being manufactured in the country on a much smaller scale. “We have appealed to the bus manufacturers to increase their efforts and get good quality buses on the roads,” said Sudhir Krishna, Secretary, MoUD.

To improve the public transport and to encourage commuters to leave their private vehicles behind, the government has rolled out low floor buses in several cities under the JNNURM.

Based on the feedback from commuters, manufacturers have also been asked to amend design faults. For instance in Delhi, there was a complain about poor ventilation in the low floor buses, Ministry officials said, adding that this concern is being addressed by placing big fans towards the rear end of the buses.

“It is a continuous process, but we want the bus manufacturers to be more proactive and open to design challenges. They often restrict their operation and focus more on the sales rather than adopting a participatory approach,” said an official.

He went on to add: “We had to face difficulty in procuring mini buses that could be run as feeders for the Metro services. Manufacturers take time to comply with specifications that have been drafted by the Ministry; recently, we have had to scale those down.”

Ministry officials said while the buyers are willing to pay, manufacturers have been slow in delivering.

Citing the example of DMRC, the official said even when the specifications were relaxed, the wait was still more than six months.

The Ministry has also introduced helpline numbers to improve the functioning of buses. These can also be used by commuters to know the location and schedule of bus service.

The Ministry has also asked all the States to fast track the completion of projects under JNNURM. The flagship programme of the Ministry, that was started seven years ago, was recently criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its audit report for failing to take off.

The CAG had red flagged poor implementation, monitoring and delays in completion of work under the JNNURM.

“We are taking action and all the States have been asked to complete the pending works by March 2014,” said Mr. Krishna.

Helpline numbers introduced to improve the functioning of buses