Delhi

Gurugaman: On road to becoming Millennium City’s lifeline

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar at the event in Gurugram. File photo.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar at the event in Gurugram. File photo.   | Photo Credit: Manoj Kumar

Within two years of its launch, the Gurugram city bus service — also known as Gurugaman — is clocking over 88,000 passengers daily on its 154 buses. Commuters are all praise for the cleanliness, reliability and safety of the service, but have issues with travel cards and recharging

As the bus negotiates its way through traffic at the busy Jharsa Chowk on the Delhi-Gurugram Expressway, commerce student Ashish says he has been availing the city’s bus service, Gurugaman, for the past eight months. “Overall, the experience has been good, except for the congestion and some issues with the travel card,” adds the 21-year-old student of Delhi’s Sri Aurobindo College who commutes from his home in Badshahpur.

Ashish takes route 134-B (IFFCO Chowk and Dhana Mor) — one of the busiest routes for the service — at its point of origin but still fails to find a seat most of the time. But that does not deter him, what he is most inconvenienced by is the fact that the travel card for the bus service cannot be recharged online. “The point of sale at IFFCO Chowk for recharging remains shut in the afternoon; there is no such facility at Rajiv Chowk,” grumbles Ashish.

Gurugaman: On road to becoming Millennium City’s lifeline
 

Travel cards for the bus service are currently sold and recharged at six points of sale: HUDA City Centre metro station, IFFCO Chowk, Krishna Chowk, Gurugram bus stand, Dundahera bus stop, and Sector-56. The centres remain open from 8 a.m. to noon; and again from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Fare rationalisation

Even as Ashish recounts his experience, 54-year-old Daljeet Singh, a security guard at a private firm, interjects to add that the fare needs rationalisation.

“While the fare for the first 10 stops is ₹10, it doubles to ₹20 for the next 10 stops. It would be better if another slab of ₹15 is introduced in between and is increased at the rate of ₹5. It will be more affordable. The public transport is for the convenience of the masses. The government should not aim at making profit from it,” he says, while praising the service for its frequency and comfortable seats.

Nishant Kumar, a 28-year-old civil engineer from Jharkhand, says that he loves the large windows in the buses that offer a wide view of the city and let in the much-needed fresh air. The long travel time due to frequent stops is a downside though, he adds.

Mohan Rao, who works at a private firm in Manesar’s Industrial Model Township (IMT), travels on the route daily. Though the 34-year-old from Andhra Pradesh finds the service “reliable” and “convenient” compared to autorickshaws, he too feels that the fare is bit on the higher side.

“Travelling by the city bus costs around ₹5 more for each trip compared to autos. Workers with meagre earnings still prefer to take autos. Also, a large workforce travels to IMT from Hayatpur village and a bus should run on this route as well,” suggests Mr. Rao, while praising the service for its “cleanliness, and courteous staff”.

He adds that the new routes introduced around eight months ago has been a boon for the women workforce. “The women working in the factories in IMT Manesar earlier had safety concerns travelling by autorickshaws late in the evening. Now, they feel safe and take the city bus,” says Mr. Rao, before he alights at Khandsa Mandi stop.

Bus conductor Vikram Singh admits that only 10-15 passengers daily use travel cards to pay for their trips “If the passengers pay through the travel card, it is a win-win situation. The customers get a discount, and we do not have to worry about arranging for change,” Mr. Singh adds.

Sunil Kumar, who drives a bus on the 28-km-long route — the longest in the service — says passengers mostly prefer to board or deboard at traffic signals and not at the designated stops. “The locations of most of the shelters is such that passengers do not prefer to stand there,” he adds.

Naveen Ranga, a munsi at the district and sessions court, says he is a regular on route 221-D and appreciates the service for being “economical and comfortable”. He, however, laments that most of the times the conductor refuses to accept the travel card citing technical issues.

“It is convenient and cheaper to use travel card as it offers ₹2 discount per trip, but almost 15 days in a month the conductor says that his machine is not working,” adds Mr. Ranga, while he waits for a local train to Rewari at the railway station after deboarding the city bus.

Call for all-women buses

“They should also introduce air-conditioned buses as well as all-women buses, especially on route 221-D. At least 80 women employees of the court travel by the bus daily. The administration should think about running an all-women bus on this route, especially in the morning and evening hours,” says Mr. Ranga.

Rohit, a bus conductor on route 116-B, admits that there are issues with their hand-held devices. “My machine was not working today. So, I asked the passenger to take the next bus,” says Rohit, while complaining that there is no facility for drinking water for the staff on the bus or at the stops.

As the 116-B bus travels from New Gurgaon to enter the congested Old City passing through the Signature Tower underpass, Poonam Shrivastava, a teacher, recalls how she came to know about the service only recently through an autorickshaw driver, and now prefers to travel by it.

“I need to stay back on Tuesdays and Saturdays for extra classes and take the city bus back home in Bhim Nagar. Earlier, I hired an autorickshaw or a cab. The bus service is economical, comfortable and also safe,” says Dr. Shrivastava, suggesting the need for a bus route close to her school.

Though the passengers speaking to the The Hindu gave thumps up to the service for comfort and frequency, not many were aware of the ‘Gurugaman’ app, and only a few were using the travel cards. Also, a few women passengers complained that seats were not reserved for them.

Chief Executive Officer of the Gurugram Metropolitan City Bus Limited, Sonal Goel, says that travel cards are given out for free and efforts are on to provide online recharge facility in the next couple of months. “The GMCBL is in talks with a couple of banks in this regard,” she adds.

There is no scope for reducing the fare as it is reasonable, but a proposal is under consideration to introduce around 50 electric buses... it may take at least one more year, says the 2008-batch IAS officer.

‘No new routes’

“There is no immediate plan to introduce new routes as there are no buses available. The new routes can be introduced only after new buses are added to the fleet. There is no proposal to add new buses except the 50 electric buses. These buses, when added, would be air-conditioned,” adds Ms. Goel, who has travelled on the city buses with her team a couple of times for a first-hand experience since she took over a month ago.

“There were not many complaints, but we felt the need for more cleanliness and behavioural change for the staff,” says Ms. Goel, an awardee of NITI Aayog’s Women Transforming India-2016.

She says the GMCBL has introduced all-women buses on route no. 116-E at Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s directions and the app that earlier had issues with GPS has been improved leading to increase in downloads. “But the office-goers in the city are not in the habit of using the bus. We need to bring a change in their attitude and plan to hold promotional activities around International Women’s Day to promote the use of buses. Travelling by public transport not just helps fight pollution and reduces traffic, but also brings down accidents,” says Ms. Goel, as she hurriedly leaves for another trip on a city bus with her staff.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 1:14:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/on-road-to-becoming-millennium-citys-lifeline/article30966923.ece

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