RTO notice to 21 BMTC buses ferrying schoolchildren

According to RTO officials, all the 21 buses were found violating safety guidelines. — FILE PHOTO  

In a major crackdown on Wednesday, the Transport Department stopped and issued notice to 21 buses operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), which has a contract with a private school in Ullal to ferry its students.

RTO officials said all the buses were violating safety guidelines. However, unable to provide alternative transport to the hundreds of children, the officials had to allow the buses to go on for the day.

The operation began in the morning at Malathalli in Ullal on Mysuru Road. Buses were asked to pull over in an open field for checks after they had dropped the students at Vidyaniketan Public School. “We stopped 21 buses.... We would have seized these buses but had to let them go after seizing their documents,” a senior RTO official said.

According to the official, the buses were missing window grills, had no CCTV cameras and, in some cases, had broken window panes. “These were just some of the violations we found. They had no fire extinguishers, their first aid kit boxes were either empty or filled with other things, and the running boards had holes in which your foot could get stuck,” he said

The move comes barely days after an on-contract BMTC bus that was ferrying schoolchildren for a picnic caught fire on Mysuru Road. No one was injured in the accident, suspected to be caused by an electrical short circuit.

School authorities said they were waiting for the Transport Department report before writing to the BMTC and asking them to comply with the guidelines. “We will take the copy of the report of the transport authority and see what safety issues are highlighted,” said Vijai Krishna Rajagopal, principal of the school.

However, BMTC authorities maintained that the issues for which check reports were issued were not related to safety. “None of our buses have been seized and the issues the RTO staff found were related to tyres and windows. Check reports have been issued for these violations, which we will rectify,” said Ekroop Caur, managing director of BMTC.

Why they prefer BMTC buses

This is not the first time RTO has undertaken such an exercise. Last year, 10 BMTC buses were stopped and seized temporarily when officials said they had discovered safety violations. These buses were also on contract with a popular private school in the city.

However, BMTC officials say it is not feasible to follow the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for vehicles ferrying schoolchildren. These guidelines include painting the bus and writing the words ‘school bus’ in large font. “The guidelines apply for vehicles that ferry schoolchildren exclusively. We use these buses on regular routes after school hours. So we cannot make these permanent changes,” a senior BMTC official said.

While acknowledging that safety is paramount, BMTC said the issues highlighted by the RTO would be addressed. “This question of whether BMTC should follow the Supreme Court guidelines was taken up around two years ago and an advisory was issued in this regard. We cannot paint our buses yellow and follow the text scheme, but we are concerned about safety issues and will certainly address them,” said Ms. Caur.

School authorities said they have had a tie-up with BMTC since 1996 and many students and teachers has in fact opted for these buses. “A total of 850 out of the 4,320 students use these buses and 23 buses are deployed for this duty. BMTC is our choice as they have a huge fleet size,” said Mr. Rajagopal.

Because of the economical prices offered by BMTC, several educational institutions opt to strike up a contract with it. Every year, on average, seven to eight new institutions sign up for the BMTC’s school bus service. “We can provide cheap service as we don’t keep our buses idle and use them on normal routes. A lots of schools are not able to afford private school bus services,” Ms. Caur said.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 2:56:30 AM |

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