Spotlight- Telangana

Weathering the storm

Red giant: An Albion bus, a 19-seater and part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State’s Road Transport Department which was established 90 years ago, is one of the first buses to ply on the roads in the city

Red giant: An Albion bus, a 19-seater and part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State’s Road Transport Department which was established 90 years ago, is one of the first buses to ply on the roads in the city | Photo Credit: G. RAMAKRISHNA

Ninety years ago, for the first time in history, a red Albion bus rumbled from Machli Kamaan, the Qutb Shahi arch on the north of Charminar, towards Secunderabad. That was June 15, 1932. The bus belonged to the Asaf Jahi dynasty’s Motor Bus Service, which later became the Road Transport Department (RTD).

For nine decades, RTD, in its different manifestations, weathered several storms. It survived the global implications of a devastating world war. It witnessed the annexation of the princely State of Hyderabad and its merger with the world’s largest democracy. It acquired a new identity as Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation. Nearly 58 years later, in 2016, after the birth of India’s newest State, it became Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC).

In Mir Osman Ali Khan’s Hyderabad, Muhammad Jafar Hussain Ansari, a seghaidaar in Nizam’s government, wrote that on June 15, the very same day, buses left from Machli Kamaan. They trudged the route picking up passengers all the way to Kachiguda and Nalgonda. A fortnight later, buses made their way to different destinations from Kazipet.

It was around the same time that RTD buses were plying important routes in the Nizam’s vast dominions, which then comprised 16 districts, including parts of present day Bidar and Raichur (Karnataka) and Maharashtra’s Nanded and Osmanabad. Buses ran from Hyderabad to Nalgonda, Bhongir, Khammam and Suryapet, and Kazipet to Warangal.

RTD, an undertaking of Nizam’s Guaranteed State Railways (NGSR) which at one point of time had a workforce comprising over 12,000 Hindus, nearly 25,000 Muslims, 703 Indian Christians and 75 Europeans, ensured that its buses ran from morning till late in the evening. A timetable was fixed and each city bus would make 17 trips in 50 minutes.

Nearly two years after the maiden journey, owing to the RTD’s slow but steadily increasing popularity, an expansion took place. With small beginnings, the net earnings stood at ₹99,265 and returns of 10.4% on capital outlay.

The financial and administrative position of the RTD began looking up in the year 1346 Fasli, corresponding to October 6, 1936, to October 5, 1937. Its parent organisation consolidated its position by taking over private bus services. Its fleet strength grew from 27 buses, which included 19-seater Albion buses, to 281 buses and cars. The scope of services too, expanded from passenger services to goods delivery.

An administrative report explains how the goods delivery service was launched. “Out-agencies were opened at various places in the districts and collection and delivery of goods was introduced at important stations. At the end of the year, 451 route miles (approximately 725 km) were operated by goods services with 37 lorries and 11 trailers.”

But this public bus service experiment was new. Despite the increasing fleet strength, patronage and an increased route mileage of 3,890 miles, (approximately 6,260 km), RTD for the first time, suffered losses of ₹70,631.

The reasons were not vastly different from those of today. Competition from private players and illegally-run buses dented the revenues. Also, RTD experimented with new Dorian diesel engines. What followed were swift measures to deal with the problem. The RTD studied the engines that were best suited for local conditions and cracked down on illegal operators.

Another interesting aspect, as it appears, is that the Nizam’s government was not ignoring profitability. Documents show that by 1350 Fasli, corresponding to the period from October 6, 1940, to October 6, 1941, the RTD recorded its highest profit.

“Against the gross earnings of B.G. ₹36,75,471 during the year, the working expenses were B.G. ₹31,56,841, resulting in a net profit of B.G. ₹5,18,630 as against B.G. ₹4,37,010 in 1349 Fasli, giving a return of 8 per cent on capital charge. This is a record figure since the introduction of this service in 1932 and it is noteworthy that there has been no alteration in the standard basic fare even though costs of working have increased,” an administrative report at the Telangana State Archives and Research Centre states.

By March 31, 1941, RTD had greatly expanded its network. It had decided to add as many as 25 25-seater buses to its fleet. It was running 12 city and suburban routes with 13 services. A few of these routes, such as the 8 series, are operational to this day.

The then longest route was 8 - A on which buses travelled from Gulzar Houz, Secunderabad Station and Park Corner to Bolarum Station - a route mileage of 19 miles, (approx 30 km). The most frequently used routes were 7 and 8 - Gulzar Houz to Secunderabad. This boasted annual patronage of 4,767,183 passengers.

As many as 67 district routes were operational. Routes 1 and 3 - Hyderabad to Narketpalle, Suryapet and Khanamet - had the longest route mileage of 121 miles (approximately 190 km).

The network of services was so exhaustive that it covered three-quarters of the Hyderabad State’s trunk roads, translating into approximately 4,100 miles, (6,950 km).

But barely a year after this achievement, the global implications of World War II were felt in Hyderabad State. It was also the first time that RTD, which had boasted of not raising fares only a year before, hiked them on September 1, 1942 by a staggering 50%. This ‘surcharge’ was a war measure “to eliminate non-essential travel by road”. It was intended to have an inversely proportional implication: the bus mileage would reduce, and the life of the vehicle would increase.

After Operation Polo, and the integration of Nizam’s Hyderabad State, the Government of Hyderabad gradually brought about changes. On April 1, 1950, the NGSR was merged with the Centre. The Road Transport Corporations Act of 1950 came into being and pending the ironing out of some issues, the State government took over the administration of the corporation on November 1, 1951.

From 1951 to 1952, the Government of Hyderabad increased the fleet strength of RTD from 867 to 901. The route mileage increased to approximately 8,391 km. The Government also worked on restoring and improving services in a land that saw a great upheaval. The basic fare of 12 pies (paise), introduced in 1948, per passenger for each mile, was retained. Punctuality and frequency were focused upon with 97% of trips running as per the schedule. 

Complete integration of RTD with India came in April 1954 - March 1955 with Indian currency being introduced.

The State of Andhra Pradesh came into being in 1956. Given the RTC Act of 1950, APSRTC came into being in 1958. The corporation then boasted a fleet strength of 22,500. Nearly 58 years later, after the statehood of Telangana became a reality, TSRTC was constituted. The transport juggernaut now runs 3,592 routes with a fleet strength of nearly 9,000 buses and enjoys the patronage of 62 lakh passengers each day.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 3:40:27 am |