Poor collections force DTC to withdraw night service

NEW DELHI, OCT. 7. Within a fortnight of their introduction last month, the Delhi Transport Corporation has been forced to withdraw most of the bus trips on the 29 new routes identified for "night services'' as low revenue returns in the face of poor planning made huge holes in the pocket of the already financially-in-the-red corporation.

The poor planning associated with the launch of the service did more harm than good to both the Corporation's financial position and reputation. Though the launch of the night services was aimed at facilitating the opening of markets till late in the night, the manner in which the scheme was launched in haste and at a massive scale and without adequate publicity led to its doom. Also, with the night shopping plan coming a cropper, the night service also collapsed.

By making buses available on the 29 routes at a frequency of 30 minutes from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the scheme had placed nearly 450 trips at the disposal of the populace. The idea, an official said, was itself absurd as putting so many trips at night made no sense. "There are very few people who avail of the late night service and most of them take the buses till around 2 a.m.,'' he said, adding that a survey has revealed that most of the passengers using the night service are either employees of hotels, restaurants or newspapers, or inter-state train and bus passengers coming to the city.

In such a scenario, when some night services were already in operation, the launch of so many more trips made little sense. Though for around a week, the coming in of so many more buses was as much a cause of cheer as surprise for the regular night passengers, the poor fare collections led to a rethink on the issue.

"The depots running the services recorded big losses as the collections per kilometre worked out to less than 50 paise per kilometre as against the average collection of around Rs 14 per km. Considering that the cost of operation is around Rs 20 per kilometre nobody afforded to run the buses for getting a mere 50 paise return,'' the official said, explaining the economics of operations.

Ironically, before the DTC management could wake up to the reality, many of the Depot Managers had themselves curtailed the services to prevent further losses. But the withdrawal of service by the depots at the initial stage was also partly to blame for the complete collapse of the scheme which intended to provide a reliable and efficient bus service to the commuters as with the buses not turning up at the announced frequency of 30 minutes, most of the late night passengers began looking for alternative modes of transport.

A regular late night passenger, who commutes from New Delhi to Noida, said nobody waits for DTC buses as the service is erratic. "We now have the option of taking call centre vehicles which drop us near our homes for a reasonable charge of between Rs 5 and Rs 15 depending on the distance.'' But while people returning home from work do not seem to be missing the night services, the inter-state passengers returning to Delhi late in the night are definitely at a loss.

"Rather than rectifying the mistakes of the past, some of the senior officials are more concerned about coming out with new schemes -- like the Shoppers' Sewa which is due to be launched on October 15,'' rued an official, adding that the need of the hour for the Corporation is only a reliable, efficient and sufficient service.