BENGALURU: BMTC has over the years launched several innovative initiatives, but many of these scarcely make it beyond print. Be it exclusive bus services to malls, mobile restaurants or WiFi facility in Volvo buses, the transport utility has a lot of catching up to do on its own promises.
Express looked at a slew of ambitious projects launched by BMTC only to discover that most of them never took off. Many bus passengers complain that most of BMTC’s promises, including CCTV cameras in all buses and smart cards for tickeless transactions, are yet to take off.
BMTC, which has not procured new buses since December 2014, announced last week yet another ambitious scheme - to introduce electric buses, a first of its kind in the country. In 2014 too, BMTC made a similar announcement - to procure 271 CNG buses to reduce pollution.
It also provided land to Gas Authority of India (GAIL) to set up CNG filling stations on lease for its fleet. GAIL Gas recently started commercial operation with one filling station in the city, but now BMTC is not very keen on the initiative, citing that CNG buses are expensive.
So why is BMTC now launching electric buses which are more expensive than CNG buses? Lekha Adavi of Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike, an NGO campaigning for better bus services in the city, said, “BMTC should consult commuters before launching initiatives. The proposed electric buses are not feasible for long distance routes and are more expensive than other buses. During a pilot run of the electric bus, BMTC was forced to cancel a trip after the charge ran out midway,” she said.
Electric buses are estimated to cost around `2.9crore per bus while CNG buses cost `90 lakh.
“Ideally, BMTC should procure more regular buses and operate them in areas that are not well connected.
Many neighbourhoods in the city face a shortage of buses, but BMTC is more concerned about profit-making routes,” said Adavi.
On their part, BMTC officials say that projects are often initiated by the top brass without consultation and then stalled after those officials move away from the department on a transfer.
“Most of these initiatives look good on paper, but they are not practical. Most innovative schemes don’t get carried forward once the official, who initiated the project, gets transferred to another department,” said a BMTC official.
“Our special services like hospital and mall specials have not received positive response from passengers. Shortage of funds is also a major reason for discontinuing such schemes,” he said.
H V Anantha Subba Rao, leader of Transport Workers’ Union, said, “BMTC comes up with these fancy initiatives to get the ‘first of its kind in the country’ tag and to get awards. This will neither help bus commuters nor the corporation in the long run. BMTC officials never consult its employees before launching projects. If they want to be in the news, then they should start improving its existing services.”
A BMTC official felt that such initiatives are necessary. “Bengaluru is the startup capital and new ideas can be experimented on a pilot basis to make the journey attractive and easier for passengers.”
K Padmavathy, a 53-year-old who regularly commutes by bus in Shanthi Nagar, said, “Bengaluru once had quality bus service but not anymore. I have not seen any improvement in BMTC services over the years despite having the highest bus fare in the country. Frequency of buses has also come down because of aging fleet and traffic.”