BMTC up in arms against private shuttle services

With private operators, including Ola and ZipGo, resuming their shuttle services, especially along the IT corridors in the city, BMTC is far from amused.

BENGALURU: With private operators, including Ola and ZipGo, resuming their shuttle services, especially along the IT corridors in the city, BMTC is far from amused.

While the transport department and BMTC, which is rapidly losing passengers, have termed it an ‘illegal’ service, many commuters have rushed to the defence of private operators for offering services which state-owned buses haven’t provided so far — app-based convenience, cashless travel, Wi-Fi and reserved seating.

For instance, an online petition initiated by ZipGo on asking the support of citizens has received 6,800 supporters so far. Citizen Anshul P wrote on the petition, “The government has failed to provide affordable and reliable public transport and when someone innovates and tries to address the issue, government has a problem. Not fair.”

However, transport and BMTC officials are of the opinion that no other stage carrier except BMTC should ply in the city. A transport official said: “Shuttle services of private app-based companies are illegal as they have only contract carriage permit that allows them only to transport passengers from one point to another. They are not allowed to pick up or drop passengers like BMTC buses. Stage carriage permit in the city is BMTC’s exclusive right.” BMTC officials said app-based operators are operating only on profitable routes like IT corridors, which will affect BMTC’s revenue. “We are able to run buses on loss making ordinary routes because of the revenue from routes like IT corridors,” a BMTC official said.

The 12-seater air-conditioned maxi cabs, which ply as shuttle services, is focused on IT corridors. Such operators, however, claim that they don’t pick or drop passengers unless someone books a ride through a mobile application. So the rules of stage carriage permit don’t apply to them.

Ola and ZipGo were unavailable for comments. But, a spokesperson of an app-based operator said they are operating shuttle services for corporates. Its mobile application clearly has an icon — shuttle — that allows customers to book its services.

Experts say initiatives like shuttle services, car pooling and share cabs will discourage people from using private vehicles which in turn help address the issue of pollution and traffic congestion.

Advait Jani, who works with the Institute for Transport Development and Policy, an NGO, said: “Government agencies should adopt new technology rather than oppose innovations, especially on the transport sector. BMTC is unable to cater to the growing demand and the presence of private players will increase competition and ensure better connectivity to citizens.”

Around the world, in cities where bus services are good, there are at least 120 buses per lakh of population. Using that yardstick, Bengaluru should have at least 14,000 buses. However, BMTC has only 6,214 buses. The percentage cancellation of schedules has increased from 3.2 percent in 2011-12 to a record 15.1 percent in 2016-17.

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