Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s recent statement that air-conditioned Volvo buses might be taken off Bengaluru city owing to profitability concerns has worried lakhs of daily commuters in the city.
Citizen activists and passenger groups from Bengaluru have expressed their displeasure on this proposed move as they demand no buses should be taken off the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) fleet until new buses are added. “Re-thinking on the idea of Volvo AC buses is welcome but that alone will not suffice as a solution to solve BMTC’s problems,” Vinay Sreenivasa of Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike, a community forum for bus commuters of the city.
A collective of various organisations and commuters, the Vedike, has been campaigning for different issues related to better BMTC services in the city. A statement released by the community on the issue welcomed the government’s plan to purchase 3,000 new buses instead. “Providing differentiated quality of services for different classes of commuters is neither socially desirable nor economically viable as BMTC has found out through years of running these services,” reads the statement.
It was observed by many that the ridership of AC buses dropped on Hosur Road routes after BMTC introduced more buses to ply along those routes. “This indicates that the frequency of services is a more determining factor than the class of buses available. Discontinuing AC buses and introducing more general buses will increase the availability of more affordable services,” Sreenivasa added.
At the same time, a techie from Whitefield Rising, a civic activist group in the city criticised the government’s decision to look at BMTC only from a revenue-generating angle. “As a government-run organisation BMTC should take up responsibility in offering better accessibility, mobility and last-mile connectivity options instead,” she said.
However, Rajeev Hari, an advertising professional who uses the AC services on the Whitefield- Central Silk Board route on a daily basis chose to blame the BMTC officials for unscientific route rationalisation. “Most AC buses from and to Whitefield are tightly packed during peak hours which is a good sign. More buses should be run along these routes during peak hours rather than running almost empty buses during other times,” he suggested.
It can be recalled that CM Kumaraswamy shared the government’s plans to hand over the AC Volvo buses from BMTC to other corporations – North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC), North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) — as the buses were not generating the expected revenue. “There are over 1,000 air-conditioned Volvo buses being operated in Bengaluru city and they are profitable only when each bus runs 150-200 km a day. But that is not practically possible in Bengaluru. We are, therefore, thinking to hand over them to other corporations,” he had said Wednesday in Raichur.
BMTC includes a fleet of just over 6,000 buses plying on different routes in Bengaluru on a daily basis, according to statistics shared by an official. The corporation had introduced AC Volvo buses in 2006 under two brand names – Vajra and Vayu Vajra – the latter operating as exclusive services to Bengaluru International Airport.