In two separate incidents, fire broke out in two PMPML buses on Wednesday, taking the number of such incidents on the transport body’s buses to four in the last 10 days. No passenger was injured in any of the incidents, said PMPML officials. According to commuters’ organisations, the incidents have “highlighted that something is wrong with the state of PMPML buses, and have shaken the confidence of passengers”. As many as 11 lakh commuters travel every day on 1,300 PMPML buses in the city.
The first incident took place at the Chinchwadgaon bus stop, where a fire broke out in an empty bus on Wednesday afternoon, said officials. By the time the fire brigade brought the blaze under control, the bus was gutted. In the second incident, a fire broke out in a PMPML bus at the RTO Chowk, burning it partially. Both buses were CNG-operated and belonged to the PMPML, not to a private contractor.
PMPML Chairman and Managing Director Tukaram Mundhe didn’t respond to repeated calls. Subhash Gaikwad, spokesperson of the transport body, blamed “mechanical fault” for the two fire incidents. “In both cases, prima facie, it seems a short-circuit caused the fire. It seems to be a mechanical fault, but it could also be because of CNG operations. The matter will be investigated thoroughly,” he said.
Prashant Inamdar of Pedestrians First, an organisation working for the rights of commuters, said, “Despite the first two fire incidents, it seems PMPML officials did not check the fitness of the buses…”. “In the first incident, the entire bus was burnt… imagine what would have happened had the bus been occupied by passengers…,” he said.
The Regional Transport Office (RTO) and traffic police had to play important roles in the matter, said Inamdar. “… RTO has to conduct sudden raids to check the fitness of PMPML buses to ensure they are safe,” he said. Regional Transport Officer Balasaheb Ajri said, “We do conduct fitness checks on buses… we will investigate what caused the fire and submit our report to the PMPML for corrective action.”
Traffic police officials pointed out that frequent breakdowns, accidents and fire incidents on roads led to traffic snarls, inconveniencing hundreds of commuters. “The PMPML should ensure that its buses do not inconvenience other commuters,” said a traffic official.