Millennium Post

Tottering lifeline

It would not be wrong to say that buses are fast becoming the lifeline of commuters in every metropolitan city and so is the case with national capital, Delhi. The responsibility of millions of commuters’ lies in the hands of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). Residents of Delhi can’t imagine a single day without DTC buses but even with the fleet of more than 4,900 buses, it is unable to manage the ever growing number of passengers in the city. Overcrowded buses have become a daily phenomenon, which poses a serious problem for the commuters.

Apart from this, commuters are facing various other problems such as inadequate information about routes on which DTC buses run, problem of change (the infamous ticket amount of Rs 5), breakdown at regular intervals, declining fleet etc.

The problem of frequency of buses is a serious issue, which needs to be addressed at the earliest. Millennium Post, while chatting with some regular commuters, figured that there are no set routes for a long time and the buses do not adhere to their schedule. Rashid Ali, a regular commuter said, ‘Since the last seven years, no government has been able to form a proper route schedule of the buses. The interval at which a bus should stop is even more messed up, which results into mismanagement of passenger load.’

Another daily commuter Pankaj, who works in a call centre said, ‘My office time varies from 3 pm to 6 pm. When I take a DTC bus at 3 pm, it’s easy for me to get a bus as all 473 route buses take off from Anand Vihar bus stand and at that time they can be seen passing through a particular bus stop line by line. The only worry is that majority of buses that ply during that time, in an interval of two to five minutes, are empty. And on the contrary, I do not find a single bus on 473 routes after 5 pm, which forces me to take an auto or cab.’

A DTC official, when contacted, had different story to tell. The official blamed traffic snarls and several other issues for no availability of buses on the route during peak hours. ‘To avoid clubbing of same route buses, the concerned authorities at all the terminals pre-decide the frequency of the buses on those particular routes. The calculation depends on the number of buses on one particular route and accordingly the frequency is divided,’ said R S Minhas, DTC spokesperson, in defence.
‘Several complaints have been received of the buses being delayed and not reaching the bus stops on time. This is because of the fluctuation problems created at the bus terminal in entry and exit of the buses and also the traffic snarls,’ he added.

The DTC official further claimed, ‘We currently have devoted five minutes service to each bus route, but due to external problems in the depot frequency is affected.’

The DTC is facing an unprecedented crisis of breakdowns. According to statistics, DTC misses over 12,000 trips due to breakdowns, shortage of drivers and conductors every day. The problem with breakdown is that it is not limited to bus services; traffic is also worst hit by this issue. The new low floor buses can’t be towed and have to be repaired at the place itself and in a city like Delhi, which already faces  major traffic jams, just adds to our never ending vows. The corporation has also admitted that 600-700 of its buses have been failing every day, that’s roughly one out of six DTC buses on the road, and an unheard of breakdown rate of almost 16 per cent. Add to that, an average of 33 cluster buses fail on the road every day mainly on account of DTC’s aging and inefficient fleet. Spare parts for these buses are difficult to find, thus leading to more breakdowns.

‘The reason why buses breakdown down each day is because of poor weather conditions that impacts the engine. Engines overheat in high temperatures, especially in air-conditioned buses, and is unable to pull the load,’ said Minhas.

‘We have recently given an annual contract to Tata and Lenox to maintain the buses. They have their own control room where complaints regarding various breakdowns are received. Further, the control room diverts the call to small vehicles or recovery vans, who reach the spot to repair the buses immediately,’ he added.

Cash transaction
Recently, the issue of currency of lower denomination in DTC buses has become a big headache for both commuters as well as conductors. Millennium Post, during one of its surveys, noticed that most conductors do not have change, especially at the ticket amount of Rs 5. A person who travels daily can understand the problem quite well. The problem leads to massive quarrelling and many a times passengers have to do without getting their money back. Cashless transaction or issuing cards like Delhi metro does can solve the issue to a very large extent, commuters suggested.

The DTC has been extending its deadline to issue an electronic ticketing machine. ‘By December 2015, we will start processing cashless ticketing. Once a contract is signed the process of installing Electronic Ticketing Machines will be started. The cards, issued to the passengers, can also be used in Delhi Metro,’ the DTC spokesperson said.
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