Vijayawada BRTS update

Notwithstanding the state government’s go-ahead for the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) in Vijayawada despite the failures of the BRTS experiment in New Delhi and Pune, the consulting agency, which is expected to expedite the project by preparing a detail project report (DPR) on the financial viability and fare matters, has virtually derailed the plans of Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) head honchos to get going on the project.Though Consulting Engineering Services (CES) India Private Ltd, a Delhi-based consultant, was entrusted with the job of helping the VMC in taking up the prestigious project, the agency has not submitted any report to the VMC till now.The VMC has served a notice on the agency. “We have given time to the agency till October 6. We may look out for some other agency if CES doesn’t come out with reports by then,” P S Pradyumna, commissioner, VMC said.He, however, admitted that this would result in more delay in launching the project as they need to give a 60-day notice to the agency before snapping ties, and then it would take a month for inviting bids from new agencies. The BRTS was taken up under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) at a cost of Rs 152.64 crore.Of the total project cost, 50 per cent would come as grant from the Centre, 30 per cent cost would be borne by VMC and the remaining has to be paid by the state government.While planners have been asserting that BRTS is the best alternative to conventional bus transport, none from VMC and the government representatives has tried to allay the fears of the public, particularly with regard to fares, the likely levy of impact fee, the possibility of a steep hike in property taxes and the cost of the fleet. The people, whose properties are located on either side of the route through which BRTS will pass, fear that they may be asked to pay the impact fee keeping in view of increasing property values. “It is World Bank’s diktat to withdraw government services and hand over the entire transport sector to private players,” says CPM leader Baburao.Sources said the fares are expected to be at least thrice the regular fares collected in city buses. According to APSRTC’s own calculations, it sells more of Rs 3 tickets in city services than tickets of higher value. “The commuters of BRTS buses may have to shell out a minimum fare of Rs 10 which is very high,” says P Goutham Reddy, CPI leader. A senior transport official questioned the government’s move, saying a feasibility study done in 1999-2000 in Bangalore had found the project not suitable for the Indian roads.“The success of BRTS lies in dedicated routes and corridors. I don’t know how such a project could be taken up in mixed traffic mode like ours,” he wonders. The officials, however, are tightlipped on how they plan to overcome traffic-related problems in Vijayawada. A senior VMC official feels that the existing road network is enough to carry the BRTS load without any hitch. The VMC has requested the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to dedicate a lane on the NH-5 for BRTS, which passes through a 4.5-km distance on the highway up to Tadepalli as the existing four-lane highway is being widened into six lanes soon. A flyover near Benz Circle and two bridges — one near Sitannapeta railway gate and the other across Eluru canal — would be constructed. The officials are confident that the expenditure that the VMC would have to make for BRTS would be realised by outsourcing the advertisement rights and giving franchisee rights for small commercial ventures at the bus stops.Supporting the project, former mayor Jandhyala Shankar says BRTS was run successfully in Latin American countries. “Dedicated lanes for the movement of BRTS buses is key to success of the project,” he explains.The proposed BRTS corridor, which would begin and end at the City Bus Terminal, would pass through railway goods shed, railway station, C K Reddy road junction, removed railway track of Satyanarayanapuram, Madhura Nagar junction, Padavala Revu, Gunadala, Ramavarappadu ring road junction, Dr NTR University of Health Sciences, Benz Circle, Indira Gandhi Municipal Stadium, Vijaya Krishna super bazar and old bus stand.

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