New Delhi bus clusters update

After nearly 11 months of delay, the corporatization plan for Delhi’s busbased public transport is finally back on track. Delhi Cabinet gave its approval for awarding Cluster I of corporatization of Bluelines to Star Bus Services Pvt Limited, which was the lowest bidder. The agreement will be signed this week after which the operator will be given six months to procure the buses. The corporatization process was put on the backburner for the last few months as the rate quoted by the lowest bidder, about Rs 47.5 per bus per km, was higher than what government was planning to pay. With the recent hike in bus fares coupled by a Cabinet decision to allow advertising in buses, the financial commitment has got reduced substantially, making the process viable again. ‘‘The go-ahead to corporatization scheme is another step towards the phasing out Bluelines. With the bus fare revision and the Cabinet nod to allow advertising on buses, we hope that the financial burden on the government to run this service will get substantially reduced,’’ said Arvinder Singh Lovely, transport minister. The first cluster will have a total 573 buses on 32 routes. Of these, half the fleet will comprise DTC buses and the other half by Star Bus Services, which will be paid about Rs 85.77 crore for first year (Rs 47.4 per bus per km). The revenue from sale of bus tickets will go to the government’s kitty. Before the bus fare hike, the government was assuming that sale of tickets will account for about Rs 30 of the Rs 47 to be paid to the operator. It was the additional Rs 17 (approx) per bus per km (multiplied by 365 and the number of buses) which was proving to be a burden. But now, the fare revision has reduced the gap to about Rs 5-10, and it is expected that some amount of revenue will also come from advertisements. So government will now shell out much less from its own kitty towards running the bus service. On the contrary, DTC officials revealed that the cost of operating the fleet works out to over Rs 75 per bus per km, after catering for depreciation of the buses and taking into account salaries of the bus staff. So the corporatization will actually prove cheaper. Delhiites can expect buses on the first cluster to be running by next year. ‘‘We are also planning to come out with Requests for Qualification (RFQs) and Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for the remaining 16 clusters soon so that all of them can be awarded at the earliest,’’ said RK Verma, transport commissioner. Cabinet also approved provision of funds to bridge the revenue expenditure gap in funding the operations. Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit expressed confidence that corporatization will help ensure a reliable public transport system in Delhi. The challenge before the government now is to provide parking space for the new fleet of buses which are expected to roll soon. The operator will bring in all low-floor CNG buses and will have an option to bring in 20% airconditioned buses, too.
The city has been divided into 17 clusters
All routes where 5 or more bus routes overlap have been included in the same cluster
Buses in one cluster will be run by single operator, leaving no scope for competition
Ticketing has been outsourced and revenue will be given to the government.
The operator will get a fixed amount irrespective of ridership
DTC will run 50% buses on all routes
The entire fleet will be fitted with GPS for monitoring
Fares will be on a par with what DTC charges
After examining several proposals for running bus-based public transport in Delhi, the government finally opted for the cluster model to replace the ‘‘killer’’ Bluelines. Touted as the one-point solution to the existing mess, corporatization promises to change the experience of commuting by bus in the city. At the root of the solution lies its revenue model, which has been kept completely different from the Blueline system. The operator will get a fixed sum of money from the government for running the bus service. The ticketing in all the buses has been outsourced to a third agency and the revenue from ticket sales will be given to the government. The operator will get the money irrespective of ridership on the fleet. The government proposal has been formulated a manner so as to ensure that all expenses on the operator’s part — which include capital investment on buying the buses, operation costs like fuel, vehicle wear and tear, worn out parts, maintenance, etc and monthly costs like salary of bus staff and control room personnel — are covered. Unlike the inconsiderate Blueline staff, the drivers of the new fleet have to be qualified and trained. The operator will also be expected to maintain biometric records of each driver’s past accident records. A copy of this will be maintained with the transport department to ensure that ‘‘bad drivers’’ are blacklisted by all operators. The government is planning to have a user-feedback system to rate performance of operators which will be judged on parameters like safety, cleanliness in buses, reliability of service, behaviour of staff, etc.

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