Delhi's rickety Bluelines to be replaced

A new public bus service fleet will be replacing the rickety Bluelines and the process has been set in motion.With bus operations in the first of the 17 clusters to be given out to a corporate by September, the experience of commuting by buses is set to undergo a complete makeover. The Blueline phaseout scheme is scheduled for a mid-2009 completion. So, from a world of dirty buses, with uncomfortable seats and side panels falling off and the drivers racing on streets to pick up as many passengers as they can manage, the new ‘‘corporatised’’ fleet will comprise of modern low-floor buses, some of them airconditioned and all equipped with GPS and automated ticketing systems. The fleet will be steered by staff trained in to be courteous. To prevent the kind of problems that cropped up in Bluelines, a new revenue model for the system has been adopted. The city has been divided into 17 clusters based on overlapping bus routes. For this, all routes where five or more bus routes overlap have been included in the same cluster. Bus services in each of the clusters will be run by private operators, but since all the buses on the assigned routes will be run by the same person, there is no scope for competition.Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) will run 60 per cent of the buses on the same routes and this 60:40 ratio will be the norm on all routes across the city, whether profitable or lean.To ensure that the buses stick to the assigned schedule and don’t stray into other routes, the entire fleet will be fitted with GPS and the location will be monitored from a centralised control room which the government will have access to. It was noticed that in the Blueline system, the main cause of all troubles was the desire to earn maximum profits. So, as a double safeguard, the ticketing in all the buses has been outsourced to a third agency. All the revenue collected from ticket sales will be given to the government and the operator will have an independent settlement of revenue with the transport department. According to sources, the idea of allowing advertising on buses is still being worked upon and an analysis of the revenue from this mode will determine the revenue model between the government and the operator. Care will be taken to cover all the expenses on the operator’s part, which include the capital investment on buying the buses, costs of operation like fuel, vehicle wear and tear, worn out parts, maintenance, etc and monthly costs like salary of bus staff and control room personnel. The first cluster will be awarded to the lowest bidder. The drivers will have to be qualified and trained. The operator will also be expected to maintain biometric records of each driver, including his accident records. A copy of this will be maintained with the transport department to ensure that ‘‘bad drivers’’ are blacklisted by all operators. Once the buses hit the road, the operator will be compensated for running the service irrespective of the ridership. The government is planning to have a user-feedback system to rate the performance of operators which will be judged on parameters like safety, cleanliness in buses, reliability of service, behaviour of bus staff, etc. The fares will be at par with DTC. Transport department SPV Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) has already prepared the format of the corporatisation scheme, which is being looked into by the transport department. ‘‘The scheme is being finalised and will be sent to the government for a final nod in a week’s time. We are planning to give out the first cluster by September. After this, operators for the 16 remaining ones will also be finalised by December. The buses will be operational by the later part of 2009 as the operators need to be given time to procure buses,’’ said RK Verma, transport commissioner. The first cluster has 32 routes, on which a total of 295 DTC and 270 private buses will run. After accepting the Requests for Proposal (RFPs), the government has shortlisted seven operators, one of whom will be selected to run the cluster. The operator will be given the option of running 20 per cent AC buses. The Blueline phase-out will staggered as the new buses will be introduced route by route. The deadline for the entire city fleet is mid-2009.The model for Delhi has been prepared by DIMTS after studying bus service models of countries like Canada, Norway, London and Australia, where quality of service is important, not revenue, and safety is given paramount importance. Hope the Delhi model follows suit.

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