Rickety city buses cripple traffic
They are old, sluggish and unpredictable. Public buses in Delhi are more of a liability rather than convenience as most of these rickety vehicles that take up precious road space also break down frequently, worsening the already chaotic traffic movement.
On Tuesday, a nearly 3km stretch on the busy Delhi-Noida Link Road remained chock-ablock with vehicles the entire morning. The reason: Breakdown of a low-floor Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus.
Around the same time, the crammed Netaji Subhash Marg connecting Daryaganj and Red Fort witnessed a crippling gridlock for the same reason. Another low-floor bus broke down on Sunday at Moolchand Flyover on the Ring Road, bringing vehicles to a grinding halt.
These are just a few instances that illustrate how the ailing fleet of DTC buses in the national capital has become a nightmare for city traffic. About half a dozen low-floor buses conk out on different arterial roads every day, resulting in massive snarls and perennial woes for commuters. The situation is likely to aggravate during monsoon with waterlogged roads.
Traffic police officials said the complaints of traffic disruption due to buses go up to 15 to 20 during rains.
The Delhi Traffic Police, which regularly faces the challenge of clearing roads after such breakdowns, can do little to resolve the situation. Observers say the department can at best issue advisories but mostly in vain as a large volume of traffic during peak hours clogs the roads in no time.
Sources in DTC said, at least 5,500 to 6,000 breakdowns are reported every month, or 200 daily. While most of these buses remain stationed at various depots, some are put into service after minor repairs and maintenance. However, given the passenger load on these buses, they conk out again very soon.
Joint commissioner of police (traffic) Garima Bhatnagar told Mail Today, "In case of a breakdown, we usually ask the bus operators (DTC or private cluster operator) to remove the bus within half an hour. However, during the peak hours, this is enough to cause a major traffic blockage. We issue advisory through social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook so that commuters avoid the affected stretches."
She, however, said in most of these cases, the buses cannot be removed before two hours as moving a heavy-duty crane through the clogged stretch also takes a long time. The cascading effect of the jam on arterial roads continues for most part of the day, she added.
Sources in DTC also said that the high cost of maintenance and lack of expertise with the department was also responsible for poor condition of these buses.
"These low-floor busses were commissioned into DTC from 2007 to 2011 and some of them are more than 10 years old now. This is why the breakdown of buses is frequent. Since the engineering wing of DTC is not an expert in repairing and machinery parts are not easily available in the market, these buses were bought with written contract with two companies for providing maintenance. DTC has noted that the performance of the companies is not up to the mark," said a DTC spokesperson.
As per the contract with manufacturing companies - Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, the maintenance cost varies from Rs 3 to Rs 18 per km depending on the age of these buses. A dispute over payment of maintenance charges is also responsible for poor upkeep of buses.