Delhiites looked at them in awe and longed for a ride in them when Delhi Transport Corporation's (DTC) new acquisition -swanky air-conditioned low-floor red buses - drove past them with athletes and dignitaries on board during the Commonwealth Games.
With pneumatic doors, big windows and unconventional design, the non air-conditioned version of these buses had already become very popular.
The state-run bus corporation had then promised to revolutionise public transport in Delhi. The run-up to the Commonwealth Games saw a flurry of such activities and a barrage of promises from DTC and Delhi's transport department.
Sleek bus Q-shelters that aligned with the first step of low-floor buses, public information system that announced estimated time of arrival of buses on each route and automatic fare collection system on each bus -such facilities exist in transport systems in almost all big cities across the world - were promised. The buses were well maintained. The crew wore specially designed uniform and surprised the commuters with their knowledge of English.
But two years since, the system seems to have taken two steps back. While the automatic fare collection and public information system remained a non-starter, the bus crew is back to their usual self - arrogant, rustic and carefree.
Thanks to frequent break downs, the technologically-advanced buses are slowly becoming a burden.
"New buses (low floor) are not very comfortable. There is little space for those who are standing and breakdowns are frequent. I prefer travelling on old DTC buses, which are more reliable," said Pradeep Gupta, executive with a private accounting firm in Connaught Place.
The fleet of 3,200-odd buses, which looked like a technological leap over the rickety standard-floor DTC buses and promised complete revamp of the public transport system in the Capital, is slowly becoming a burden.
Of 400-450 buses breaking down every day, DTC officials confirm almost 300 are low-floor buses.
While the majority of DTC's old and ageing buses are ready to be phased out by the end of 2012, DTC now prepares to add another 625 non-AC low floor buses. But the biggest challenge for the state-run bus corporation is now to keep them in good running condition.
"We have annual maintenance contracts with the bus manufacturers and every time a bus breaks down, we levy penalty on them. The new buses would also be purchased under the same contract. We are now being very harsh on the manufacturers," said a senior DTC official.
The Way Forward
Regular maintenance of buses
Stiff penalties for poor upkeep
Frequent workshops and training in English and behaviour for the crew
Introduction of automatic fare collection and multi-purpose card valid in all modes of transport for commuters