New private buses don’t have to be low-floors | delhi | Hindustan Times
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New private buses don’t have to be low-floors

In a hurry to bring in private bus operators to run buses, the Delhi government seems to have reneged on its commitment to provide the world’s largest disabled-friendly public transport fleet to Delhi, reports Atul Mathur.

delhi Updated: Feb 05, 2010 23:26 IST
Atul Mathur

In a hurry to bring in private bus operators to run buses, the Delhi government seems to have reneged on its commitment to provide the world’s largest disabled-friendly public transport fleet to Delhi.

While the government feels the decision to allow the induction of “standard floor modern city buses” under the cluster scheme would help private players purchase the buses faster and help strengthen Delhi’s public transport, experts feel it’s a compromise on passenger comfort and safety.

The Delhi government intends to run 11,000 buses in Delhi by 2011, of which 4,400 buses would run by private bus operators on more than 600 routes divided into 17 bus clusters.

The decision to allow private bus operators to run standard floor buses would mean 40 per cent of Delhi’s public transport buses will not be “disabled-friendly”.

While the existing fleet of low-floor buses in Delhi have a ground clearance of 650mm, the standard floor buses have ground clearance of 900 mm.

The standard floor buses will have normal doors unlike the pneumatic doors in low-floor buses, which are opened and closed by the driver and do away the possibility of footboard travelling and hanging on to the door bars.

“We worked with Tata Motors and the Indian Institute of Technology to bring out the inclusive design of these low-entry buses,” said Anjlee Agarwal, executive director, Samarthyam, a non-government organisation working for an accessible transport system.

“Not only physically disabled, a large number of people with reduced mobility such as women wearing sarees, senior citizens, arthritis patients and children will be at a disadvantage if the standard floor buses are allowed to ply in Delhi.”

Agarwal added that a large number of bus queue shelters constructed by Municipal Corporation of Delhi and New Delhi Municipal Corporation, including the ones on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor, have been constructed keeping low-entry buses in mind.

Senior transport department officials said the inability of the bus manufacturers to cater to the demand of large number of low-floor buses prompted the government to take this decision. The two bus manufacturers that are supplying low-floor buses to the Delhi government have been finding it difficult to keep up with the delivery schedule and delayed the supply of 2,500 buses by several months.

Standard floor buses, on the other hand, are being manufactured by the two bus giants at a massive scale.

“We have a full-fledged dedicated bus manufacturing facility at Dharwad in Karnataka. We can easily produce 30,000 units a year and cater to any demand,” Tata Motors’s spokesperson Debashish Ray said.

“We have supplied substantial number of standard floor buses to various other Indian cities.”

An official of Ashok Leyland also confirmed that standard floor buses were available off the shelf unlike low-floor buses that are being custom designed according to Delhi’s specifications.

Not only passengers, the standard floor buses specified under the Jawahar Lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM) are also uncomfortable for drivers.

Unlike low-floor buses that are running in Delhi, the standard floor buses have front engine and come with manual transmission. That means the driver will be exposed to the engine-heat and his one hand will always be on the gear shaft, reducing his concentration and control.

In fact, the Delhi government had listed these features of low-floor buses as the reason to buy costly buses for the Capital.

Despite several attempts Delhi transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely could not be contacted for his comments.