The number of buses in the Delhi Transport Corporation's fleet may have gone up but commuters are yet to get its full benefit.
Thanks to the ageing fleet and frequent breakdowns a large number of DTC buses fail to come out on road every day.
As a result the frequency of buses on some "non-profitable" routes has become very poor.According to sources, almost 40 per cent of the 2,000-odd standard floor bus fleet do not come out on road every day.
Due to frequent breakdowns, another 425-450 buses fail to complete their trips. Owing to their maintenance schedule, about 300 low-floor buses too do not come out on road every day.
Sources in the state-run bus corporation said about 1,500 of 5,727 DTC buses remain off road on any given day. The number of operational buses goes down even further in the evening because drivers in the evening shift either call in sick or do not report on duty without prior notice.
"Some of the old standard floor buses have turned into scrap and are not road-worthy at all. Even their spare parts are not available in the market. The majority of buses that breakdown during commercial operation are also from the standard floor fleet," said a senior DTC official.
According to sources, of the 1952 old buses only 300-odd are less than eight year old and are worth putting on commercial operations.
The remaining 1600-odd buses have completed eight years in operation and should immediately be removed from service. Since scrapping of the buses would create a shortage the DTC is still using them.
"I dread boarding old DTC bus because you are never sure whether it will be able to complete the trip. But it seems the DTC has put only old buses on the route I travel and I am left with no choice," said Satbeer Rathi, a resident of Dilshad Garden in east Delhi.
Even the low-floor buses, bought just about 2-3 years ago, have been facing technical problems.
Commuters complain the air-conditioning system of low-floor buses does not work often leading to suffocation.
"We board AC buses and pay more to save ourselves from the scorching heat. But the AC does not work and it becomes difficult to even breathe inside the bus," said Shravani Gupta, an insurance advisor.
Delhi transport minister Arvinder Singh said the DTC will soon buy 625 low-floor buses, which will replace the ageing standard floor buses. "We have started the process to buy new buses," he said. "The number of buses under the cluster scheme is also increasing. It will help fill the vacuum."