It was a humble beginning for a giant dream.
In November 2007, Sheila Dikhsit’s government launched the first batch of 12 low-floor buses in the capital, promising a complete public transport revamp by 2010 Commonwealth Games.
The plan was to introduce 11,000 of them by October 2010. It’s May 2009 already and only 650 low-floor buses, including 25 air-conditioned ones, are running in Delhi.
With just 17 left before Delhi hosts the world’s second largest sporting event after the Olympics, the government is getting jittery.
The suppliers are reportedly struggling to meet the demand.
While Delhi Transport Corporation, a Delhi government undertaking, is to run 6,600 of these buses, the remaining will be run by private companies.
These buses have to cover over 600 routes spread across 17 clusters in the city.
A concerned government called a meeting of the representatives of the two Indian bus manufacturers, Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, on Tuesday.
“The Tata Motors have said they are going to ramp up facilities at their Alwar and Lucknow plants within two months to manufacture 400 buses a month instead of the 300 that they produce now,” Delhi chief secretary Rakesh Mehta said.
“Ashok Leyland too have some issues with DTC on the specification of the buses. They will be sorted out very soon,” Mehta said.
A source in the Delhi government said delivering on the promise would be difficult for both companies.
“The manufacturers are yet to start delivering the 2,500 buses the DTC had placed an order for in mid-2008. The DTC is ready with another tender for 2,000 buses but waiting for the two companies to start delivering,” the sources, who is not authorised to talk to the press, said on the condition of anonymity.
The Delhi government has also finalised the company to run buses on one of the 17 pre-defined clusters.
The selections for the remaining 16 clusters will be finalised soon, signaling another major spike in demand for the two manufacturers.
The sources said problems have compounded with the central government’s plan to introduce 15,000 low floor buses in various Indian cities under Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban renewal Mission. Transport authorities of other states have also started approaching these manufacturers for their requirement of buses.