The capital’s public transport problem could prolong because the first lot of new buses is likely to be inducted into the fleet only after May and Metro lines of the third phase will open by December.
Besides, there are no plans to add new roads to the city as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has focused in its one year in office on strengthening and redesigning the existing road network instead of building additional thoroughfares.
This means congestions would continue because of the increasing number of private vehicles ferrying people around in the absence of a robust public transport system, especially buses.
The Arvind Kejriwal government’s another focus area is public buses. In their first budget, the government promised to bring 10,000 more buses in five years, twice the number it promised in its 2015 election manifesto.
But a year on, the government has failed to add a single bus in the fleet despite repeated attempts.
The odd-even experiment showed that extra buses — requisitioned from schools and private parties during road trials of the road rationing scheme for a fortnight in January — can solve the public transport problem.
Data shows 21.80% of Delhi commutes by bus, but share of buses among all registered vehicles in the city has gone down from 1.52 in 1980-81 to 0.36 in 2014-15. The Delhi Transport Corporation’s (DTC) depleting fleet buses and its rundown image have kept commuters away.
In the past five years, the DTC fleet has reduced by 25% while Delhi Metro’s service almost doubled along with its network. Still, DTC carries more passengers than the Metro because buses provide the comfort of end-to-end connectivity.
The government has proposed to procure 10,000 buses but that looks doubtful at the moment because a plan to procure 1,880 buses has been pending for over six months.
“The DTC had issued tender notices twice for 1,380 buses but no bidder came forward. There are now plans to procure 3,000 buses by year-end but the first lot cannot come before May,” a transport official said.
“Most of the old buses have been phased out after they completed 500,000 km and eight years on the road. The new buses will be fit to run for 12 years and 750,000km.”
As an interim measure, the government is planning to take buses on rent, like it did during the odd-even exercise, but that too will take at least six months.
“Without improving the bus service, the government cannot expect people to leave their car and use public transport. There should be a bus for every category, from the poor to the rich,” the official said.
To make matters worse, private operators of the cluster bus service are planning to give up because of alleged poor implementation of the scheme. Sources said these operators are facing losses of up to ` 4 crore.
The transport problem cannot be solved, according to experts, by buses alone. The city needs more roads.
Sources said the public works department (PWD) prepared a plan for an east-west and a north-south corridor.
But the government has yet to take a call.
In the past year, some elevated roads were inaugurated but these were projects initiated during the previous government. So far, the AAP government hasn’t announced any new project.
“Delhi does not have a bypass. Peripheral highways have been in the works for years and will take at least three more. The government need to understand that this 1,400 square km city, require an inter-city bypass to avoid congestion. Apart from the Ring Road and Outer Ring Road, there is a plan to build another similar road so that vehicles wishing to bypass the city need not enter it,” a PWD official said.
The Centre has proposed five new roads to decongest Delhi. One of them is the extension of the Barapullah Phase-III from east Delhi to the airport. Another important project will be the Urban Extension Road, which will connect north Delhi with the airport and Gurgaon. This road will help commuters avoid congested areas of central and south Delhi such as Connaught Place and Rao Tula Ram Marg.
But the city government is focusing only on redesigning and widening roads with a plan to spend around ` 5, 000 crore.