Poor maintenance spells doom for ailing DTC fleet

  • Faizan Haidar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 06, 2016 15:55 IST
The new low-floor and air-conditioned buses are prone to weather conditions and they break down often when the mercury rises. (Arun Sharma/HT Photo)

Ageing buses, frequent breakdowns and poor performance of new low-floor vehicles has spelt doom for the Delhi Transport Corporation’s plans of wooing new passengers.

The number of people using buses in the Capital has fallen by almost a fifth in the last three years as repeated snags force the DTC to miss more than 5,000 scheduled trips every day.

Experts say the corporation is struggling to win the trust of passengers as 99% of its fleet is more than four years old and 400 buses develop snags every day.

A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General said the performance of the public transporter had to be judged not only on the number of buses but also their reliability.

The DTC performs poorly on that metric, with the ratio of trips operated to those scheduled falling from 85.76% in 2011-12 to 80.33% in 2014-15.

Read more: DTC bus service decays under Delhi Metro’s shadow as revival plans fail

In contrast, the ratio jumped from 92.93% to 97.89% in Bengaluru and 93.23% to 97.70% in Chennai during the same period.

DTC officials say they received 20 complaints of breakdown every day. They have formed a mobile team to address the problem but found that an increase in atmospheric temperature hurt the performance of buses.

The DTC thought they could address the problem of ageing buses by ordering a new fleet of low-floor buses. But data show the ratio of breakdowns is higher for these new buses despite them being just four to six years old.

“An audit revealed 19.77-35.33% of the fleet being overaged was a key factor for low productivity but there were increased number of breakdowns in low floor buses,” said a DTC official.

The number of breakdowns of these new buses per 10,000 kilometre of operation more than doubled between 2010-11 and 2014-15. In the case of AC buses, the same metric more than quadrupled during the same period.

The bad performance of AC buses is a cause of concern as the DTC had hoped to shift car users to using these new vehicles. But the figures suggest that in most of the buses, the AC machines don’t work.

Read more: Cash-strapped DTC looking at other modes of revenue

“Passengers often call and ask why should they pay extra when the AC is not working. The buses are built to operate in certain temperature and whenever the temperature crosses 45 degree Celsius, the AC stops working,” said a DTC official.

“We cannot change the specification of buses and only proper maintenance can help to perform better.”

Read more: DTC runs a loss of Rs 3 crore every day, needs funds to keep fleet going

Audit scrutiny shows poor public response to AC low-floor buses in the national capital region areas, where their load factor -- a measure of the number of passengers carried compared to the seats available -- remained low, between 34.41% and 56.02 % in 2010-15.

“But the corporation did not consider it necessary to deploy these buses on city routes, where load factor ranged from 55.25 to 99.34%,” the CAG report said.

An internal report by the DTC revealed that about 50 million kms were missed -- when compared to the target planned -- annually due to factors such as non-availability of buses, want of crew and CNG and breakdowns.

The percentage of missed kms decreased from 20.33% in 2010-11 to 14.14 % in 2011-12 but again increased to 21.29% in 2014-15.

“This was much more in comparison with Bangalore (2.56 to 5.41%) and Mumbai (1.65 to 6.11%). The main factors for missed kms were shortage of buses, longer repair time and non-filling of CNG,” the audit report said.

Other reason for the poor performance of DTC was the rampant violation of traffic rules. From 2010-15, 1,888 buses were fined and impounded for 3,831 days, resulting in 738,000 kms being missed and loss of revenue of R 1.29 crore. Also 67 fire incidents were reported in low-floor buses due to short circuit, leakage of coolants and heating problems in engine.

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