In what could be the first step towards the end of the state’s monopoly on intra-state buses, popularly known as ST buses, the state transport department is considering allowing private fleet buses into the business.
State transport minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil announced a proposal to have fleet buses run by private companies in Maharashtra. “We are planning to introduce fleet buses in the state and give equal opportunity to all. This will eliminate the monopoly in the market,” he said.
Currently, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) runs more than 15,000 ST buses that include inter-state buses that run in seven other states.
The idea is for public transport buses servicing the interiors of Maharashtra to also be well-appointed and air-conditioned as they are in the state’s urban pockets. “People in the villages should also be able to enjoy the luxury of a Volvo or Mercedes bus. The introduction of private companies will force MSRTC to compete and offer better services,” he added.
Once private fleet bus operators get entry into the market – which will mean access to several routes now run exclusively by MSRTC buses – it will, in addition to revenues for the operators, also mean much better and more competitive choices for commuters.
“Presently, there are several complaints that ST buses are not punctual, that they regularly reach their destinations late. Which is why we also plan to have Global Positioning System units on buses. Competition from private companies will do much to improve punctuality of ST buses,” Vikhe-Patil said.
In the next month, MSRTC will also invite global tenders for luxury buses for its fleet. Among the more visible changes the agency has proposed are to change the colour of its buses from the traditional maroon to purple.