After a wait of seven long years, several trial runs in the meantime and its inauguration having been announced by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal this month, the 41 buses that arrived here recently as part of the first phase of the much-hyped city bus service are yet to hit the roads in Amritsar.
Over a fortnight has passed since the arrival of the buses in three categories - low floor, semi-low floor and midi cars - residents here are wondering as what is stopping the municipal corporation from starting it.
The MC has entrusted the job of running the service - which would be run on net credit cost (NCC) mode - to a Karnataka-based company which will be responsible for managing it, including hiring staff, paying their salaries and taking care of maintenance.
While the municipal authorities cited formalities such as obtaining insurance papers, registration certificates and licences of drivers as the reason behind the delay, sources said it was due to the unavailability of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal for the inauguration.
Confronting the state government on the issue of development, Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu had talked about the city bus service. He had also visited the terminal which was then in a pathetic shape. The terminal, however, was given a facelift before the arrival of buses.
The project was announced on the lines of the facility running in Indore to rid the city roads of traffic congestion caused by the increasing number of vehicles.
After a long wait, the city finally received a glimmer of hope when the MC announced the initiation of the city bus service at the fag end of 2013. The buses, which were scheduled to reach the city on December 31, arrived four days later on January 3.
The first phase of the project involves plying of 41 buses on three routes.
The MC's proposal to run the service on NCC mode had invited criticism from various quarters.
While the cost of each of the buses runs into several lakhs, the MC stands to earn a meagre Rs 1,250 per month per bus, about Rs 41 per bus a day.
The buses are equipped with various security features, particularly CCTV cameras. While two cameras are placed inside the bus, a couple of others are positioned outside keeping in view the security aspect.
"It takes time to bring such projects on roads. There are a number of formalities as obtaining insurance papers, registration certificates and drivers' licences that need to be completed before the service finally starts. The service will be launched as soon as the formalities are completed," said municipal commissioner DPS Kharbanda.
Mayor Bakshi Ram Arora said, "The buses are here. The project will be started in a week's time. Now all we need is an appointment from the deputy CM to flag off the service."
Total number of buses: 150
Buses to ply in first phase: 41
Categories: Low floor, semi-low floor and midi buses
Initial proposed cost: Rs 33 crore
Current cost (estimated): Rs 46 crore
City bus service announced in 2007
First trial run: Mid 2007
Local MP Navjot Sidhu confronts government on development issue in September 2013; visits bus terminal
Soon after, MC issues press release promising the service by November 2013
Later, the date postponed to December and the MC proposes to bring in the buses by New Year's Eve
The buses arrive on January 3
The service scheduled to be inaugurated by deputy chief minister on January 11
The inauguration date postponed to January 15 and then to a day later