Though the state government is planning to add 800 buses to Himachal Road Transportation Corporation (HRTC) existing fleet, the staff crunch in the HRTC has forced the authorities concerned to close at least 10 routes.
Due to shortage of drivers and conductors in Bilaspur HRTC depot, at least 10 routes, including five major routes, were closed. Drivers and conductors operate the buses by doing overtime. They feel overburdened and are deprived of legitimate rights to go on leaves. The Bilaspur HRTC depot has 130 drivers and 108 conductors who operate 92 buses, and requires an additional 13 drivers.
Of the 10 closed routes, five were running in profits. The routes which have been closed include Bilaspur-Dharmshala, Ghumarwin-Hoshiarpur, Bilaspur-Nangal, Jhandutta-Nangal, Bilaspur-Lathyani.
On an average in certain routes HRTC buses are operating with 32% vacant seats. But due to public demands and government instructions, the HRTC is bound to continue such routes.
Ajay Chandel, a passenger, said route allotment to private buses before few minutes was major reason behind HRTC buses' failure. He said though people generally preferred to travel on government-run HRTC buses, private buses owners using political influences managed to get route permits just 5-10 minutes before the HRTC.
HRTC regional manager Santosh Kumar said recently Bilaspur depot had got 13 new buses, which would ply on long routes soon.