With the city’s bus service to take another two months to resume commuters will have to hold their horses for a while before they are again able to use public transport. The process of floating tenders to invite bids for a new operator under the net cost contract model is now under way.
In the absence of local buses residents are hard pressed to move around while autorickshaws are making the most of the situation, holding commuters to ransom besides adding to the already high air pollution levels and causing interminable traffic snarls.
The fleet of 105 buses that had hitherto been serving various city areas will now be expanded with 75 new buses planned to be acquired at cost of about Rs. 33 crore to beef up the public transport system.
Earlier, Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions Pvt Ltd, which was operating and maintaining the buses, claimed it would resume services only after Ludhiana City Bus Service Ltd cleared outstanding dues of Rs. 2.6 crore.
With buses off the roads, residents have no option but to travel in overloaded autorickshaws and other private vehicles to get to their destinations. Unruly auto drivers routinely overcharge commuters and are also creating chaos on the streets. Of the estimated 45,000 autos in the city only about 12,000 are registered. There is no check on these vehicles with many mixing kerosene oil with fuel, leading to greater pollution.
“For the past three weeks we’ve been hamstrung due to lack of public transport. I now have to change three autos to get to the Jalandhar bypass and end up paying considerably more for the fares,” said Simranjeet Singh, a resident of Urban Estate.
“In the absence of city buses those run by private operators buses are now even more overcrowded and just getting into them has become a big pain. Meanwhile, unruly autos continue to create chaos on the streets in absence of any checks by the traffic police”, said Major (retd) Sher Singh Aulakh, president of the Bharat Jan Gyan Vigyan Jatha, an NGO.
“With local buses not running, private buses and autos are making a fast buck, while. City Bus Service is also incurring heavy losses every day. Also, the routes of these buses should be extended to nearby villages and towns,” he added.
Meanwhile, additional MC commissioner Ghanshyam Thori said the process of floating new tenders for city buses had already begun. “It may take two more months”, he added.