The Punjab Roadways has withdrawn its much-hyped Volvo bus service to Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport. If the reason of huge losses given by the authorities is to be believed, then the fact that the private operators have increased their service to once every two hours needs to be explained.
Especially, as the Volvo service offered by Punjab Roadways was cheaper than that offered by private operators.
While Punjab Roadways used to charge Rs 785 per passenger, the private bus operators are charging anywhere between Rs 1,100 and Rs 1,400 per passenger, as per the requirement of pick-up service that these operators offer.
State-owned Punjab Roadways started the Volvo bus service to Delhi airport in May 2010, which operated thrice a day.
In fact, the then transport minister, Master Mohan Lal, had gone all out to publicise it as a comfortable and economical facility for the NRIs of the region. The service got popular within no time, with the bus running to its capacity in advance.
Punjab Roadways general manager Pawan Kumar Singla admitted that the service to the Delhi airport had been withdrawn and reasoned that acute losses forced them to take the decision.
"Many times, there were only two to four passengers.
Ultimately, the service has been stopped on the instructions of senior officials," Singla told Hindustan Times, adding that Rs 4,500 were the daily parking charges at the Delhi airport, further adding to the losses.
However, HT investigation revealed that the advance booking of the Volvo bus was done till July 15 and on an average, 20 seats used to be booked in advance. Even when the HT team visited the ticket counters of airport service, it found few commuters enquiring about the service. It is also learnt that the last bus operated on Monday and the passengers were dropped at the Delhi ISBT instead of the airport.
During enquiry, it was also learnt that one of the private operators Indo-Canadian bus service recently increased its airport service by plying 12 buses daily for the airport. At the same time, another private player, Taj Traveler, launched its fleet of Mercedes Benz service for the airport.
Meanwhile, some roadways employees seeking anonymity alleged that as the family of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had stakes in Taj Traveler, the decision of discontinuing the Volvo service was taken to extend financial benefits to the private operator.
When contacted, one of the employees of Indo-Canadian bus service revealed that due to heavy booking in advance, they had increased their service to once every two hours with pick and drop facility for NRIs.
However, GM (Roadways) Singla refuted the allegations that Volvo bus service had been withdrawn under political pressure and maintained that heavy loss was the only reason for halting the service.