Delhi ISBTs to reopen before Diwali: Govt
After being shut for more than seven months, interstate bus services are likely to resume in Delhi before Diwali on November 14, senior government officials said on Monday.
The resumption of these services would mean that all three interstate bus terminals (ISBTs) in Delhi — in Anand Vihar, Kashmere Gate, and Sarai Kale Khan — will also reopen.
“The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has given its approval to resume interstate buses in the city and reopen ISBTs. The move will help a lot of people, especially migrant workers, who are now trying to return to Delhi to start work. We intend to open ISBTs well before Diwali, so people are not inconvenienced,” transport minister Kailash Gahlot said.
The decision was taken in a Friday (October 23) DDMA meeting chaired by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, and the transport department is already preparing to issue an order necessary in this regard, a senior official said.
Train and domestic flights services were restarted in May, though their operations are regulated.
Once operational, fewer passengers may be able to board buses and no passenger will be allowed to stand. At ISBTs, provisions are being made to disinfect buses after each trip, and to thermally scan passengers. The departures and arrivals of buses will also be staggered to avoid crowding, a senior transport official said.
Covid-19 testing camps currently are operational at the Sarai Kale Khan and Anand Vihar ISBTs as they also cater to intra-state buses, and such testing camps will be extended to the Kashmere Gate ISBT as well, once it is reopened. Testing will be voluntary, but symptomatic individuals will have to undergo a test, a transport official said.
In Delhi, interstate bus services were suspended on March 21. But before the onset of the pandemic, the three ISBTs saw a combined footfall of over 250,000 every day. At least 3,467 buses from states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Chandigarh would ply through these ISBTs every day.
Under the Unlock 1.0 rules, interstate travel was allowed (since June 8), a relaxation that was subject to both states assenting, and passengers carrying travel passes. None of these requirements applies any longer though. The Unlock 2.0 guidelines issued by the Centre on June 30 allowed passengers to travel across state borders without travel passes.
In July, DDMA turned down a Delhi transport department proposal to allow the reopening of ISBTs.
“States like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have already shown a keen interest in sending their state-run buses to our ISBTs. There is an increasing demand to open the service as many people used to travel on buses from neighbouring for their medical treatment in Delhi hospitals,” a second transport official said.
For scores of office-goers, small-scale traders and the public in general — for whom travelling to Delhi over distances between 50km and 100km was a daily affair before the pandemic — the daily commute had turned into a nightmare due to lack of buses as many started traveling 40-50 kms or even more on cycles.
Government reports show the transport department is losing over ₹5 crore per month because the three ISBTs are shut. The main source of revenue used to be the stand fee charged against each bus entering the terminals.
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