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Ramping up existing bus services crucial for affordable transportation: Experts

While the Metro rail network is gradually expanding in the country, transport experts say there is a need to ramp up existing bus services in Indian cities to provide an affordable mode of transportation
New Delhi: A DTC cluster bus stuck at DDU Marg in New Delhi, Monday, July 19, 2021. (PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist)(PTI07_19_2021_000264A) (PTI)
Updated on Sep 16, 2021 07:00 AM IST
By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

While the Metro rail network is gradually expanding in the country, transport experts say there is a need to ramp up existing bus services in Indian cities to provide an affordable mode of transportation. To do this, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model can help make up for the deficit of 130,000 (approximately) buses in urban areas and provide efficient service.

“Metros are not the only solution to India’s transportation demand. Buses are not seen as attractive. While India has a successful model to develop and deliver capital infrastructure for roads and Metros, a successful and scalable service delivery model, which forms the basis of the public bus service, is missing,” Shashi Verma, director of strategy and Chief Technology Officer, Transport for London, said at World Resources Institute-India’s (WRI India) Connect Karo-2021 event on Wednesday.

The five-day conference seeks to highlight ways and the need for making cities inclusive and resilient, have access to water, sanitation, hygiene and healthy spaces. Hindustan Times is the media partner of the conference.

Verma said that if cities developed a bus lane or BRTS, then they need to “flood these lanes” with buses and improve the quality of bus services. He cited the case of London where bus routes are planned in such a way that buses are available almost every minute.

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For this, running bus services on the PPP model is a step forward. OP Agarwal, CEO, WRI India, said, “We must change the narrative from delivering low quality services for those who have no other option but to use the bus. It should be an option for those using private modes of transport as well, and I think PPP is a critical instrument to get there.”

In a bid to strengthen the bus service network in smaller cities, the ministry of housing and urban affairs is launching a scheme to support cities to procure buses. “The PPP model offers state transport undertakings (STUs) an opportunity to achieve improved efficiency at a lower initial cost….(Under the scheme) the funding will be offered over a longer period too, so cities can leverage the funding for the PPP model and bring down costs. The bus funding scheme will also help smaller cities adopt public bus services and improve bus operations,” said Surendra Bagde, additional secretary, ministry of housing and urban affairs.

According to private bus service providers, delay in payments is a major issue. Prasanna Patwardhan, chairman and managing director of Prasanna Purple, a private bus service provider, said “There is a delay in payments from some STUs. As a result, it is difficult for us to manage monthly bank payments. Timely dispute resolution is very important.”

Transport experts agree that dispute resolution is critical for a successful PPP bus system. “Setting up an arbitration panel or a regulatory authority that clears these payments will play a huge role in promoting PPP success,” said Verma.

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