Open-deck buses to be added to Delhi’s HoHo service
The Delhi government wants to replace its struggling Hop-on Hop-off (HoHo) tourist bus service with a revamped system by purchasing 25 new buses with partially open decks along with the addition of new routes and reduction in the price of the service to under Rs 200 — less than half the current fare.
The new service, likely to be started by the end of the year, will also introduce inter-change stations in order to provide a flexible public transport network for tourists visiting different sites across the Capital.
“The existing HoHo buses have only a single route which touches all the major tourist destinations. We realised that it limited the options for many tourists as they are not able to customise their itinerary. While some might want to go to the museums, other would rather see heritage sites,” said a senior official involved in the project.
A proposal detailing the revamped model, prepared by the state-owned Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC), was recently approved by the government’s planning department and now is being vetted by the finance department. To attract more people to use these new buses, the government will offer rides at less than half the current fare of Rs 400 per person once they are operational, according to the proposal.
The 25 new low-floor semi-open buses will replace the existing blue-coloured HoHo buses, the number of which has fallen to single digits now. Launched for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, 25 buses were pressed into service originally, but at present, this number has fallen to just five as the concessionaire began pulling out the buses citing heavy losses.
The entire project is pegged to cost the state government about Rs 40 crore.
Learning from its mistakes, the Delhi government has now re-drafted a fresh model, the official cited above said.
Now, instead of having a single linear route, the service will have three circular routes with seven buses plying on each. These three routes will intersect each other at multiple points so people have the option of changing their routes to see several other tourist destinations.
One route will cover tourist spots in Central Delhi such as Rajghat, India Gate, Madame Tussauds, Nehru Museum, Dilli Haat, Janpath and Sarojini Nagar. The second will cover Red Fort, Jama Masjid and run till Delhi University; the third will be through Mehrauli and all tourist sites located in south Delhi.
“People will have the option to change their routes for which inter-change points will be built. One such inter-change point will be at India Gate. So, this means if the tourist has seen areas in central Delhi, they can hop on the south Delhi circle or the Old Delhi circle bus to see the other tourist spots,” said another official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official added that the inter-change would not cost extra.
Besides, at every tourist spot, DTTDC will build a HoHo kiosk for guiding the passengers to the monument and so on. The corporation is planning to offer “bundled” packages, in which tourists will have the option to buy tickets to monuments they wish to see along with the bus fare.
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who also is Delhi’s tourism minister, said the new buses will allow tourists to get the look and feel of the city while on the go. “Apart from providing comfortable and safe transportation to our tourists, the service will also offer a quick city tour to those who just want to get a glimpse of Delhi,” Sisodia said.
The official added that the idea of using double-decker buses was dropped because of height restrictions in the Capital. “Due to height restriction rules we had to forego the idea. Now, the buses that we have planned will be low-floor with most part of it covered and air conditioned. The back of the bus will have an open deck. The demand for such tours is likely to be very high during monsoon and winter,” the official said.
Areas like Old Delhi have height restrictions due to low lying electricity cables which can be dangerous for passengers in open-air buses, officials said.
Tourism officials said the existing HoHo buses flopped because the service was based on a revenue model, which means the services began to get hampered the moment the concessionaire started suffering losses.
“The new proposed model will be based on viability gap funding. DTTDC will purchase the buses on its own and will allow a third party to only run the service. For operating or running these buses, a tender will be floated to pick the concessionaire. If losses are incurred, the government would bear it,” the official added.