2018, year that was: 2,400 bus breakdowns, Tejaswini for women, still a bumpy ride for Pune’s bus service
A high number of bus breakdowns throughout the year; introduction of Tejaswini bus service exclusively for women, and steps to introduce electric buses were among the key highlights of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) operations this year.
The issue of bus breakdowns and buses catching fire continued to mar PMPML’s reputation while causing enormous inconvenience to passengers. With the problem continuing over the last year, former chief managing director (CMD) of PMPML, Pravin Mundhe, had increased the fine for breakdowns on private operators from whom the buses were hired. However, the fine amount was reduced after he was transferred in February.
Within the first nine months of 2018 (till September 10), 2,481 breakdowns were recorded. PMPML director Siddharth Shirole blamed the lack of communication between PMPML and the private contractors as the reason for the bus breakdowns. The number of bus breakdowns had reduced from 3,893 in 2015-16 to 2,523 in 2016-17 owing to measures implemented by Mundhe, including the Rs 5,000 fine imposed for every breakdown. The reduced number of breakdowns corresponds to Mundhe’s tenure as CMD of PMPML. After his transfer a committee was formed to chart solutions for breakdowns which are mostly found to be of buses provided by private contractors. However, after its formation, there were no updates from the committee.
On a positive note, the year started with launch of Tejaswini, a women-only service for Pune, in March. This initiative by the new PMPML CMD Nayana Gunde was highly appreciated. The initiative began with 30 buses on eight routes. The blue buses with flowers and slightly compressed front, compared to regular buses, can be seen on city road with Tejaswini (in Marathi) written in the front of the bus.
In keeping with the national policy to promote electric buses, the PMPML, in the first week of November closed a deal for hiring of 25 air-conditioned electric buses on payment of a subsidy of Rs 50 lakh per bus and Rs 40.32 per km to the bus operator. What has startled everyone are the terms of this work order and the heavy cost to the public exchequer. While the regular diesel or the eco-friendly CNG buses cost up to Rs 35 lakh each, the electric buses cost Rs 1.25 crore each. The buses will also be provided with a conductor by the PMPML while the driver will be employed by the firm. The private operator will undertake the maintenance of the buses (obviously, as the buses are owned by them) and will set up the e-charging infrastructure. Eventually the PMPML plans to hire 475 more buses, the terms for which are yet to be finalised.
The silver lining around this is the increase in the PMPML fleet strength. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had recently announced that the PMPML was planning to purchase over 1,000 buses in the coming months which would reflect a better fleet strength in 2019.
Leasing and purchase of new CNG buses.
Launch of Tejaswini service exclusively for women.
Poor response to cashless MI smart cards.
Crisis over storage of coins after Central Bank of India declined to accept deposits in coins.
Cases against and by PMPML drivers.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2018?
The year started with launch of Tejaswini, a women-only service for Pune, in March. This initiative by the new PMPML CMD Nayana Gunde was highly appreciated. The initiative began with 30 buses on eight routes. However, within the first nine months of 2018 (till September 10), 2,481 breakdowns were recorded. Not just that, PMPML, in the first week of November closed a deal for hiring of 25 air-conditioned electric buses on payment of a subsidy of Rs 50 lakh per bus.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2019
Launch of e-buses on January 26.
Scrapping of over 200 buses which are over 15 years old.
Induction of 1,000 new buses which will increase total fleet strength to 2,450 from the current 1,438.