New Delhi: With ambitious plans to buy 10,000 more buses, the Delhi government is considering a proposal to rent space in the city to park the huge fleet.
Even now, the administration finds there is not enough space to park at night its 4,700 Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses and 1,300 'cluster buses', which operate on a public-private partnership basis.
"We are exploring the possibility of renting open space for parking buses at night," a government official told IANS.
The DTC claims to run the world's biggest fleet of buses operating on clean fuel. Along with Delhi Metro, it offers the cheapest mode of public transport in the capital.
There are 46 DTC depots in the capital now. Officials say they together cannot accommodate even the entire existing fleet.
This forces drivers to park hundreds of buses by the roadside at night, leading at times to harassment at the hands of Delhi Police, who don't report to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-controlled Delhi government.
The Delhi government needs land to create more bus depots. But land is a central government subject in the National Capital Region. And land is costly too.
"We will see if large chunks of land like school playgrounds and other areas are available at night on rent," the Delhi government official told IANS.
"At times, police harass bus drivers because they park their vehicles at non-designated spots," the official said. "It is all because of the land crisis in the capital."
The official said the city government needed 200 acres to park its fleet of buses but had only 10 acres of dedicated space at its disposal.
"In any case, the depots are small in size and always crammed," he added.
In order to encourage people to switch to public transport, the Delhi government has announced that it will buy 10,000 more buses. It says the central government is not giving it land for more bus depots.
Recently, the city government sought 500 acres from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the capital's land owning agency which is controlled by the central government.
"One acre of commercial land costs about Rs.50 crore. You can imagine that we will have to shell out thousands of crores of rupees just to create bus depots," the official said, adding that the AAP government didn't have so much money to spend on this project.
About 4.5 million people commute by DTC buses daily. This comes to a poor ratio of one bus for 1,000 passengers.
"There is massive shortage of buses in the capital," the official explained, detailing the woes of the capital where despite Delhi Metro's services, public transport remains a major issue.
"The main reason is parking space. How will we augment the numbers of buses if there is no parking space? We don't have space for the existing buses, let alone the required space for an additional 10,000 buses."