After accident with PMPML bus seriously injures two people on a two-wheeler, MD and CEO of the public transport service admits 200 of the 1,400 vehicles in the fleet are more than 10 years old and need to be phased out.

A serious accident involving two youths on a two-wheeler and a Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) bus has once again brought into question the roadworthiness of the vehicles used by the transport agency. A 19-year-old lost a limb and the pillion rider sustained severe head injuries after a PMPML bus driver lost control over the vehicle and rammed it against a two-wheeler on Saturday evening.

Too old? The PMPML bus that hit two people on a two-wheeler on Lal
Bahadur Shashtri Road on Saturday. Pic/Vivek Sabnis

The victims, Ramvilas Avtar (19) and Mahendra Ram Avatar (20), both from Rajasthan, could not avoid the speeding PMPML bus on Lal Bahadur Shastri road. The Vishrambaug police registered a case of negligent driving against bus driver Laxman Shankar Nighot. The accident was the latest in a string of serious mishaps involving PMPML buses in the city, and it again brought to the fore the question whether outmoded vehicles in the PMPML fleet were compromising road safety. Nighot said he had never had an accident before and blamed the condition of the bus for the mishap.

Danger on wheels: Bus driver Laxman Nighot (left) and conductor Sunil
Satpute at the Senadutt police chowky after their PMPML bus hit a
two-wheeler on Lal Bahadur Shastri Road on Saturday; the PMPML bus
involved in the accident. Pics/Vivek Sabnis

Technical problems
The PMPML has around 1,400 buses plying in the city and its vicinity, and many of these vehicles allegedly have technical problems. R N Joshi, managing director and CEO, PMPML, agreed several buses needed to be replaced and that the PMPML was working towards it."There are as many as 200 buses which are more than 10 years old," said Joshi. "We have already removed 84 buses which were part of the older fleet. The replacement with the new buses shall be done by March 2012, when a new lot of 100 new buses shall arrive."

Bus driver Nighot said Saturday's accident happened because the brakes did not work properly. "This was my first mishap in the last 22 years with PMPML and the accident happened because the condition of the bus was not good. When I applied the brakes, it swerved to the right instead of stopping," said Nighot. Bus conductor Sunil Satpute (43) also said that the bus was about 15 to 20 years old and should not be used any more.

'Don't blame us'
Another conductor of a PMPML bus said they were often at the receiving end of public ire even though it was the ageing fleet that was to blame for many accidents. "Most buses we drive are old. The accidents happen not because we are rash, but because of the poor condition of the buses," said the conductor, requesting anonymity.

PMPML's bus woes in recent past
Tank empty: At least 46 passengers travelling from Khadki to Pimple Nilakh in a PMPML bus were suddenly asked to vacate the bus at 10 pm near Khadki Bazaar on October 8 . The reason given to the passengers was that the bus had ran out of fuel. Lost and found: Early last month, a PMPML bus was stolen, the second incident of its kind in seven months. The theft prompted authorities to seriously consider installing an electronic-based vehicle tracking system as soon as possible. The bus was stolen from the Hadapsar bus depot and was found two days later at a remote place near the Somatane Phata on the Pune-Mumbai highway.