Rs 1.5 crore Kandivli-BKC AC buses a flop show

The point-to-point service, aimed at office-goers, was inaugurated with much fanfare by the CM in July 2013; MSRTC plans to extend the route till Pune in hopes of recovering some money

The air-conditioned (AC) buses operating in the city have got an icy reception from the populace. Consider the point-to-point service between Kandivli and Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), which was inaugurated with much fanfare by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and his deputy Ajit Pawar in July 2013, and was to be operated by Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC).

CM Prithviraj Chavan and deputy CM Ajit Pawar inaugurated MSRTC’s AC bus service from BKC to Kandivli on July 11, 2013. File pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

These AC buses were mainly aimed at attracting white-collar workers, who have a 9 am-5 pm job profile, and take their private vehicles to work. From July 11 when the facility was launched till November last year, MSRTC had made losses to the tune of Rs 6.1 lakh. The lack of positive response from people was apparent within the first week itself.

Prithviraj Chavan inaugurating MSRTC’s AC bus service from BKC to Kandivli on July 11, 2013. File pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

MSRTC had to reduce the one-way trip tariff from Rs 140 to Rs 100, but it didn’t have the desired result. In fact, corporation officials wanted to shut down the service completely owing to the losses, and December 31, 2013 was set as the deadline to reach a decision. Sources said that they also planned to approach the office of the chief minister, seeking permission to discontinue the facility.

Inter-city route
Now, however, MSRTC functionaries have decided to make amendments to the route and make it an inter-city, rather than the current intra-city, service. “The Kandivli to BKC AC bus route will be extended till Pune, as it was incurring losses,” said Vikas Kharge, Managing Director, MSRTC.

The officials added that they are doing this to salvage their financial damages. The authorities had expected to earn Rs 52.17 for every kilometre on this route, but they managed only Rs 27. Moreover, they were able to bring in only Rs 4.22 lakh till November, after ferrying barely 20 passengers on each trip. Sources say the corporation is running two buses on this course, each costing about Rs 75 lakh-Rs 80 lakh.

“MSRTC was given time till December, but it continued to suffer losses and the response has not been as expected. So, we have allowed the service to be extended till Pune,” said SK Sharma, principal secretary (transport). Transport experts claim that Mumbaikars always racing against the clock is one of the biggest reasons behind the failure of AC buses. “It is not just about comfort. The AC bus services also need to be reliable and punctual,” said a consultant, who works for the state government.

Analysts maintain that unless a dedicated lane for buses is started, this mode of public transport will continue to remain stuck in traffic and congestion. “The frequency of these AC buses should be at least one every 15 minutes. Running them in such heavy traffic doesn’t help people, and so they prefer taking the train, which at least allows them to reach faster,” said A Shenoy, transport expert.

Officials in state transport department feel that the proposed parking policy of the civic body could help in reducing usage of private vehicles. “When parking rates increase, we can hope that people would start leaving their cars behind and take these buses,” said a senior transport department representative.

Slow going
Revenue earned by MSRTC from these AC buses

Rs 54,000
Revenue generated in July

Rs 87,400
Collections in the month of August

Rs 1.13 L
Revenue generated in September

Rs 1.33 L
Collections in the month of October

Rs 54,700
Revenue generated in November

Rs 6.1 lakh
Losses made by MSRTC on the AC bus service from July-November 2013

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