Bangalore: Gone are the days when bus travelling within the city or to nearby cities was a harrowing experience. Ten years ago, getting a bus seat was an uphill task and most of the times a battle had to be fought at the bus stand with people clambering through windows, doors and over each other to get a seat. A dedicated drive by the state transport department over the past 10 years has ushered in a sea of change to the scenario. With Karnataka set to add 3,350 buses to its fleet this year, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) is all geared up to incorporate 850 new buses into its daily operations.
Not surprisingly, 150 of these will be luxury buses, according to officials. Transport Minister R Ashok has repeatedly gone on record stating that the BMTC’s Volvo service, which was shunned by people between 2006 and 2010 has finally been accepted by the city in the past two years. “It is now supporting other services,” he said at a recent function in the city. According to BMTC officials, the Volvo bus services are making a profit of Rs 16 crore a year.
The BMTC currently runs Vaayu Vajra, Vajra and Big 10 services using Volvo buses and other services like Suvarna and Pushpak, are reportedly making losses. This massive drive to adopt larger, more luxurious buses has not been limited to the city alone. Today, it is possible for a traveller to go to nearby towns like Mysore, Tirupati and Chennai with as much comfort as that provided on a plane at just a fraction of the cost.
The KSRTC operates ultra luxury multi axle buses between Bangalore City and the cities. These buses are equipped with facilities like TV, WiFi, Toilet and a Pantry. KSRTC’s most recent accquistion, the Volvo 9400 PX, is the country’s longest bus and incorporates all these features and more. The price to pay for a trip to Mysore? Rs 300.
The 9400 PX is built on a new light weight platform and is equipped with a steerable rear tag axle which gives it the same manoevuvrability as a normal bus. It carries a 11 litre engine that offers 370 HP of horsepower. “I never believed that KSRTC and BMTC would one day operate so many Volvo services. The fares are low compared to other modes of transport and as long as it is comfortable I would not mind the extra time spent travelling,” said Arvind T, a regular commuter in the city
Citizens demand Volvos for the entire city
While BMTC’s Volvo services have attracted the fancy of many a commuter, there is still a large untapped market that the BMTC seems to be ignoring. “Most of the Volvos are concentrated on routes going towards ITPL, Whitefield, Koramangala and other areas with technology parks. What about people like us? Do we not deserve to travel in luxury?” questions Ramesh, who travels from Banashankari to Majestic every day.
Citizens living in areas like Basavangudi, Kanakpura Road and surrounding areas are hopeful that the BMTC would focus on their needs soon as well. The BMTC website shows that over 20 volvo services are operated to areas like Whitefi eld, Electronic City and Marathalli while other areas have just one or two services tending to them. “These are the routes in which we get maximum passengers and hence the frequency is more. However we are always looking to start new routes but only after a proper study has been made of the route feasibility,” said a BMTC official.