Monday, 8 October 2007

Blueline Menace Continues to Haunt Delhi

So, another seven people have been killed by a speeding Blueline bus. Nothing's new--the government offers compensation, the opposition tries to make hay from personal tragedies and the High Court demands action--another political drama carries on in Delhi. And the rumors grow--of money changing hands, of 82 out of the 88 killer drivers being back on the roads and of a Blueline that was given the all-clear on 7th July this year being the vehicle that caused the accident.
Why doesn't the state government examine the public surface transport policies successfully followed by other cities in India and the world and try and emulate these? Some cities mentioned include Indore, Bogota and Curitiba. Curitiba in Brazil has an integrated transport network managed by a state-owned company. The buses are owned by 16 private companies that were given permits for different routes through an open bid system. None of the buses are over ten years old--this rule is enforced by the law courts. The state-owned company monitors and co-ordinates the system, sets the fares ensuring that the private companies make a profit, while providing enough to pay salaries, enable maintenance and allow for the depreciation of buses included in the fleet. The bus fares fund the system, which is NOT state-subsidized. Bus operators make profits based on the kilometers assigned to them, not on the number of passengers they carry.
The Bogota Transmilenio System is based on the Curitiba model, but with an independent regulator managing the system. However, the performance norms adhered to are set by the government. Private consortiums bid for routes and the bidder with the best offer is given the permit. Finances are managed by another organization, which also appoints the ticket collectors on the buses. Once the government dues have been deducted from the fares collected, the money is handed over to the consortium. Representatives also act as watchdogs for the driver. Buses ply in separate lanes.
The Indore Bus Service, which was introduced two years ago, is based on a public-private partnership model, where the fleet is owned by private operators but the regulatory and policy decision functions are performed by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of the state government. The SPV also fixes fares and timetables. The low-floored buses are fitted with GPS-based tracking devices that ensure that buses run on designated routes, stop at designated stops and stick to the timetable. Bus stops are fitted with information boards that provide details of the next bus on the route. An automatic ticketing machine gives out tickets for cash. At the end of the day, all buses are parked at a depot provided by the government, which features facilities for maintenance and repair. Buses are checked every day and maintenance is performed at night. The company is paid a monthly premium by the bus operators--it also receives revenues from the advertising it carries and the passes it sells. The bus operators make their money from the fares--they also receive a share of the advertising revenue generated and the bus passes sold.

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