New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) Already short by about 4,500 buses from the target of 11,000, the Delhi government's plan to give more buses to the national capital may get further delayed with the revenue deficiency due to the coronavirus lockdown.
While collectively the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) own 6,348 buses, only 3,983 of these are on the road running for the common people as the public transport resumed last week. The Transport Department has been providing buses to various other departments — Revenue, Police, Health etc. for Covid-19 related duties.
With the fear of spreading of coronavirus infection, only 20 people are allowed to board a bus at a time — making the number of buses insufficient for the commuters dependent on the public transport.
As the Delhi government faces a revenue crisis, the procurement of new buses will be pushed back too, according to an official from the Delhi Transport Department.
“We are committed to our promise to give more buses to the city. However, with this pandemic and the lockdown, the government suffered serious revenue loss and now we have to prioritise our expenses. The plan for giving more buses can be delayed by several months and is not likely to be completed before the end of this financial year,” the official told IANS.
Not just the government, but the DTC has also suffered major loss in the 55 days of lockdown when it was not allowed to operate fully. During the 55-day lockdown, between March 25 and May 18, only half of the fleet was on road, allowing only those involved in essential services.
According to the official data accessed by IANS, the average ridership of the cluster buses — the orange buses being operated under the cluster scheme introduced in 2011 to replace the erstwhile blue line buses — in 2019-20 per day was 16 lakh with the government earning Rs 6,269 from each bus per day.
For the DTC buses, the daily ridership was 34.60 lakh and the daily earning from each bus was Rs 6,118.
The ridership of the buses is from a time when the Delhi Metro was also ferrying about 55 lakh to 60 lakh people per day. While buses have been allowed in the city from May 19, the Metro services are still suspended till May 31.
“The government has said that we have to live with the (coronavirus) infection for sometime as it is not going to end soon. The social distancing is a must and now the buses will only ply with a limited number of passengers so that social distancing can be maintained,” a government official told IANS.
It was in July 1998, the Supreme Court directed the Delhi government to augment its fleet of buses to 10,000.
In his first budget speech in 2015, Delhi Finance Minister Manish Sisodia had promised to bring 10,000 buses of different specifications, to meet the differentiated needs of commuters.
However, even in 2020 the city has only 6,348 buses in the fleet of the Delhi Transport Department.
Also, the Aam Aadmi Party had promised in February to reach the target of increasing the total fleet size to 11,000 buses.
In the Budget 2020-21, Sisodia had announced that 2,485 new buses — 1,300 DTC and 1,185 cluster buses including 685 electric — will be added to the fleet during the year 2020-21 and another 1,880 buses — 444 DTC and 1,436 cluster buses — will be purchased the next year, 2021-22.
However, the government suffered a revenue loss of about Rs 3,200 crore in April due to the COVID lockdown when compared to last year.
According to the government, public transportation is the lifeline of Delhi which claims that more than half of the population in the city is dependent on local transport for commuting purposes.