Centre’s ₹18,000 crore project for public transport in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities

A total of 300 buses are expected to be introduced in six cities in Kerala, in the first phase of the Centre’s ₹18,000 crore project to augment urban public transport in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, to reduce congestion and pollution.

A total of 20,000 buses are expected to be rolled out across States, under the scheme which was announced a year ago. “Each of the six cities in Kerala is likely to get 50 buses each. A team of officials, including from KSRTC is expected to hold discussions with their counterparts in the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in this regard, the coming week,” official sources said.

The buses are expected to operate on the basis of innovative PPP models that are expected to be finalised shortly. In this, private players would finance, acquire, operate and maintain the buses, since RTCs in most States are considered inefficient. These buses taken on wet lease from private players, are expected to provide commuters a reliable, comfortable and affordable system of mass rapid transport, along with metro lite and metro neo (systems similar to metro but which operate at the road level and have lower fare structure, that were mooted in the metro-rail policy of 2017). The architect of the National Urban Development Policy, O.P. Agarwal said the scheme is open for cities other than the nine big metros in the country. “It is a good idea to operate the buses on wet lease – an emerging pattern worldwide. On its part, the government must decide the routes, timings and other parameters.”

He cautioned against the 18,000 buses meeting the plight of AC and non-AC low floor buses that were given to States under the JNNURM scheme, over a decade ago. “In the JNNURM scheme, funds were not given to establish bus terminals and dedicated shelters to park the buses, including those which were priced over ₹1 crore a piece. Neither was emphasis given on their daily upkeep using modern machinery. Even worse, many cities did not dedicate a space to park them in a safe manner, while there was difficulty identifying an agency to maintain them in many others,” Mr Agarwal said.

The chairman of city-based think tank Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), D. Dhanuraj said a lesson ought to be learnt from KSRTC’s failure to maintain its fleet of 190 low-floor Volvo buses that were given to it under the JNNURM scheme.

“It also failed to operate 10 e-buses that were taken on wet lease. The skyrocketing fuel price and worsening congestion has resulted in people willing to give up private vehicles and instead rely on reliable public transport systems. The 300 buses that are proposed to be inducted must operate in city routes, rather than be diverted for long-distance travel as was done with many JNNURM buses,” he said.

CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a news article published in The Hindu on April 2, 2022. Click here to read

Image Source: Asianet Newsable

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