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Bus Transport - Which is the way ahead ?

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BusPublic Transport

Some of us feel justified in criticising BMTC /KSRTC for providing differential services. What I have been unable to understand is why only these two are being singled out for questioning when there are dozens of examples along the same lines just about everywhere.

In government (& private) hospitals, there are special wards & general wards. Even the best hospitals have a long wait-list for those that cannot afford immediate attendance. Why not target them too ? Railways have several different classes - what about them ? Every other public bus transport corpn in the country has deluxe & ordinary buses - many are already running expensive volvos, or will soon start them - what about all of them ?

I think it's just that we do not know about other state or city bus operators & their financials well enough to comment (most of them are deep in the red), & so, some of us are led to believe that operations by our state bus services are questionable. This is possibly fuelled by the fact that BMTC /KSRTC were the first ones in the country to start using volvos on a scale bigger than most others - I guess this is being seen as unfair to those that cannot afford them at this point.

I think one just needs to be patient. This is only a start - & as the economy improves, many more additions will be there to those that can afford these better services & perhaps some time in the future, volvos & such other low-floor buses will become quite common - just as they are in most cities abroad.

I believe that pursuing the use of better quality buses is the way ahead, though all might not be able to afford them immediately & there is a risk that they might end up losing some money in the interim. This risk might be worth taking as the sooner our bus operators start using better buses, the faster travel on such low floor buses will become more common & affordable to most, if not all.


pathykv's picture

BMTC economics

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I already clarified that the opposition is not to use of better buses, but subsidising the losses from the raised fares of ordinary buses.

As suggested, let there be a bifurcation or separate corporation to run  higher fare services.

Also there should be 'Mini Bus' services for Intra-Nagar feeder services run by another set up. Private operators should also be deployed for healthy competition as the BMTC cannot handle all types of services as a monopoly.


Naveen's picture

Alternatives May Be Worse

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Pathy Sir,

We have discussed this quite a lot in the past, & recently, too. Anyway, I have the following observations with regard to your post/s :

1) Are you sure that ordinary buses are churining out profits ? There are many routes that are being run to fulfil social obligations. Residents from many remote areas demand buses for connectivity with Majestic, City market or Shivajinagar. BMTC, being the lone service provider, is meeting these obligations, though they may be losing money running such services. Hence, we have so many bus route nos. & also, low frequencies on many remote, red boards. This apart, BMTC's revenues are not merely from bus operations - they also have ad revenues & lease out properties, as with most such transport corporations worldwide since city transport revenues by themselves will never be able to meet expenses & overheads.

2) Please also read this comment for a calculation that I had attempted with pricing strategy for volvo buses.

3) Bi-furcation, or tri-furcation (black boards, red boards & higher fare services) may not be a good idea since co-ordination between the entities may be a serious obstacle as the same routes, or part of the routes also need to be serviced by different types of buses. With traffic pile-ups, we already have a situation where buses bunch together though departure times from start points are generally planned to result in separation. This problem will surely get worse & all types of users will be effected. In fact, buses belonging to the different companies might start competing with one another & race to bus stops, endangering road safety as well - this is common in Mangalore & Cochin - cities that have multiple small, private bus operators.

4) Re. introduction of privatized mini-buses, we have already seen the menace that these create on many of the routes. Licenses are obtained as contract carriages & mis-used by them to operate only on profitable sectors at peak times. The quality of mini-buses is also very poor as they do not spend in maintaining the fleet, other than the bare minimum to just keep them running. On the whole, private services are far worse than BMTC, as of now. Unless we see a breakthrough, or develop a model that succeeds in ensuring proper services from private parties, privatization is not desirable.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

@ Naveen /Pathy Sirs,We have

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@ Naveen /Pathy Sirs,

We have the following thread still in the running about the singled out Volvos and ord buses stratified services ... and as you can see the latest media report is that

- 1000 buses are being inducted - 165 will be on road by the month end - we do not know how many of them will be Volvos/Ord buses  details are available on the following old post.

One new news is that "about 20 Volvos are being added to Atal service for catering to the poorer and low middle class commuters".

- Let us wait for a reality check of this service on road. Or is it the dawning of a new era for a semblance of improved service?

- As I understand this new post is touching the question of stratified service in many walks of life of ordinary citizens and it needs to be discussed on a wider canvas with a touch of socialism at the top.

 -Let it be made clear that we are not discussing communistic pattern of sharing the wealth in a society but we are discussing the joy of sharing or giving by the minority forbes list 'haves' to the majority BPL list 'have nots' governed by a socialistic democratic pattern of the society.. 

- Vasanth Myso0remath

Naveen's picture

Thanks, VKM

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As I had mentioned previously, it was only a matter of time before such services would be made available for everyone - the 20 volvos is a start & a small, but significant step in the right direction.

The way ahead is only toward improvement in the quality of buses for all, but one cannot obviously expect expensive buses to be made available for everyone right from the beginning, with claims that they are out of the profits made by ordinary commuters - this is merely an assumption, at best.

Surely, there is no need to condemn BMTC or KSRTC for 'stratification' from the word go. They will carry out their experiments & find optimum means to fund & run services that are needed & viable.

This is similar to new products being launched in the market - initially, they would be very expensive & out of reach for most, but with markets getting established, they would become affordable to many more.

Today, we are paying 35rs to go from HAL to KBS - in a few years, we may be paying only half of this - this is how things have evolved with various new offerings, & I don't think the volvos are any different.

skumaras's picture

Premium services for the have-nots

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I completely agree with your assessment. There are many examples of products which were only within the reach of the rich initially but which eventually became available to a wider range of people.

Four-wheelers are now an anathema to many in Praja, but let’s just take the case of the Maruti 800 as an example. Back in the eighties, the Government of India could have been criticized for getting into an Industry pandering to the rich. But their entry into this segment did eventually help to make the cars accessible to a lot more people.

Similarly over a period of time these premium bus services will become available to a wider audience. To a certain extent it has started happening. Even within the Volvo service they have the IT sector fare as higher than the non it sector fare.




Chargeable Stages

IT Sector Fare

Non IT sector fare





















It will be a while before these services become accessible to every one, but as we add more and more buses, we will eventually get there.


sanchitnis's picture

Main issue is transparency of business plan

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 Any new service (such as volvo) should clearly have a transparent business plan that has projections of traffic, costs, earnings, subsidies etc. When a new service is created, it is OK to cross-subsidize it provided, it is going to give returns after some time. It is done in any business all over the world. However, when there is no transparency in this, people start questioning the motives. And rightly so, because it is public money that is being invested. 

Any major changes are risky and may or may not succeed - For example Kendra Saarige. Those who criticize should keep in mind that we want leaders who need to stick their neck out while introducing changes.

Sanjay Chitnis

idontspam's picture

Quid pro quo

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It is done in any business all over the world. 

If you want it to run like a business you cannot ask for subsidies only for one section of the population.

Your demand for quid pro quo cannot apply to a segment of your choice in which case you give me my quid pro quo. I am not able to afford to fly to delhi to carry out my work so I demand govt run subsidy gandhi class airlines for me and run a seperate service at cost plus for the rest of the folks.

because it is public money that is being invested.

I feel you have got your priorities wrong. If you are worried about public money you should ask govt to get out of businesses and be only a regulator. There is no way you can justify govt provide differentiated services when you are campaigning against it tin the same comment. It is called hypocrisy.

Vasanth's picture

Complaint Galore Never Ends

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I see people complaining of everything and all around about BMTC. One person says allow private operators, other person says only Volvos are being added to make profit, another person complains there are not enough volvo buses, another person compares to the prices of other states and yet another person says route rationalization. This is a never ending satisfying requirement. It is totally confusing.

Questions I would ask to everyone is:

1. What a private operator can do special? Murali Sir has answered so many times but I'm not convinced.

2. What is route rationalization? What is your definition of rationalization of Bangalore.

3. Volvos are being added to make profit - This was Mysoremath's point - But will people give up cars and take up ordinary buses to ITPL or EC?

It is an illusion of many that Volvos are expensive. It is affordable by all. From my home to Majestic it is 10 rupees in ordinary bus, 11 in pushpak which takes the shortest (auto or personal vehicle)route and 15 in Volvo which also takes shortest route.Tickets I have purchases is as less as 5 rupees.

4. Prices comparison with other states - Compare the bus quality of Chennai and that of Bangalore. Chennai has got good frequency and prices are less, but none of the upper middle class and rich will even poke into the bus. Quality of buses is equivalent to that running to Anekal or Magadi.

5. Not enough Volvos - This is the complaint on the other side. When we had a poll on this site which ofcourse is a biased one since most of the people accessing this site are mostly one category of people who voted they need only Volvos. To meet this most of the techie areas like ITPL, EC are given nearly 15+ buses.

We need to be more constructive by giving suggestions for improvement rather than complaining without workable solutions for the problem in the existing setup.

murali772's picture

homa - the answer?

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There are many examples of products which were only within the reach of the rich initially but which eventually became available to a wider range of people.

I would like to believe that better quality at lower prices can come about largely through effective competition. And, as for Maruti, it was initially started as a hobby shop for Sanjay Gandhi, during the emergency period. It was salvaged by the Japs who insisted on professionalising it before associating.

As to the why of criticising government service providers, the answer simply is that they invariably have a monopoly in their respective fields. And, when these are key infrastructure areas, like bus services, power supply etc, where their incapacity to deliver is affecting everyone's life, apart from the economy as a whole, does one still keep quiet, expecting the answers to come from the heavens?

Where there's no monopoly, like in telecom, airlines, banking, insurance, etc, the very fact that there's hardly any debate on PRAJA, as elsewhere, is clearly indicative of the difference that competition brings about.

And, as for government hospitals - I would never dare get admitted into one. If I am complaining about them, it's only in the interest of the aam aadmi's I come across in everyday life. As for the malpractices being indulged in by some of the private hospitals, what I have been suggesting is the establishment of a well constituted regulatory authority.

What a private operator can do special? Murali Sir has answered so many times but I'm not convinced.

I have repeatedly pointed out what competition in other sectors has achieved. The same can be achieved in bus services also. When big names like TATA's and Reliance have begun to enter power distribution, which again has its own 'social' component, why will they not enter bus transport services, which is quite the emerging growth sector. And, since we need these kinds of players badly, we need to do everything to facilitate their entry, of course, overseen by proper regulation.  

But, if one is content taking a defeatist approach, perhaps we can also look heavenwards, like our friends in KSRTC, Tumkur dvn.

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Answer maybe in innovative ideas

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I agree with you that privatization will usher in better services at competitive rates in many fields such as power, airlines, seaports, airports, telecom, insurance, banking, media, tolled roads, hotels, tourism, etc. & that government should get out of as many of these businesses & as fast as possible.

These fields make business sense to many investors & there are opportunities to generate profits easily without unduly stressing the poor & the needy. The slow pace of privatization in these areas is explained by the absence or lack of regulatory know how & the poor progress of reliance on private sector funding. You would agree that political problems with opposition from various quarters has also been a serious obstacle, since our so-called democratic structures have not matured sufficiently to overlook self interest/s of individual political parties for the common good.

You wouuld also agree that this country carries the burden of hundreds of millions of poor who depend on subsidies - this is a fact, though undesirable. Removal of subsidies is easier said than done as we have seen. In fact, political parties compete with one another for doling out freebies since it gets them votes.

As far as minimally priced or free essential services to assist the poor /needy are concerned (such as PDS, healthcare, free education, public transport, etc.), there isn't much money to be made & so, it languishes in government's hands with poor services at ration mandis, primary health care centers, government or aided schools, etc. Roping in the private sector will require some sort of cover for costs & to generate income/s. This is only possible with health insurance or such similar methods. If you lobby for such initiatives, I'm quite certain that you will have many prajas behind you, I for one.

Merely lobbying for private sector involvement in areas where regulatory mechanisms are poorly developed & are bereft of opportunities to generate sufficient profits will only bring in substandard operators as profit margins are bound to be meagre, if any, & besides, the situation might actually get worse than it is.

n's picture


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This may be getting a little off-topic but here are some thoughts.  First, specifically in the transportation sector, there does exist some experience in regulation - private buses have been operating long-distance routes for a while.

Second, quality regulatory know-how also exists (example TRAI, Direct Tax Code etc.) - all it needs is professionals thrown together, study on best practices world-wide and Indianization of the same. Not trivial, but not beyond professionals either. Also, regulations need to be continuosly fine-tuned on a fairly regular basis.

Private sector is usually self-correcting (especially if there are multiple players). Cross-subsidy is required - govt. can charge a fee on "normal" routes and pay back the private players themselves to ply non-profitable ones.

Probably the way to do it is to do it in phases or in pilot areas. Huge factor is POLITICAL will . Also (a little less) important is people's will - usually people adapt (especially to better service) as long as there is not high "negativity" in the very short-term (short public memory et al). Also, people do willingly pay for quality/better/assured services.

blrpraj's picture

The way ahead as I think..

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The way ahead as I think has been documented in this post -

I urge praja members to read the document attached in the post. comment guidelines

Posting Guidelines apply for comments as well. No foul language, hate mongering or personal attacks. If criticizing third person or an authority, you must be fact based, as constructive as possible, and use gentle words. Avoid going off-topic no matter how nice your comment is. Moderators reserve the right to either edit or simply delete comments that don't meet these guidelines. If you are nice enough to realize you violated the guidelines, please save Moderators some time by editing and fixing yourself. Thanks!

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