My 25 km one way daily commute for the past 10 months has meant covering a swathe of Bangalore's suburuban areas. A common observation during this time has been seeing 2-3 BMTC buses broken down every day. This includes buses across the spectrum. Ordinary buses ranging from old to the relatively new JNNURM ones, Janti Vahanas (trailer buses), Volvos, Marco Polos etc. I have even had the pleasure of traveling in BMTC buses which really did not have any business being out on the road. There was this one occassion where the bus I was in appeared to have one non-round wheel. It was traveling full tilt and as a passenger it felt as if road had unending speed bumps. Was that a safe trip? The other common sight is on the days I take the elevated expressway to eletronics city. It is very common to see one broken down bus every couple days. It is also common to see what I call non-aligned buses. The body of the bus will be so distorted that it will be pointed at an angle different from the direction of travel. Should such buses be on the road at all?
So here is my rough pseudo scientific computation using conservative estimates. Assuming my commuting trips as a "sampling" effort I was seeing 2 break downs during a period of 2 hours - my total commute time. I cover the south eastern section of the BMTC service area - so crudely call it 1/8th of the area. As a rough estimate, to translate my sampling time to the whole day, let us conservatively double the number - since my commute is close to the peak hours. So we are talking 32 breakdowns per day. For a year, that ends up being 11680 break downs - which means this is equivalent to buses in the BMTC fleet breaking down twice a year!
BMTC seems to attribute these breakdowns to not procuring news buses to follow its plan of scrapping 400 buses a year (see here). However, it seems that many of the relatively new buses are breaking down as well- from my observations as well as from anectodal evidence in the news - see here. The cause in all probability has also a lot to do with poor maintenance. In any organization, maintenance and spare parts are areas for (a) scrimping to save cost and/or (b) inflation and fictitious work a.k.a corrupt practices. These are however also leading to inconvenience to passengers, traffic jams on the road as well as risk to road safety (see here).
The BMTC appear to have a very diverse fleet - probably means a variety of sources to locate spare parts from, limited interchangeability and large inventory costs as well as training costs of service engineers. The roads and traffic in Bangalore are bound to strain any vehicle, not to mention the heavily used BMTC fleet. Maybe it is time for the corporation to look carefully at maintenance practices and look for solutions that can lead to a healthier, safer buses.