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Bus Breakdowns Plaguing BMTC

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BusPublic Transport

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.


sanjayv's picture

Sorry for the formatting

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I had the above post as four paragraphs.  For some reason, it seems to be getting saved as a one paragraph glob! Happy Diwali.

Update: Went in and formatted the html.  Now it is fixed.  Why did I have to do all that?

srinidhi's picture

tow the stalled buses

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Yes as you mention BMTC busses frequently break down, causing lot of issues for not just the commuters in the bus but also to the other traffic on the road..mysore road faces very bad traiifc jams because of stalled busses..its no different on other roads..

As I have been mentionning manytimes on Praja..we will need tow trucks which can move these vehicles off the road so that it can clear the traffic jam at the earliest..

Unfortunately none among the authorities feel its important to have tow trucks and let the public suffer because of their ignorance!! They do this probably because they think tow trucks are a liability..infact they are not..they can be a revenue earner in a city which has so many vehicles..

All we need is tow trucks for all the four corners in blr..

Btw not sure who gives FC for BMTC busses which are old..think its a racket!

silkboard's picture

excellent observation, is on the rise

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Well written Sanjay. Beginning around late last year, I too noticed that instances of Bus break down has been on the rise. Before July/Aug last year, I would see a broken down bus not more than 2 times a month (going by recollection). From then, to now, once or twice a week has been the norm. And my observation is coming from the same two routes - Whitefield to HAL, Whitefield to J P Nagar.

There must be a reason - reducing spend on Maintenance? Decision to keep old Buses longer because of equipment shortage? Or increase in good old corruption at depots?

Should probably ask BMTC for data. Or it may even be there in their annual reports. Vinay Sreenivasa recently sent over their annual reports, let me upload those somewhere here.

silkboard's picture

sanjay, numbers from BMTC website itself

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There are some numbers on the BMTC website itself ( Going by the numbers mentioned, looks like July 2010 means Jan-to-July of year 2010, likewise for July 2011.

12. Number of breakdowns

  • 2010-2011: only 1865 for the full year period (fiscal, I think March to March)
  • Jan-July 2010: 624
  • Jan-July 2011: 730

Sanjay, Even if you double 730, 1460 is far off from the statistical observation based number - 11680. Could it be that their definition of breakdown is different? Or our observations are wrong?

As per BMTC itself, breakdown rate has not increases

13. Number of breakdowns per 10000 km

  • 2010-2011: 0.04
  • Jan-July 2010: 0.04
  • Jan-July 2011: 0.05

So, 2010 to 2011, there has only been a slight increase in breakdown rates.

However, notice another number from BMTC: No of vehicles scrapped.

4. Vehicles scrapped

  • 2010-2011: 664
  • Jan-July 2010: 8
  • Jan-July 2011: 0

So they are probably doing better with older equipment? Keeping on older buses for longer period? Or maintaining them better to increase their "age"?



idontspam's picture

Breakdown rates

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Here is a report on Breakdowns from last year. Per that article "A BMTC official from the KBS Area said the number can be as high as 20 in a single day for buses departing from his station. "

1865 breakdowns in a 6000 bus fleet is 31% of the fleet. Now this SMRT report around the same period from singapore claims a 1.5% breakdown rate per month which translates to 18% annualized. Which is half of BMTC number.

Correction: The metric in the report for SBS & SMRT only says the bus franchisee has kept up the SLA of 1.5% per month. It does not indicate the actual figures which may be far less than 18% per annum.

sanjayv's picture

Something is not adding up

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SB, thanks for pointing out the data on BMTC website itself.  Somehow, the multiple reports are not making sense.  If you look at the BMTC website, the figures are are all trending really well!

Fleet utilization which was at 94% had dipped, but has picked back up to 94%.  Number of breakdowns peaked in 2007-08 and has steadily dropped. It seems to make sense because there were 3810 vehicles held at the beginning of 2006-07 (taking the reported number assumed to be at end of 06-07 and accounting for vehicles added and scrapped. Over the next 4 years, 38% of the fleet was scrapped and another 3584 buses added.  So the fleet became dramatically younger.

Since 2010-11 however, the new bus addition has dropped dramatically and so has scrapping.  Since a vehicle probably runs close to 100000 km per year, the life of a bus prior to major overhaul is only some 1-2 years.  So now given the lack of any addition or scrapping the last year and a half, we should start seeing serious impact by about now, especially if maintenance is not being done in a timely fashion.

What surprises me is the fact that the mid day report referred by IDS dated Nov 2010 quotes 12-20 breakdowns a day.  Even with the lower number, that is 4380 breakdowns a year.  Add to that our anectodal observations (I saw one broken down bus today as well), I suspect some data massaging is going on.  It will be interesting to know... what is a breakdown?

PS:  My other subjective observation is that these breakdowns seem to be higher on hotter days... pointing to a lubrication, oil change, quality of lubricant issue...  But I could be wrong. 


ss87's picture

Once the JNNURM funs stopped

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Once the JNNURM funs stopped in 2010 or so BMTC didnt procure any buses-the reason said behind the same was there was some tiff between Ashok Leyland/Tata with BMTC regarding levy of penalty and hence they didnt participate in the auction conducted that year-after some days it was reported in the news papers that the penalty has been waived off-but buses didnt enter the city. Then later it was reported that BMTC wanted only BS IV buses but Tata and Ashley hadnt yet equipped themselves so its in waiting


These problems persisiting BMTC shifted its plans of scrapping down the buses on completion of 8 lakh kilometers to 12 lakh kilometers so that they dont face shortage of buses-this has lead to situation of mor eold buses seen running in the city 


Right from july this month there has been continous proposals of 800 buses within this year end-however no bus came and once it was reported again that BMTC planning to take over buses from KSRTC which have completed about 5 lakhs kms-was a complete shock considering that BMTC was already faltering with the old buses and introduction of old buses again will onyl mean more tougher travel


A relief came about 2 days back when 25 buses have been inducted into the fleet along with volvo and a Ashley AC bus(Again one more trial possibly)-so if they scrap up th eoldies in due course with more advent think the problem of breakdowns can be reduced to some extent again 

murali772's picture

travails of another KSRTC

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Referring to low-floor non-AC buses frequently encountering problems with their mechanical parts and electronic components, an RTC official said that they also have problems with the clutch. “We have sought better after-sales service from the manufacturer since we now have to pull out many buses from service for days together.”

Mr. Luke said that steps have been taken to reduce the turnaround time for all low-floor buses. “There are fewer buses currently in workshops.” On complaints that many low-floor buses are not washed properly, he said that the RTC is trying to find a firm which can do a neater job.

For the full story in The Hindu, click here

Many similarities - and, the scenario will not be any better with any of the other state RTC's either, I guess. Can that ever change? Well, not without effective competition, if you ask me.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

begging for reforms

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Once the JNNURM funs stopped in 2010 or so BMTC didnt procure any buses-the reason said behind the same was there was some tiff between Ashok Leyland/Tata with BMTC regarding levy of penalty and hence they didnt participate in the auction conducted that year-after some days it was reported in the news papers that the penalty has been waived off-but buses didnt enter the city. Then later it was reported that BMTC wanted only BS IV buses but Tata and Ashley hadnt yet equipped themselves so its in waiting.

The bus manufacturing industry, being largely dependent on SRTC's and their unprofessional ways, the advancements in the sector have always remained stunted. In such scenario, VOLVO's entry was indeed a bold move. But, they too were able to sustain their operations, initially at least, largely on the basis of patronage from the private players, like VRL, KPN, etc, even though their operations are not totally legal.

The sector is begging for proper policy reforms which will then see it transform to world class, compared to the cattle class status it is relegated to today. And, considering that it is the most cost effective and environment friendly means of mobility, the need is all the more dire.

Muralidhar Rao
sanjayv's picture

Ageing BMTC fleet

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There was a recent article in the Hindu which again clearly shows the effect of an aging BMTC fleet and consequent increase in breakdowns and trip cancellations. Currently, the average age of buses is 5 lakh kilometers as opposed to 3 lakh kilometers in 2009.  This means that an average BMTC bus has run 5 lakh kilometers and there are probably buses that have run well more than that.

My empirical observations of frequent breakdowns and traffic going out of order continues.  This is also reflected in the increasing number of "trip cancellations" in the statistics.  One also wonders how accurate these reported numbers are...


More here.

murali772's picture

one-eyed man as king in the land of the blind

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BMTC has six vehicles capable of fixing minor mechanical faults whenever the buses have stopped and caused traffic jams.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

The question is about their availability. Perhaps, they too are poorly maintained.

In comparison with other government-run monopolies, perhaps BMTC can be seen as the one-eyed king in the land of the blind. But, if we have to have good services, plainly the monopoly has to go, with entry of good private players being facilitated - check this.

Muralidhar Rao
sridharraman's picture

Laughable premise in the ToI story

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"Most traffic jams in the city are a result of BMTC buses breaking down on narrow roads or atop flyovers or at traffic islands." - This is what the story starts out with.  What a very convenient and elitist attitude.

I wonder why the article didn't go on to lavish praises on all car users for avoiding the bus and doing great service in "not causing" traffic jams.

murali772's picture

going from bad to worse

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A Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) bus ran amok on Kumaraswamy Layout Road, hitting several vehicles and injuring nine people, including two children, who were travelling in an autorickshaw. - - - According to one of the passersby, the bus driver started shouting “brake fail” after ramming into two autos in front of Apollo Pharmacy.

For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here.

And, the following are the excerpts from a related report, alsoin the New Indian Exprss (for te full ext, click here)

A highly placed source cited paucity of funds for poor maintenance of buses. The corporation suffered losses in both 2013-14 and 2014-15. Another source said many spare parts were not available.

Unsurprisingly, regular commuters are not a happy lot. “The non-AC buses are in a deplorable condition, with torn seats and broken hand rests. In many buses, the audio announcement system also does not work,” commuter Ratna B S said.

All quite self-explanatory; nothing more need be said, other than that it's more than high time that the BMTC/ KSRTC monopoly is dismantled - check here.

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanth's picture

Let us Privatise Maintenance First

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BMTC maintenance has to be done in the company service stations such as Volvo, Ashok Leyland or Tata. If they maintain on their own, this is the fate.

xs400's picture

Company Workshop? - Think VW emissions

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Your premise is that under the banner of Volvo, AL, or Tata, human beings suddenly become honest and even competent. All you'll get is BIG bills for replacement of everything they can collude with BMTC to declare defective. [Just my experience with company service stations]

Vasanth's picture

VW is an exception

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VW emissions are an exception. If you look at Indian automobiles, lot many vehicles would be emitting more than what VW  exception vehicles are emmitting.

Company workshops are way to go for advanced vehicles keeping in mind safety of passengers as well as life of the vehicle. There are exceptions for everything, but we have to go with majority.

I have seen Volvo City Buses  in Mysore running faultlessly even with 5-10 years of service many climbing Chamundi hills daily being serviced by Volvo running with minor problems. On the other hand we see so many breakdowns in BMTC due to BMTC servicing.

xs400's picture

Human factor

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I am not disagreeing with you. All I am saying is we need to evaluate each carefully and weigh the pros and cons. Yes, company workshops will likely have the best and latest knowhow to maintain their high tech vehicles (at least compared to other workshops - but even this may or may not be true).

Finally, it all boils down to one thing - are the human beings involved honest and sincere? This according to me is KEY in all the discussions here on Praja.

Because if both organizations were trustworthy, why not do routine maintenance at BMTC and go to Volvo for complicated problems?

murali772's picture

question of accountability

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It's just a matter of accountability. If a Volvo mechanic doesn't perform his task properly, he'll be sacked; whereas, whatever you do in a BMTC/ KSRTC, or most govt set-ups, there's the union to protect you. Government jobs, in general, have led to a total degeneration of the work culture. Read here, for more on that.

And, when the markets expand, costs drop. Unfortunately, because of the monopoly of the government in the public bus transport services sector, this has not happened. Besides, when dealing with the government, vendors invariably jack up charges to provide for 'hidden' costs.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

constant struggle

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The over-aged BMTC buses servicing shorter city routes seem to be the only constant in the world's most dynamic city. - - - Protruding metal rods, broken lights, dangling wires, loose poles and missing handles, doors that refuse to shut and window panes that refuse to move are what you find in these ageing city buses.

BMTC's chief traffic manager (operation) K R Viswanath said, "Infrastructural problems have delayed procurement of new buses. Unlike private sector, government organizations need approval from a host of agencies."

- - - Shortage of bus mechanics is another major challenge that BMTC is facing. "The limited number of mechanics we have are constantly shifted to depots where buses needs repair."

For the full text (emphasis added by me) of the report in the ToI, click here.

All in all, a constant struggle, neither benefitting the commuter, the organisation, the state or anyone, except of course the members of the mafia confederation. If opened out to the private sector, everything will reverse, and solve many other inter-linked problems too.

But, the challenge arises out of the mafia confederation members being largely within the government itself.

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