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Low-floor vehicles for capital arteries

Thirty low floor buses — both air-conditioned and non-AC — are expected to hit the capital’s roads early next year to boost the ailing public transport system in Ranchi but no one appears to be sure how the service will run given the dismal performance of the existing city bus fleet.

If Ranchi Municipality Corporation (RMC) officials are to be believed, tenders will soon be floated to procure the vehicles. “Tenders will be floated in another week or 10 days as the drafting process has been done,” the civic body’s public relations officer Naresh Kumar Sinha said, adding that Rs 14 crore had been earmarked for the buses.

The buses would be procured under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). “About 70 buses were purchased earlier and we have Rs 14 crore left. As 100 buses had to be bought, we decided to introduce low floor buses,” added Sinha.

Low floor buses were one of the key recommendations made by an expert committee earlier this year after the high court ordered streamlining of the transport system and curbing pollution levels in and around the city.

Officials in the nine member expert committee included transport secretary K.K. Khandelwal, the then Ranchi DC K.K. Soan, former RMC CEO V.K. Choubey, erstwhile traffic SP R.K. Prasad and officials from the regional transport authority.

The committee suggested that illegal and aged polluting autos be removed from the city and the transport department along with regional transport authority and urban development department find a way to invite private bus operators to run low-floor city buses to ease the pressure.

Thereafter, the high court put its stamp of approval and ordered a ban on illegal autos from July 31. Around 25,000 ageing and smoke emitting vehicles were identified for banning, including 5,700 auto-rickshaws.

The district administration initiated efforts to implement the ban, however, the campaign fizzled out soon enough.

RMC officials maintained that the concept of public transport would improve once the low floor buses arrived. “It offers travel comfort and is a great success in metros. People would automatically prefer buses over autos then,” remarked a senior official.

But no one seemed to know who would run the buses. The existing city buses remain off the roads most of the times because of myriad issues ranging from non-payment of staff to poor condition of buses.

Jharkhand State Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) which is running the city buses has on numerous occasions expressed its inability to operate the service. “We only hope that the responsibility of new buses too don’t come on us. It is RMC’s job but ever since the bus service was launched they have been shirking responsibility,” said a senior JTDC functionary.

Sinha, however, said RMC would happily run the buses if the government so desired.