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Summer overtakes AC bus

File picture of chief minister Naveen Patnaik flagging off the air-conditioned bus service in Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar, March 20: Summer is here, but the promised air-conditioned city buses are yet to roll out though chief minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated the service on March 3.

Despite authorities claiming that the buses would start plying in a couple of weeks, residents have reasons to believe that the launch ceremony was a political gimmick and that the inauguration was done hurriedly to avoid violation of the model code of conduct that came into effect from March 5.

The chief minister had launched the service from the Master Canteen bus depot. Four air-conditioned buses had traversed the distance of a few hundred metres from the depot to the nearby roundabout.

Christened Red Line buses, the buses were expected to ply on the 16-km route between the airport and Nandankanan. However, at present, those are gathering dust in the depot even as sun is growing hotter by the day.

An inquiry with the regional transport office revealed that the authorities so far had not applied for registration and route permit for the four buses.

An official of the Dream Team Shahara, the private operator of the city bus service, said the state government would apply for registration and route permit while the private operator would provide the required money to the government.

The 40-seat buses are equipped with CCTV cameras to keep an eye on goons and ensure women passengers’ safety. Besides, the buses are equipped with the latest electronic features to facilitate safe driving.

The state government has bought a dozen of such buses. While four of them will run between the airport and Nandankanan, four each of the remaining eight would connect Puri and Cuttack with Bhubaneswar.

“The state government took all the credit for introducing the air-conditioned buses in the city, but no one cares whether the buses are running. The buses were hurriedly flagged off keeping an eye on the general elections,” said city resident Hemant Samal.

“The temperature of the city is hovering around the 40°C mark. This is the perfect time to travel in air-conditioned buses. The authorities must start the service immediately,” said corporate employee Amrita Parida.

At present, 125 non-air-conditioned buses plying on various routes in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri.

However, an official of Bhubaneswar Puri Transport Services Limited, which the government formed to manage the city bus service, said the March 3 event was only a ceremonial launch.

“The buses will shortly start plying in the city,” said chairman of the transport services Anant Narayan Jena, who is also the city’s mayor.

ELUSIVE COOL RIDE

• Air-conditioned city bus service flagged off on March 3
• In the first phase, four AC buses were supposed to ply between airport and Nandankanan
• State government has already purchased 12 AC buses for Rs 65 lakh each
• Fare for AC bus service has been fixed at Rs 16 for first three kilometres
• For every additional kilometre Rs 2 will be added