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Cool buses to roll out on May 2

Bhubaneswar, April 28: Air-conditioned (AC) city buses, which were launched prior to the polls by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, are yet to roll out even though the city is reeling from intense heatwave conditions. However, an official said the wait would end on May 2.

Though AC buses remain unused, the state government has compounded the problem of commuters on April 25 when it ordered that non-AC buses would not ply between 11am and 3pm. The order came a day after the city temperature touched 42.8°C. The maximum temperature has remained over 40°C for the past 15 days.

The authorities managing the city bus service also confirmed that AC buses would start plying from May 2.

Bhubaneswar-Puri Transport Services Limited (BPTSL), which manages the city bus service, received the 12 AC buses last November. But they were parked inside a depot near Baramunda bus terminus till March 3 when the service was inaugurated. Today, BPTSL officials convened a meeting where it was decided that the buses would ply from May 2.

“When the buses are available here with the operator, the delay in launching the service is really a serious matter and it shows the authorities’ lack of concern for the public,” said IT professional Bobby Parida.

The AC buses are yet to join the fleet as the operators were having trouble getting trained drivers .

With Met officials in Bhubaneswar predicting that the highest day temperature may reach 43°C on May 1 and the hot spell likely to continue till May 3, the commuters urgently want the cool vehicles to be pressed into service.

BPTSL chief executive officer (CEO) Sanjib Kumar Mishra said in the first phase, four air-conditioned buses would start plying on the 16km Airport-Nandankanan route. After a week, four more buses will start plying between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. Thereafter, the remaining four will be introduced on the Bhubaneswar-Puri route.

The 40-seater buses are equipped with closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to keep an eye on goons and ensure safety of women. Besides, the buses are equipped with the latest electronic features to facilitate safe driving.

Mishra said: “Getting trained and smart drivers for the buses was a problem. As the buses were fitted with CCTV and the driving console includes sophisticated switching system, many drivers were reluctant to go for the training. Finally we got six people and they were trained.”

He added that all the city buses had been complying with government orders and they were keeping water, oral rehydration solution powder and first-aid facilities in the buses.

Odisha State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC), which had purchased 12 AC buses last year, converted them to non-AC ones a few weeks ago citing poor occupancy rates and huge loss. This has baffled passengers who used to travel by this government-run bus service. However the authorities said there was no plan to run these AC buses again.

“Our buses are also complying with the government instructions on precautionary measures because of the heat wave,” said Prasanna Sarangi, general manager (administration), OSRTC.

Special Relief Commission officials said they had received reports of 17 sun-stroke related deaths.