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Cool rides roll out at last

Bhubaneswar, May 2: The much-awaited air-conditioned city bus service kicked off today.

Commuters were quite happy with the start of the service considering the high temperature the city has been experiencing in recent times. The city has been experiencing heat wave conditions with the mercury hovering around the 40°C mark.

While four buses started plying between airport and Nandankanan today, the remaining eight air-conditioned buses will start running on the Bhubaneswar-Puri and Bhubaneswar-Cuttack routes from May 7.

The government-owned and private agency operated city bus service drew flak from various quarters recently because the authorities were not operating the buses despite heatwave conditions continuing for over a month.

The bus operator was criticised more because though the buses were flagged off hurriedly on March 3 by the chief minister before the model code of conduct for the elections came into force but the new buses remained off roads since then.

On April 29, Bhubaneswar-Puri Transport Services Limited, the government agency managing the service, decided to run these buses from May 2.

An official said the buses would ply from Airport to Nandankanan and vice-versa via KIIT University and Acharya Vihar. During its journey from Nandankanan to airport, the bus would touch Master Canteen Square.

Nishikant Jena, chairman of Dream Team Shahara, the private operator of the city bus service, said 10 non-AC buses had been running on the Nandankanan- airport route and now that the air-conditioned buses were running, their timings would be changed.

The AC buses would run every 30 minutes between 7.30am and 9pm.

“The non-AC buses pick passengers from 32 stops on this route, these comfortable buses will stop at just 15 places. The buses will halt for a maximum of two minutes at every stop,” said Mishra.

These buses have been fitted with closed-circuit television cameras to keep vigil on errant staff and passengers with women’s security being the top concern. These buses have been specially designed keeping physically challenged people in mind.

“However, there would not be any concessions for any category of passengers, including the handicapped or blind persons,” said an official.

The fares of these AC buses are much higher than the non-AC buses.

Passengers on these cool buses have to pay Rs 16 for the first 3km and Rs 2 for every kilometre thereafter.

Rohit Sethi, a resident of Prasanti Vihar in Patia, said he had been waiting for this bus service to start. “It was getting arduous to travel in other public transports during the peak hours in the intense heat,” said Sethi.