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AC bus fleet set to expand

The transport department plans to introduce more than 150 air-conditioned buses in the city by July, with the first lot of 41 hitting the streets by the end of this month.

By the end of June, 22 more such buses will be added to the fleet. “All 63 AC buses to be rolled out in the first two phases are manufactured by Volvo. Ninety more low-floor and semi-low floor AC buses, some of them manufactured by other companies, too, will join the fleet in July,” said a transport department official.

The existing AC bus fleet in the city is 92 strong. Sixty of them are Volvos.

“The state government will be introducing the air-conditioned buses from May. Over a period of six months, the government will deploy more than 230 AC buses in Calcutta,” transport minister Madan Mitra said on Monday.

The buses, priced around Rs 1.1 crore each, will ply along old routes as well as a few new ones within the city and its adjoining areas. In keeping with the demand, the transport department has drawn up some new routes for the AC buses — such as Nabanna-New Town, Parnasree-New Town, Garia-Airport and Golf Green-Dakshineswar.

An AC bus in Calcutta charges between Rs 15 and Rs 75 for a ride, while the fares for non-AC buses vary between Rs 5 and Rs 9 (see chart).

Insiders in the transport department said the decision to introduce more AC buses follows a realisation that a large section of urban commuters is willing to pay higher fares for cool comfort on the road.

For a department depending heavily on subsidy, the move could generate handsome revenue.

“The Calcutta State Transport Corporation has withdrawn more than 100 dilapidated buses from a number of routes. The buses have been sold as scrap. The new buses will be used to bridge the gap,” the transport department official said.

Private operators of Volvo buses said the government’s move was a step in the right direction towards tapping the potential demand.

“Sixty Volvo buses operate in the city and on the fringes and there is a huge demand for more. Passengers who spend Rs 50 on shuttle cabs would be more than willing to spend Rs 70 for a ride from the airport to Tollygunge,” said Dhanonjoy Singh, the managing director of Kaushik Logistics, one of the Volvo operators.

The 150-plus AC buses that will start hitting the roads from May-end will be part of the 632 buses the state government will part-fund under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

In May 2013, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had introduced three Volvo and 17 Tata Marco Polo AC buses for the city’s tech hub, Sector V and New Town.

The service connected Unitech in New Town Action Area III with four destinations — Sealdah, Ultadanga, Howrah and Joka.

cool comfort

  • Present AC fleet: 92 buses
  • Current Volvo strength: 60
  • Number of Volvos to be added by May: 41
  • Number of AC buses to be added by July: About 150
  • Total AC buses to be introduced in Calcutta in another six months: 234
  • AC bus fare: Between Rs 15-Rs 75
  • New routes for AC buses: 7