In a first, about 3760 Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses have been officially declared ‘overage’, reported Hindustan Times (HT). This is the first time when an entire fleet of buses has been dubbed as ‘overage’ since the inception of DTC in 1971. The DTC falls under the Government of NCT, Delhi ruled by Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal.
HT reported that 99% of DTC buses have surpassed the technical limit for low-floor CNG buses. It must be mentioned that a bus is deemed as ‘overage’ when it remains in operation for more than 8 years. As per Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), a low-floor CNG bus can run for a maximum of 12 years or 7.5 lac km (whichever comes later). The situation is so alarming that none of the 3760 buses are 6-8 years old.
HT reported that the use of ‘overage buses’ have led to low productivity. The average number of daily trips has reduced from 33,497 trips (2015- 2016) to 30,000 now. Given that DTC is only allowed to operate low-floor CNG buses by the Supreme Court, the number of breakdowns have increased drastically. Such buses are prone to breakdowns due to poor condition of roads and flooded stretches.
DTC running overage buses, maintaining fleet far lower than required
According to Hindustan Times, only 32 buses are 8-10 years old while a whopping 3072 buses are 10-12 years old. More than 656 buses, plying on the roads of Delhi, are older than the maximum operational limit of 12 years. DTC is mandated to maintain a fleet of 5,500 buses but the current strength of 3760 buses is far lower than the approved number. To add salt to the wound, the Delhi government had submitted an affidavit before the Delhi High Court in 2018 and claimed that the city needs a whopping 11,000 buses.
Even if private cluster buses were to be added to the existing fleet, the total strength comes to around 6750 (far lower than the required 11000 buses). HT reported that the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) was able to approve tender for new buses in 2008 for the last time. Between 2013 and 2019, it floated 5 tenders but none could be finalised due to stringent Annual maintenance contracts (AMCs). As such, getting a successful tender for new buses has been a major challenge for DTC. Given that the entire fleet of DTC buses have now become ‘overage’, they are ideally supposed to be scrapped.
Operating overage buses have led to high maintenace costs, lower productivity
Due to no procurement of new buses, the Delhi Transport Corporation has been operating ‘overage’ buses and risking lives. The number of scrapped buses has been negligible. Only 2 buses were scrapped between 2020-2021 and none in the current financial year. About 80 buses were withdrawn between 2019-2020 while 2209 vehicles were withdrawn between 2011-2017 at an average of 368 buses/ year. Nevertheless, the maintenance cost of running old buses is extremely high.
While speaking about the matter, DTC Managing Director Vijay Bhaduri told HT that they need to add new buses to DTC’s fleet because the expenditure on maintaining these old buses is also increasing. “Even as we are running overaged buses, we cannot compromise on safety and have to keep the buses in their best possible condition, which is an expensive affair,” he said. He added that the State Transport Authority (STA) has now allowed to use the overage buses upto 15 years (almost double of the prescribed operational limit). He claimed that it has given DTC a 2-3 years window to replace the entire fleet of buses.
Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot conceded, “Yes, it is true, and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has also expressed concern as our state-run buses are the lifeline of Delhi’s public transport. Our DTC and cluster buses together carry at least one million passengers more than the Delhi Metro every day. So, we planned a revival of the DTC by pumping in 1,300 new buses in the next seven months,” he said.
L-G constituted committee asks DTC to scrap ₹3,412 crore AMC for new buses
On July 10, a three-member committee constituted by the Lt Governor of Delhi directed the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) to scrap the Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) awarded for low-floor buses due to ‘procedural lapses’. The committee was constituted by Lt. Governor Anil Baijal on June 16 to probe the alleged scam in the procurement and AMCs of the new fleet of buses. The DTC had floated separate tenders for the purchase and AMC for the buses.
Although the initial plan was to award a ₹4265 crore contract for AMC for 1250 buses, the number was reduced to 1000 buses. The maintenance contract of ₹3412 crores was kept for 1000 buses for a 12-year period. However, the committee found that the tender conditions ensured that there were not many bidders for the AMC contract.
The committee noted, “While separate bids for purchase and AMC can be justified with a view to get greater competition and a larger number of bids, the efforts made to get more bids is not apparent.” In its report, the committee said that the tender for AMC was ‘too restrictive’ and the rates were ‘far higher’ than the previous contracts floated by the Delhi Transport Corporation. Due to the restrictive nature of the eligibility criteria for AMC, the objective behind splitting the tender failed. The report added, “The process of discounting for a longer duration contract was not undertaken and only a total cost evaluation was done.”