Bus Systems in India

Revamping city bus system

Buses are the most popular and convenient mode of transportation in urban cities. More than 1.6 million buses are registered in India, and the public bus sector operates 170,000 buses carrying roughly 70 million people per day. However, bus transportation has not been able to cater to the growing travel demand. There are only 30,000 buses serving the city areas, out of which approximately 3,500 buses are operated under a public-private partnership agreement. All bus operators are incurring huge losses and do not have funds for the capital investment needed to procure new vehicles and technology. The average age of the fleet ranges from two years to 11.8 years for state bus transport undertakings.

The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) carries out an annual survey of household expenditure on service and durable goods in India. As per the details of expenditure on transport, buses are the most preferred mode of transport in both rural and urban India, followed by auto rickshaws.

The federal government launched National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM) in 2009 and embarked upon a massive programme of revitalising urban areas by allocating national funds to speed up the creation of much-needed infrastructure. The programme was split in two phases and was concluded in 2015. Approximately 222km of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems are operational and the remaining 282km are under construction. MoUD has provided financial assistance to 11 cities for the construction of 504km Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).

According to estimates from ICRA Limited (2016), 100 of the largest Indian cities require approximately $15.4 billion to procure 150,000 new buses and upgrade ancillary transport infrastructure. It will be difficult for state governments or local bodies to invest such a large sum without further federal government support.

In order to generate more investment in the sector, the federal government has proposed to open the public bus sector to private companies. This will allow buses to operate on nationalised routes. According to the Road Transport Ministry, the opening of the sector will increase the passenger ridership to 120-150 million per day.