Blueline buses get brief lease of life (Second Lead)

January 31st, 2011 - 11:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Delhi’s privately owned Blueline buses whose last batch was supposed to go off the capital’s roads Tuesday, will now continue their journey for a little longer with the Delhi High Court directing the government to allow the plying of vehicles with valid permits.The division bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Suresh Kait pulled up the Delhi government’s transport department for publishing a notification Jan 28, with the aim of phasing out all the remaining buses from capital road by Jan 31.

The court permitted the operators to run their buses till the pronouncement of final judgment - on the bus owners’ plea - which was reserved Jan 20. The petitioners own the last of the nearly 2,500 Blueline buses which have been phased out in batches since last year.

The government is arguing that the Blueline buses must be phased out from the national capital as they are a threat to the commuters. The buses have been dubbed “killer buses” because of their reckless drivers.

According to government statistics, 182 people lost their lives in accidents involving Blueline buses in 2005, while the number of people killed by these buses in 2006 was 163. A total of 108 people died in 2008. In 2009, 115 people were killed in accidents involving these buses.

Taking suo motu cognizance over repeated road accidents involving Blueline buses in October 2007, the court had directed the city government to phase them out and replace them with low-floor buses. At that time, there were 2,525 Blueline buses plying on the roads of Delhi.

Last month, 823 Blueline buses were phased out, mostly from south Delhi and Jan 31 was set as the last day for the last batch in the entire fleet.

In an earlier affidavit, the Delhi government informed the court that around 850 Blueline buses have valid permits, out of which 481 have valid permits till July 31, 2011. The remaining 369 bus permits expire by Feb 5.

The court’s pronouncement Monday offered relief to anxious bus operators. “Not all the Blueline buses will go off the roads as per the directions of the high court. The buses which have valid permits will ply from tomorrow,” Graduate Bus Operator Association’s T.R. Khera told IANS.

The court permitted the operators to run their buses till the final judgment, reserved by it Jan 20.

The Blueline buses were introduced in Delhi in 1992, ending not only the long-time monopoly of the state-owned Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), but also gaining an upper hand over the state-run service in terms of financial matters.

Before the high court gave a new lease of life to the Blueline buses Monday, Transport Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely told IANS earlier in the day that the government had no intention to extend the deadline for complete phase-out of Blueline buses.

“Today (Monday) will be the last day for Blueline buses. They will not ply on Delhi roads from tomorrow (Tuesday),” the minister said.

He said that 44 cluster buses will ply on the south Delhi routes by the end of the first week of February. The entire fleet of 4,400 buses would start operating by the end of this year.

“The new cluster buses are just to ease the public transport system. We want public to switch over from there own vehicle to cluster buses. Altogether 4,400 new cluster buses are expected to ply in Delhi by end of this year,” Lovely said.

Transport Commissioner Rajani Kant Verma said people would not feel the absence of the Blueline buses. “As of now 6,000 DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) buses are on the roads and that is more than sufficient.”

Apart from the DTC buses, the Delhi government wants to replace the Blueline buses with the new fleet of cluster buses equipped with facilities including GPS, temperature reader and clocks, electronic ticketing machines and passenger information system.

The Delhi transport department last year had divided nearly 650 bus routes in the city into 17 clusters.

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