PMPML on a suicidal path

Recent reports in the newspapers show that PMPML (Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited) the only functional public transport undertaking in Pune is fast heading towards self-destruction.

The indicators have been clear from the time the transport authority began announcing impractical schemes, such as running Ola/Uber style cabs, extending electric buses to Sinhagad Fort and stretching their routes well beyond the city limits – such as Saswad and even Lonavala. Of course, in none of these ventures did PMPML think it necessary to carry out proper studies or surveys. Those familiar with working of the bus company knew that much like the hurriedly inaugurated buses for “women only” and buses to the Pune airport these too will be failures. New initiatives need to be carefully planned taking into account the possible pitfalls. But PMPML has never taken this aspect with the seriousness it deserves.

During the past few months not only have such half-baked ideas failed – and continued to give bus based public transport a bad name but also cemented it as a “loss making” venture deserving no priority or nurturing – even though PMPML is the backbone of Public Transport in the city with over 10 lakh passenger trips. The much-hyped Metro Rail with an investment of Rs. 11,522 crores for the first two corridors (PCMC to Swar Gate/Katraj and Vanaz to Ramwadi) gets royal treatment with no questions asked although its DPR promises ridership of mere 7.5 lakhs per day when the corridors are up and running by 2031 or later. Whether it is the selection of routes, inconvenience to other modes like buses, cycles or walking, damage to the environment from features like pillars in the riverbed or damage to the skyline, the Metro is given a free hand.

This would have been an ideal time for PMPML to get its act together and show how efficiently it can meet the mobility needs of the city. Unfortunately, the bus company seems to be doing its best to reach new depths of inefficiency and performance. Buses are breaking down during journeys causing great inconvenience to passengers. Cancellation of many routes will further add to their misery. Finally, there is talk of increasing privatization, something that has not worked well in the past due to over dependence on private bus contractors. The loss-making routes were retained by PMPML and profitable ones gifted to the contractors. The justification for most of these changes is being driven by the logic that buses cause congestion and to avoid this it is necessary to put small size buses on congested roads. This is the most ludicrous logic of all.

Who causes congestion?

It doesn’t take much intelligence to understand that a bus carrying 40 persons contributes negligible amount to road congestion when compared to a car with 1 or 2 persons. This has also been stressed by the National Urban Transport Policy thatsays “count the number of travellers not vehicles” to understand the primary cause for congestion.

The changes proposed by PMPML will lead to disaster for the public transport undertaking and its users alike, who will have to shell out much more for their journeys. This is such a simple thing to understand that one wonders if curtailing the number of buses and allowing more space for private vehicles is a deliberate ploy to sink the public transport deeper in a mess. If this lunacy is not abandoned, we may as well forget about sensible mobility solutions for our city.

 

Sujit Patwardhan

Trustee, Parisar

31 July 2022

 

 

 

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