Few takers for PMPML’s air-conditioned buses

Exorbitant ticket prices keep commuters away with the contractor losing Rs 15 lakh per month

Most Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) buses are packed to capacity with passengers. However, there is one route that has few passengers, which is the Kothrud to Airport route. PMPML has assigned seven buses for this route which are always empty. Therefore, this special air-conditioned bus service for the airport, introduced by the PMPML, is incurring losses, as commuters have shown no interest in this fully automatic bus service.

PMPML launched the air-conditioned bus service on September 1, 2015 for two routes. Geo Direct was given the contract to run this bus service. The airport bus service operates on two routes, viz, the Airport to Hinjawadi, and Airport to Kothrud routes. At present, the PMPML runs eight airport buses, five from Hinjawadi and three from Kothrud. While the latter has evoked a lukewarm response, the buses running from Hinjawadi, used by the IT employees, see more than 70 per cent occupancy.

The much publicised bus service from Kothrud and Hinjawadi to Airport did not attract passengers because of its high fares. The ticket fare from Kothrud to airport is Rs 120 and Rs 180 for Hinjawadi to Airport per passenger. Another reason for poor passenger response was that the buses used to take passengers in between the two stops. Now the number of trips has dropped from eight to two per day on the Kothrud route. Though the buses from Hinjawadi are packed, the return trips are almost empty.

PMPML Public Relation Officer Subhash Gaikwad said that PMPML has given Geo Direct the contract to run the bus service. “The contractor is giving us royalty price every day. We have fixed the amount at Rs six per day. As per the contract they have to pay us. We are not in a loss,” he said.

Senior Manager, Operation and Planning, Prem Kale said, “As per the contract, we are paying a heavy amount to PMPML. We are losing Rs 15 lakh per month. We are maintaining the buses, paying salary to conductor and driver and paying parking charge to airport. We have done so many things to promote the bus. But passengers are not attracted. In March we slashed the ticket price by 50 per cent. We are facing huge loss from the Kothrud route. We are trying to make up from Hinjawadi route, but it is not enough. We talked to IT companies and we had done surveys also, but passengers still show no interest,” he said.

Senior Manager, Business Development, Vivek Sorot said, “The service is new for Pune. Traffic congestion is a big issue in the city. Initially the halt time was half an hour at airport. But, considering the rush, we have now increased it to one hour. But we are still facing crunch of passengers.”

PMPML expects these buses to be in demand because they connect the airport to areas that are far away from Lohegaon. Kothrud resident Akshay Natekar said, “Lohegaon is quite far from old areas like Kothrud and people have no option but to travel in their cars or cabs because most of them do not even know about this service. PMPML needs to publicise it and also increase frequency.”

Pune Pravasi Manch president Jugal Rathi said, “On behalf of the commuters, we have also demanded a revision of the PMPML airport bus fare. The transport body should also take other measures to improve the service. There is a need to publicise the service by displaying prominent boards at the airport entrance and exit gates, all departure and arrival terminals, with exact details of the airport bus terminus location and map, apart from prominently displaying helpline numbers and bus numbers at the terminals and main bus stops.”

Originally published on The Golden Sparrow