BKC gets a Gold Coin

Bandra Kurla Complex, known to most people as BKC, the new financial hub of Mumbai,and also the site of the Make in India Centre recently, has got a bonus Gold Coin in terms of transport.

Tata Starbus has bagged an order for its new Diesel-Electric Hybrid AC bus from the MMRDA. These buses will be operated by BEST as part of their fleet, thus complementing their existing AC fleet.

Tata Motors becomes the first Indian manufacturer to bag the single largest order for 25 Tata Starbus Diesel Electric Hybrid Bus from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). The route connects Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) to Sion, Bandra and Kurla railway stations supporting millions of commuters every day. This city bus is economically viable & eco-friendly - certified by ARAI.
Tata Motors bags order for 25 Tata Starbus Diesel Electric Hybrid Bus from the MMRDA. Image copyright Tata Motors.

As per a notification on MMRDA’s website, these buses will be owned by MMRDA, maintained by Tata Motors for a period of five years and operated by BEST. Further, they will operate in dedicated bus lanes within BKC, connecting the District to Bandra Railway Station, Kurla Railway Station and Sion Railway Station.

These buses are set to be a game changer. The reasons being:

Now coming to Kurla and Sion Stations.

Sion station is set to get a massive makeover. The road bridge connecting Dharavi /LBS Marg to Rani Laxmi Chowk that houses the entrance to the station is set to be demolished to make way for the Fifth and Sixth railway lines connecting Ghatkopar to CST. This means that the station entrance will be shifted, and is good news in the long run.

Kurla Station [West] is the proposed site for MMRDA for the Station Area Transit Improvement Scheme [SATIS], which will see an elevated platform for buses and autos, similar to the structure at Thane Station West.

The new buses will mostly be housed at BEST’s newest depot, the Kala Killa Depot [KK] which was earlier an empty plot adjacent to the Dharavi Depot where buses of the Kurla Depot were parked during its reconstruction. The depot became operational on 31st January 2016.

Another major project for BKC is a ropeway. After CIDCO proposed a ropeway between Vashi and Kopar Khairane and Vashi and Ghatkopar, the MMRDA has now proposed a new ropeway connecting Kurla and BKC. The ropeway has been considered on this route given the congestion and taking land availability as well.

Another update on this stretch is from the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited [MMRCL].

Amidst all controversy and outrage from Environmentalists and the National Green Tribunal [NGT], the latter of which has failed to do its duty and rakes up controversy needlessly, the MMRCL has silently been doing a good job in acquiring land for the underground Metro which will connect Colaba, Cuffee Parade, BKC Mumbai International Airport and SEEPZ.


With all these updates, the city’s newest Business District is all set to be given the premium connectivity it deserves.

BEST is going one level beyond with Hybrid buses for BKC Click To Tweet

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[Public Service Announcement] – Giving Way to an Ambulance

Hi all, this is a Public Service Announcement, or PSA that I had developed two years ago as an assignment. The concept is to give way to Ambulances in Traffic. Please do listen to it, and post your feedback in the Comments section. Thank you!

CREDITS

Copyright 2016, Srikanth Ramakrishnan and Deepak Kumar. If you would like to use this elsewhere, I’d request you to please share the link to this post. A short link to this page exists at: http://j.mp/AmbuPSA

Click here to leave feedback.

 

Premise: A lot of people lose their lives because an Ambulance is either unable to reach them on time, or reach the hospital on time. There are two causes for this:

  • Lack of ambulances on the road.
  • Traffic on the road.

The latter is the cause of a vast majority of such deaths as most people simply do not give way for an ambulance when it is on the road.

In many cases, if people are unable to get an Ambulance, they resort to getting into an Auto-Rickshaw, which by virtue of it’s three wheels, can navigate its way. In several places, an ‘Auto-ambulance’ has been set up to help move patients quickly.

Listen to this PSA to understand what could go wrong if Ambulances are stuck in Traffic Click To Tweet

 

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[Photos] Depots of Luxury

Some bus depots are lucky. They house various kinds of buses, old, new, fancy, premium, luxury, you name it.

In this post, I’m going to talk about luxury buses [Branded as such] of two specific depots: The Parel Depot which comes under the Mumbai division of MSRTC and Depot No. 4 of KSRTC’s Bangalore division. And no, Depot #4 here is not the same depot where Bus no 8954 was stationed.

MSRTC

Featuring the standard bus that almost all STUs in India have, the Volvo B7R, MSRTC successfully runs these buses on the Dadar-Pune, Thane-Swargate, Pune-Nashik, Mumbai-Aurangabad and Pune-Aurangabad routes, mostly as a non-stop service without a conductor. Branded as the Shivneri- a 17th century fort located in Junnar, Pune, where Chhatrapati Shivaji was born, it briefly made an appearance on the Kandivali-BKC route as the Shivneri Corporate. They were given a minor overhaul in 2015 with LED displays displaying the route up front.

MSRTC's Shivneri Volvo.
MSRTC’s Shivneri Volvo. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

In 2015 MSRTC started running trials of Scania’s Metrolink series. At that point, KSRTC had already completed trials of the twin-rear-axled Scania MetroLink and was in talks to procure them. MSRTC finally inducted several single-rear-axled buses into its fleet under the Shivneri brand. They are mostly seen on the Dadar East to Pune Station route.

MSRTC Scania Shivneri
MSRTC’s Shivneri Scania. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Now, when an STU has a Volvo B7R, natural progression is when it acquires a Volvo B9R. And thus, MSRTC brought out the Ashwamedh, named after the Ashvamedha horse sacrifice ritual of the Vedic times. If, it was indeed an Ashwamedh sacrifice, MSRTC would probably conquering territories under Ashwamedh routes from competition, be it private or another STU. The Ashwamedh has the same fare structure as the Shivneri and is offically still called Shivneri on the ticketing system.

MSRTC's Ashwamedh Volvo.
MSRTC’s Ashwamedh Volvo. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Evidently someone at the MSRTC design department was a fan of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and decided to stick a picture of a Horse’s Head on the side of the bus. This person was also a Nationalist and put the Tiranga on the side, thus making this an ideal bus on the Delhi-Lahore route, to capture and recapture territory.

Now, as competition to the most outrageous livery, MSRTC decided it go a step further. It had a single rear axle Scania, might as well go for a twin rear axle one as well right? And thus, the Scania Ashwamedh was born.

MSRTC's Ashwamedh Scania.
MSRTC’s Ashwamedh Scania. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

This was not only competition to the previous Ashwamedh, but also, to KSRTC’s buses. The Scania Ashwamedh was originally meant for the Mumbai Central – Swargate – Hyderabad route, but was ultimately extended to the Dadar-Pune Station and Dadar – Swargate routes.

KSRTC

KSRTC has been the pioneer of intercity Volvo buses for a long time. It operates long distance routes from Mangalore, Mysore and Bangalore to Chennai, Trivandrum, Shirdi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Pune.

The original Airavat, as KSRTC named their Volvo B7Rs, retains the same livery even today. Here is a picture of the Airvat, clicked in 2007.

KSRTC's Airavat Volvo.
KSRTC’s Airavat Volvo. Image copyright Girish, CC-BY-2.0 SA Generic, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The Airavat refers to the Airavata, the mythical white elephant that carries the Hindu god Indra. The bus itself is white in colour, and well, one could very well argue that it looks like an elephant.

Natural progression resulted in KSRTC getting the Volvo B9R, named the Airavat Club Class, this was possibly what made MSRTC get the livery on their Ashwamedh Scanias.

KSRTC's Airavat Club Class Volvo.
KSRTC’s Airavat Club Class Volvo. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

This was followed by the Airavat Bliss and the Airavat Superia. Both featured an in-house pantry, with the Superia featured a Chemical Toilet.

Pictures of these two will make it here later. KSRTC has two low resolution pictures on its website.

Now, being the pioneer in luxury services, you can’t expect KSRTC to be behind the rest can you? No, thus, KSRTC became the first transco to get Scania MetroLink buses with a twin rear axle.

KSRTC's Airavat Diamond Class Scania.
KSRTC’s Airavat Diamond Class Scania. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Nicknamed as the Airavat Diamond Class, it is currently KSRTC’s most premium service. Ticket prices are more or less on par with the Airavat Club Class.

The tagline on the side of both the Club Class and the Diamond Class says Sleep Like a Baby, and has a picture of a baby on a pram. Of course, it also features a teddy bear and a rubber ducky, so one is left scratching their heads wondering if it has a bath tub on the inside.

All said and done, I am a supporter of Capitalism and believe in Privatisation of certain services and Private Participation in essential services. However, I for one am not too enthused with Premium buses owned by Private Transport Companies for one simple reason: Bad maintenance. Private Transcos never maintain their buses well. One can observe Neeta Travels with either the Engine compartment open or missing its cover. Very few exceptions exist, such as Conti Travels or ABTX Travels, both based out of Coimbatore.

Have a look at some of the premium buses offered by MSRTC and KSRTC. Click To Tweet

Note: Shivneri Bus without AC =Hirkani. Airavat Bus without AC =Rajhamsa.

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I want to take my blog to the next level #Blogchatter

I was tagged by Pooja to write this post.

So here goes,

Hi all,

This is just an update on the things that may change on this blog in the near future.

For starters, this is the 50th post on the blog. Yes. 50th. I couldn’t have reached 50 posts without the support of various people around me, including the online friends that I have made in the last few months.

Among these 50 posts are two guest posts by a friend of mine, who isn’t going to reveal his real name to anyone. A few more guest posts, on various topics, including Indian Railways, BEST, Ahmedabad Janmarg, PMPML and buses in Abu Dhabi are all in the pipeline. A lot of interesting updates have been planned for the months of March-April-May, so stay tuned to BESTpedia. A new theme, and a new sub-blog is also in the pipeline!

For those who want to stay updated, I’d recommend that you add the RSS feed to you browser. The RSS feed is accessible at http://bestpedia.in/feed/

If you use Feedly or Bloglovin’, here are some links that could work well for you.

Bloglovin’ link: https://www.bloglovin.com/feed/blog/14473693

Feedly link: https://feedly.com/i/category/Bestpedia.in

 I now tag Gauravi to write their take on the topic.

I want to take my blog to the next level with Blogchatter

 

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Motorcycle Taxis: Zooming Past Traffic

Motorcycle taxis in India have been in existence since the 1980s.

Founded in 1980, The Goa Motorcycle Taxi Riders Association (GMTRA) was set up to operate two-wheeler taxis in the state. The following year, the Government of Goa began issuing licences to riders, known as Pilots. They use Yellow-coloured motorcycles and have fixed rates.

Pilots waiting to pick up passengers at a Motor Cycle Taxi Stand in Vasco da Gama, Goa.
Pilots waiting to pick up passengers at a Motor Cycle Taxi Stand in Vasco da Gama, Goa. Image copyright AaronC, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Generic, available on the Wikimedia Commons/Flickr.

In June 2015, a company called HeyTaxi started two-wheeler taxi services in Mumbai. Taxis could be booked using an app. A few months later, a Bangalore based startup called HeyBob began offering the same services. Here too, taxis were to be booked with an app.

What happened next?

The Regional Transport Authority [RTA] in both states began preparing various guidelines and regulations for bike taxis. That is, until Maharashtra’s Transport Minister Diwakar Raote decided that “Such taxis are extremely unsafe and should not be allowed” and rejected the proposal of the RTA to permit them with a fixed colour-code and fare slab on the lines of existing autos and taxis in the city.  Karnataka meanwhile said that the Transport Department could issue such permits, but the State Government would have to notify guidelines for their operations. In spite of this inanity, both HeyTaxi and HeyBob continue to operate today.

Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre.
Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre, Gurgaon. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

In late 2015, two companies Baxi and m-Taxi started offering Bike Taxi services in Haryana’s commercial capital of Gurgaon. With inadequate public transit in Gurgaon, they were quite successful. Taxis can be booked using an app, or hailed from a taxi stand like the picture above. Both companies had the necessary permits from the Haryana government and were looking to expand services into neighbouring Delhi.

Now, in a significant move that will boost the Motorcycle Taxi industry in India, Uber announced the launch of UberMoto, a move that was emulated by its local rival OlaCabs within hours as Ola Bikes. Both services are confined to Bengaluru as of now. Both have a minimum fare of ₹15, with Uber charging ₹3/km and Ola charging ₹2/km thereafter.

Given the massive userbase that Ola and Uber enjoy, this is going to be a big advantage to the entire industry. The advantage Ola and Uber will enjoy is that existing customers merely have to update the app. However, existing service providers have experience in dealing with the industry and traffic, and as existing entities, can also slash prices to compete with the two giants. HeyTaxi also allows people to send shipments across Mumbai using its fleet.

It remains to be seen how this will affect streets. Hopefully, it will help rationalise and streamline traffic, rather than mess things up more.

We look forward to women driving Motorcycle taxis in India.

UberMoto and OlaBikes have arrived. What next? Click To Tweet

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The Escape Velocity of JnNURM buses

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission [JnNURM] is probably one of the most well known Government schemes that happened from 2005 to 2014. Anyone living in a big city would know what JnNURM is purely because of the ugly JnNURM logo being plastered everywhere, from buses to flyovers and ultimately to ultrasonic flow-meters used to measure water flow in underground supply systems.

Logo of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission [JnNURM].
Logo of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission [JnNURM]. Image in Public Domain.

Now flyovers, bridges, skywalks, underpasses, et al, are out of the purview of this article. The discussion is about buses. In 2013, it was announced that the Central government was willing to fund the allotment of an additional 10,000 buses and development of ancillary infrastructure such as Depots, Workshops and Control Rooms.

In a letter addressed to the Chief Secretaries, Principal Secretaries of all States and UTs, Municipal Commissioners and Heads of State Transport Undertakings, the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, laid down some important guidelines.

Among the various points mentioned in the above document; Point 3 talks about Definitions. It defines State as a State or Union Territory, a city as a City, Agglomeration, or Metropolitan area defined by the State, and Special Purpose Vehicle [SPV] as meant to run bus services within a city. It also states that existing corporations such as BEST, DTC, BMTC et al, also come under the definition of an SPV. A crucial thing to note here is Point 3.4 which talks about Para-Statals like KSRTC and APSRTC, which can operate buses under JnNURM, but would require an SPV at city level, OR could set up an SPV for a cluster of cities under Point 3.5.

Now, not all transcos followed the JnNURM guidelines. State level transcos as well as their city level counterparts did what was ideally not permitted.

Now let us list out all the violations that were possible; and then examine them case-by-case. This article only deals with the operating body, and jurisdictions. Another article will come soon on violations of bus specifications.

  • Not setting up an SPV to handle JnNURM buses.
  • Using JnNURM buses outside the city or area where they were to be used.
  • Using JnNURM buses for purposes other than Public-Transport.

Now that the violations have been listed, let us examine, on a case by case basis, what each transco did.

Metropolitan Transport Corporation/Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation

An MTC Volvo on Route 588B from Broadway to Mamallapuram.
An MTC Volvo on Route 588B from Broadway to Mamallapuram. Image copyright Vinoth Thambidurai, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

One of the earliest pioneers in the JnNURM violations, the MTC recieved a set of Volvo B7RLEs which it operated inside city limits, on routes such as CMBT-Red Hills or CMBT-Chengalpattu. It also ran on routes such as 588B from Broadway to Mamallapuram, which is acceptable as it is a city route. The issue cropped up when MTC transferred some of its Volvo buses to TNSTC Villupuram, and began using them on various intercity routes such as Chennai-Puducherry, Chennai-Hosur, and Chennai-Trichy. Perhaps its MTC which is innocent and TNSTC which is the culprit.

TNSTC Coimbatore and TNSTC Madurai received non-AC Semi-Low-floor [SLF] buses for intra-city use. These buses were not used on routes outside of their respective cities but there was no SPV created for them. Of course, one may argue that TNSTC Coimbatore’s JnNURM buses were used exclusively in Coimbatore and not in Erode or Ooty and thus TNSTC CBE is not the para-statal here but merely a city-specific transport corporation.

Puducherry Road Transport Corporation

On the lines of the TNSTC-MTC mischief-making duo, the PRTC got itself a set of SLFs under JnNURM. PRTC hardly used any of them in its capital city. Instead, it chose to ply them between Pondicherry and Karaikal. One may argue that there is nothing wrong in this as they are two parts of Pondi only. They then ran them on East Coast Road [ECR] along with the TNSTC VPM Volvos. This, made them serial offenders, just like the others.

Kerala State Road Transport Corporation

A Volvo B7RLE bus owned by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation at Angamally Bus Station, heading for Aroor.
A Volvo B7RLE bus owned by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation at Angamally Bus Station, heading for Aroor. Image copyright RanjithSiji, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Another arty and masterful violator, KeSRTC received Volvo B7RLEs for use in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. What did they do with these? Run them on intercity routes, of course. No SPV was created. The Central Government stepped in and objected to this violation, going so far as taking KeSRTC to court.

However, being crafty, the KeSRTC found a work-around for this. The court order affected only buses belonging to the Kochi division, prompting KeSRTC to transfer most of these buses to the Thrivananthapuram division. The reason? These buses were super-profitable and KeSRTC otherwise had only one Volvo service between Trivandrum and Bangalore, which was running at a loss due to KaSRTCs super-efficiency.

In November 2014, KeSRTC finally created an SPV called the Kerala Urban Road Transport Corporation [KURTC] exclusively for JnNURM buses, thus making it an SPV for a cluster of cities.

Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation

A low-floor Tata Marcopolo Bus belonging to the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation -Mysore City Transport Department.
A low-floor Tata Marcopolo Bus belonging to the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation -Mysore City Transport Department. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Among the most ethical State Transport Undertakings in India, KaSRTC has actually followed most of the rules in the book. However, it did  miss out on a few:

KaSRTC has lived up by trying to follow norms as much as possible. One just hopes that Mysore and Mangalore get their own transport corporations soon.

Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation/Telangana State Road Transport Corporation

A Volvo B7RLE operating under the brand name of Metro Luxury by the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation in Visakhapatnam.
A Volvo B7RLE operating under the brand name of Metro Luxury by the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation in Visakhapatnam. Image copyright LOVEofZ, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The APSRTC, during the United Andhra days operated JnNURM buses in Hyderabad, and Visakhapatnam. It continues to operate the latter, while its younger sibling the TSRTC has taken over the erstwhile capital. There is no SPV to handle city operations. One hopes that the upcoming capital of Amaravati will have its own Transco, with funding under AMRUT.

Along with this, several of the Volvo “Metro Luxury” buses have found their way to intercity routes, both in AP and Telangana.

Note: Thanks to GSR Chaitanya for pointing out that APSRTC/TSRTC did indeed have an SPV. An article on this was posted a year earlier on Love of Z, a blog dedicated to APSRTC/TSRTC buses. You can read the article here.

Buses in Hyderabad, on paper operate under the aegis of the Hyderabad Zonal Urban Road Transport Corporation.

Haryana Roadways

A Haryana Roadways JnNURM Ashok Leyland Bus.
A Haryana Roadways JnNURM Ashok Leyland Bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0, International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Another serial offender, Haryana Roadways has both non-AC buses like the above, as well as Volvo B7RLEs, both of which, were allotted to the Faridabad division. Once again, there is no SPV here, and these buses always operate on the Gurgaon-Faridabad-Ballabgarh route. Buses that operate within Gurgaon, however, are non JnNURM buses.

Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation

A Bharat Stage IV Volvo operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation.
A Bharat Stage IV Volvo operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation. Image copyright Hayathkhan.h, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The BMTC, one of the largest beneficiaries under JnNURM, is a mere crook among the no-goodniks of the Transport world. It’s only violation of the JnNURM guidelines? Renting out buses. A large chunk of BMTCs revenue comes from leasing out its Volvo fleet to the IT sector for dedicated pickup and drop trips. The BMTC quickly rectified this however by purchasing brand new Volvo buses and deputing the JnNURM ones for Public Transport. A good move to conform to norms, but the downside? The IT sector gets the really good buses, the rest of us, nothing.

Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport

A JnNURM double-door second generation Cerita owned by BEST, leased out to Air India for picking up passengers from the aircraft and to the terminal.
A JnNURM double-door second generation Cerita owned by BEST, leased out to Air India for ferrying passengers between the aircraft and the terminal. Image copyright Prateek Karandikar, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Another small-time crook in the world of the Mafioso, BESTs only mistake in violating JnNURM guidelines was leasing out its Second-Generation Cerita [yep, them Purple Faeries] to Air India to ferry passengers between the aircraft and the terminal. The cash-strapped body, with annual losses of ~₹700crore needed to monetise its fleet, and did so by leasing them out. However, word has it that the after the Air India agreement ended, BEST has been leasing out its older, First-Generation, Single-Door Cerita buses which were not acquired under JnNURM. In order to further monetise them, BEST put out full body adverts on them, thus turning them into giant, moving billboards.

Now that we’re done with the villainous lot, let’s head to the heroes of the hour!

Jaipur City Transport Services Limited

This SPV was set up by the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation in 2008 to handle city buses in Jaipur. It operates JnNURM buses, other buses as well as the Jaipur BRTS.

Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd

A bus operated by Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd in Indore.
A bus operated by Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd in Indore. Image copyright Prateek Karandikar, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Set up to run bus services in Madhya Pradesh’s largest city, Indore, the AiCTSL, operates city buses, as well as the BRTS. It also operates a Radio Cab service in the city.

For a further reading on JnNURM funding of buses, please read this.

JnNURM has been scrapped in favour of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation [AMRUT]. While nothing concrete has been set for buses, one hopes that AMRUT paves the way for more intelligent transit in the country.

Which Transport body has violated JnNURM guidelines in the country? Click To Tweet

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