Delhi / Mumbai: A Rs4,000 crore Centrally funded initiative to boost public transportation in cities has been forced to slow down due to sluggish supply and missed deadlines.
Only 283 buses have been delivered of the 11,431 that various state transport authorities ordered from bus makers including Tata Motors Ltd and Ashok Leyland Ltd after the Union government said in January that it would provide financial assistance under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission as part of a government stimulus package to buy the buses.
Poor show: Only 283 buses have been delivered of the 11,431 that various state transport authorities ordered. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
The manufacturers have “absolutely failed” to meet delivery schedules, said Sanjeev Kumar Lohia, officer on special duty, transport, at the urban development ministry. “They are extremely slow” in delivering, he added.
The government has now extended the last date for the scheme to 31 December from 30 June.
The bus makers with whom orders have been placed would have to speed up deliveries with less than four months left to meet the new deadline.
Tata Motors, for instance, has delivered just 30 buses out of the 4,700 it has been asked to supply. Managing director Prakash M. Telang had said in end-August that the delay was due to the retrofitting required.
“As there are no standard specifications, it’s taking time in the initial phase,” Telang told Mint on the sidelines of the annual convention of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam) in New Delhi.
Ashok Leyland declined to comment on the matter. It has delivered 111 buses out of 4,787 ordered.Volvo Bus India Pvt. Ltd has supplied 141 buses out of a total order of 500. The remaining orders for smaller buses have been placed with auto makers that include Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Eicher Motors Ltd, Swaraj Mazda Ltd and Force Motors Ltd. The data on orders and deliveries was provided by the urban development ministry.
Siam on its part held the state transport undertakings partially responsible for late placement of orders. Sugato Sen, senior director at Siam, said: “There has to be some gap between the placement of orders and execution of the same. It cannot happen immediately.”
However, Lohia said the urban development ministry had approved of buying 14,500 buses by 28 February and that some state undertakings had placed orders by March.
Sen also said it was unfair to expect manufacturers to supply the buses in a short time as they needed to be equipped with services such as passenger information systems, which would mean installing additional hardware and software.
The ministry has also set certain design and engineering specifications. For instance, at least 20% of buses for cities of at least a million residents had to be low-floor ones with a ground clearance of up to 400mm.
Some experts have even questioned the rationale behind such a one-time funding to spur auto makers to manufacture buses suited for urban public transport.
Geetam Tiwari, associate professor, transportation research and injury prevention programme in the department of civil engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, said the industry has no incentive to build better buses.
“There is no seriousness to invest in special infrastructure for buses. Moreover, the current tax regime also does not favour bus use,” she said. “Why should the industry invest in manufacturing better buses?”