The country's first air conditioned (AC) bus stand is apparently waiting for passengers as well as buses. Blame it on availability of convenient bus stands in the vicinity, the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT) in Mohali has failed to get the desired footfall ever since its inauguration in December 2016.
The much-publicised as country’s first AC bus stand with facilities like an airport terminal, it was one of the dream projects of Punjab's former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal who also own the biggest fleet of private buses in the state.
After much delay, this Rs.700 Crore ISBT, which was inaugurated by Badal days before the just concluded Assembly elections but, has failed in getting the expected number of buses as well as passengers as both have better and convenient options available a few kilometres (KM) away.
While the inter-state buses prefer to halt at ISBT situated in Sector 43, Chandigarh, as it is more convenient for passengers to catch buses to their respective destinations from there. This bus stand is about nine km from the AC terminus in Mohali.
For local passengers, the open air bus stand situated in Phase VIII, situated about six km from the new terminus, is more convenient. No surprise, then, that the private bus operators have continued to ply their buses from this old bus stand.
Sources said that the public find it convenient to catch the bus from Phase VIII bus stand stand instead of going to new ISBT in Phase VI. Even more, passengers coming and leaving the new ISBT are also being fleeced by auto-rickshaw drivers as no local bus services to the area are available at present.
"This bus terminus was inaugurated by the previous government in haste. We are coming up with a proposal to increase the routes of local buses from phase VIII to new ISBT. It will help the passengers to reach the ISBT without spending extra money, unlike auto rickshaws and other private vehicles," Mohali legislator, Balbir Singh Sidhu, told The Statesman.
Meanwhile, a state Transport Department's official said that the number of passengers at the new ISBT would rise only when the unauthorised pick-up points started by private bus operators were prohibited. "The old bus stand in Phase VIII is yet to be de-notified. Hence, in such a case any action against the defaulters cannot be taken. Moreover, the residents living in the vicinity do not want it to be de-notified," said an officer pleading anonymity.
When, contacted, Mohali deputy commissioner (DC), Gurpreet Kaur Sapra, she said, "I have called the concerned department officers for a meeting in the next week. We are aware of the problems being faced by residents and a solution will be find out". The facilities at the ISBT includes the food court and retail outlets, free wi-fi, ATMs, cyber cafes, medical aid and pharmacy, multi-level parking, cloak rooms, tourist information booths, AC dormitories and waiting lounges and sniffer dogs to ensure safety of passengers. The project will also have a commercial hub, a hotel and even a helipad in different phases. The bus terminus remained controversial since its construction which took over seven years to complete.