Upon observing the delay in the project, the minister pulled up the officials and directed them to complete the project by the end of this year.
The Delhi government has announced its Premium Bus Aggregator Project, touted to revolutionise the public transport system in the National Capital. With the introduction of premium buses, Delhiites will now have access to luxury bus travel, for the first time.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the initiative aims to encourage people who completely rely on cars to shift to the public transport network. Once the LG approves this scheme, the government will table it for public feedback for one month, Kejriwal said.
The premium buses will be air-conditioned, equipped with Wi-Fi, GPS, CCTV, and a panic button. Users will be able to book their seats online for added convenience. Furthermore, CNG buses will not be more than three years old, and each bus will have at least 12 seats. Moreover, the Delhi government will only allow aggregators to ply electric buses after January 1, 2024.
Aggregators will be allowed to chart bus routes on their own, but they must provide complete information to the government. This announcement has been widely welcomed by the public, who are eagerly looking forward to experiencing luxury bus travel in Delhi.
The Delhi government’s Premium Bus Aggregator Project is expected to play a crucial role in reducing pollution and traffic congestion in the city.
Speaking about this new scheme, Kejriwal said Delhi is the National Capital and it is an endeavour of the state government to have a public transport sector in Delhi that is world-class. He added that the transport sector in Delhi should be on par with the transport sector in some of the best cities in the world.
The Delhi CM added that one of the main concerns about the traffic problem in Delhi is that the number of private vehicles, i.e. scooters and cars, is on the higher side. “If the state government has to get these people to leave their vehicles behind and use public transport, then we have to make it comfortable, safe and time-bound. The biggest revolution in the transport sector in Delhi arose when Delhi Metro started functioning two decades ago. A lot of people who belong to the middle and upper-middle class began to leave their vehicles behind and travel by the Delhi Metro,” he said.
The Delhi CM added that this decreased the number of vehicles plying on the streets of Delhi. But he added that slowly over the last two decades, the traffic has again increased and now even the metros are jam-packed and therefore a repulsive effect has taken place and the people have shifted back to using private vehicles. “The rush in the metro over time increased, and now the people do not get a seat in it and often have to stand for long in jam-packed trains, and therefore the people have shifted back to their private cars and scooters,” he said.
Speaking about the DTC and cluster buses in Delhi, Kejriwal said people in the lower-middle class usually use these buses. He said although there are AC buses as well for the public to use, there is no guarantee of a seat and also the comfort that a middle class or upper-middle class person expects is not there in these buses, and therefore they do not use it much.
He added that it is to cater to this segment of people that the Delhi government has been working on a scheme to bring the Premium Buses in the city. He said the plan of bringing such a scheme has been in the works for the last 4-5 years. He also said this is the first experiment of such a nature in India, and added that Premium Buses within a city in such a way have never been thought of and employed before.
Providing further details, Kejriwal said the state government has started a scheme named Delhi Motor Vehicles Licensing of Aggregator (Premium Buses) Scheme, 2023. Under this scheme, the Premium Buses that will be run in the city will be air-conditioned, comfortable and will have 2×2 reclining seats. These buses will have WiFi, GPS, CCTV and a panic button. He also added that the booking of seats will be app-based or web-based. The CM made it clear that no standing passengers will be allowed in these buses and the passengers who book tickets in it will be assured of a seat.
Adding that such a scheme is being implemented for the first time, Kejriwal said the target audience under this scheme is the upper-middle class, who are willing to pay for their comfort. “These people have the money to own cars and on a daily basis travel in their own vehicles. They pay for their petrol on a daily basis. But if given an option of a bus that is comfortable, we believe that they will leave their cars behind and opt for the bus,” he said.
Giving further details of the scheme, he added that buses that are more than three years old will not be allowed to run under this scheme and they have to run on CNG. The CM further added that after January 1, 2024 all the buses running in the fleet should be electric buses. “Under this licence, the bus aggregator will be provided with a licence to run the buses and they will have to pay a licence fee. But those aggregators that use only electric buses will not have to pay any licence fees. This is to encourage the usage of electric buses. All the buses need to have a minimum of 12 seats,” he said. Each aggregator needs to operate and maintain at least 50 buses within 90 days of receiving the licence.
Kejriwal added that the most important aspect of this scheme is that the route on which the buses will run will not be decided by the state government, but by the aggregator. “The aggregator can decide the route on which they want to run. They only need to inform the state government about the route that they want to run on. Obviously they will want to run on a route where there is more traffic and therefore with this service the number of private vehicles on that route is likely to reduce,” he said.
The Delhi Chief Minister also said the bus fare of the journey will be decided by the aggregator themselves. There is only one condition to be followed over here, which is that the fare for a particular route should be higher than that of the DTC bus on that route. “The fare for these buses will essentially be market-driven. The aggregator can decide the prices based on what the people are willing to pay. The only requirement of the state government is that the tickets need to be sold on a mobile-based or a web-based app and the payments will be done digitally. The people who want to use these buses will be assured of a seat,” he said.
All the buses will be required to have a uniform, colour-coded logo and the state government is working on this aspect. He also said the bus aggregator will be allowed to advertise inside the bus and collect revenue on the basis of that.
Kejriwal also informed the media that this scheme has been finalised and the file will be sent to the LG Office today. “As the protocol mandates here in Delhi, we will be sending this file to the LG Office today. It is upto the LG to decide if he wants the citizens of Delhi to have this service, or whether he wants to send the file to the President’s Office. But since it is a public welfare scheme, I hope that the LG will give his approval to the scheme,” he said.
Kejriwal concluded by saying that after the approval of the LG Office, the Delhi government will put up the scheme on the government website and invite public feedback for the period of a month. “We will invite public feedback on the scheme and if we get some good suggestions, we will incorporate it into the scheme and then it will be implemented in Delhi. I firmly believe that such a scheme will greatly benefit public transport in not just Delhi but throughout the country,” he said.