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tgblog Apr 21 2016

Traveling in India – Part 2

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tg (1)3. Buses in India are pretty much like human beings

They come in all sorts of sizes, age groups, condition and shapes. Truth be told, the condition of buses 60 years ago were substantially better than they are today. And this, despite the fact that the buses of yore belonged to a different generation of technology. And this is primarily because they were maintained better. Not dissimilar to humans, where you have several senior citizens today who are in much better health than their younger counterparts.

The private bus industry had strong motivation to keep the bus running and so as to maximize earnings. Once it is owned by Government, there is no such motivation to keep the bus in working condition. The same thing applies to humans. So long as they work for the private sector, they still have some fear of losing their jobs and at least maintain a semblance of working. Once they enter the portals of employment by Government, even a pretense of working is not forthcoming.

When the Government finds that work is not getting completed on time, they hire additional people for the same job and hope that the job will get done. The same job gets cannibalized by 2 persons instead of 1. The same thing happens to the bus today. When a spare part is required, an existing bus is cannibalized and the spare is “borrowed” from a bus who looks as though it is not functional. The parking bay of Government buses is strewn with skeletons of cannibalized buses and buses awaiting repair and maintenance. The Government offices are strewn with empty seats, where the owners of those seats have gone for body maintenance thru consumption of tea. Like I said, not very different from the bus industry.

Thanks to technology today, we are able to see the national inventory of seats across routes. It is unfortunate that State Governments continue to seek “rent” and have not yet loosened their hold on the passenger bus industry. But with the new technology ushered in by the aggregators such as TicketgooseRedBus, Abhibus and TravelYaari, we should gradually start seeing more and more adoption of bus as a means of transportation, across the country. But it’s the medium distance industry that will feel the difference soon. The short distance is still some distance away.

4. What is in short supply must be good

Reserved train tickets are usually in short supply.And therefore train travel is often the preferred means of commute. Whichever way you look at it, the passenger bus industry has always been perceived as being “second to” overnight train travel.

5. Do our politicians really want to solve urban transportation problems?

There is the long term. And there is the short and medium term. There is affordability at the State level and there is affordability at the consumer level.

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