You are in the process of implementing ITS in Mysore…
Yes. The project will cover all the 500 buses. Firstly, ITS in Mysore has two components; one is the tracking of the buses and controlling of the buses. What happens with city buses is that buses get bunched together normally for over 20 minutes and sometimes there are no bus services at all. So this is basically a command and control kind of system to ensure proper headway or spacing between the buses and to ensure that right frequency is maintained. Secondly, if there is any breakdown or deviation from the route prescribed, we can track the vehicle, and can have a communication with the driver and take corrective action. The third aspect is to see that there is public passenger information system at the bus terminals and at the bus stops. We want to ensure that people have a reliable system of knowing when the bus is going to come and leave. And this will be not only the scheduled timings but also the actual timings based on the prediction of travel time from the last known location of the bus to the bus stop.
For the long distance bus services, we are taking up a project which is in the tendering process. For long distance tracking we have taken up pilot projects, particularly for the highly frequented Bangalore-Chennai route. KSRTC is definitely the first one to implement the GPS based vehicle tracking project in India. The `20 crore project is approved by the Ministry of Urban Development and funded partially by the World Bank Global Environment Facility as a pilot project under Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP).
What about manpower development?
Along with the strengthening of the fleet, the infrastructure and the use of information technology, our objective is to see that our manpower is rightly selected. Therefore, the recruitment processes are very transparent; we ensure that best of the drivers get selected through the Automated Electronic Driving Test System which has received the Award for Excellence from the Ministry of Urban Development for being a very transparent system. Again, we have a very robust system of training the drivers for fuel efficiency, preventing accidents and better behaviour with the people and commuters. I would say one of the very important strengths that we have is our quality of manpower and we want to build up on that.
In some parts of the country it is believed that contractual manpower will be better and cost effective. But we have found that having our own manpower has worked out well in terms of drivers’ behaviour with the passengers and loyalty towards the organisation. We give almost one week of training to every staff member; our manpower is more than 35,000. Even the maintenance of vehicles including Volvo buses is taken up in-house by our trained mechanics. The drivers are trained by Volvo, Mercedes Benz and other manufacturing companies themselves. We have taken up electronic ticketing machines as well.
Your operations have to integrate with other transport systems…
In case of Bangalore, even when Metro or Mono rail becomes operational, only the trunk routes will be serviced. A lot more people have to travel by city buses for short distances. Even in London which has 13 lines of metro, more number of people or double the number of people travel by buses as compared with the London tube system. The mainstay of public transport system will have to be buses, so there is no threat to any bus transit system by any mass transit system. However, if we can bring these under one single management, then we can see how the different modes can benefit from each other. There has been inter modal integration and this integration has to be done at interchanges and such other points. A very simple integration would be having buses at high frequency at Metro stations moving people to nearby suburbs.
By the virtue of our recent experiences that have taught us tremendously, the interaction with other road transport corporations and my being a part of the Association of State Road Transport Undertakings as Vice President, we have gained immense knowledge. The Association interacts with all the other Road Transport Corporations and tries to share the learnings and best practices. So we know what is going on in Jaipur, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi or UP. We know that there is a need for more and more buses, we also feel that there is a need for customised buses for long distance and short distance travel.
In one particular city of about three lakh population, we have city buses catering to some of the major arteries and then buses for suburban travel in which people may bring the agricultural produce to the town. We have different kind of buses; on city buses we have destination boards, next stop announcement system and wide doors. For suburban service, there will again be wide doors and more standing space, but if you are looking at journeys which are about 60-100kms, people will like to travel sitting. So there the pattern of the doors and the bus seats will be different. For the long distances, the buses should have air suspension and other convenience. We are customising our buses to the requirements of the people and that is what is exciting. We have a robust 6-8% growth year on year in terms of volume of operations and we are inducting new manpower, drivers, conductors and mechanics. Every year more than 1000 buses are being inducted which include premiere classes.
The latest trend is that from using the regular class of services, people want to move up the value ladder and have a better class of travel by Volvo or Mercedes Benz buses. We cater to more than 100 destinations within the State and outside by deploying these luxury buses. KSRTC now has one of the most professionally managed fleet of over 300 high-end buses named ‘Airavat’. With a very dedicated team of officers & staff and the tremendous support from the Government, KSRTC is able to cover almost every district and taluk head quarters in Karnataka.
We have a very popular website and online booking system which caters to almost 20-30% of our long distance bus services. Booking can also be done through mobile phones. M-ticket will be sent to the person’s registered mobile number and that itself can be used for travel. This has been started recently and the response has been excellent.
You seem to be very passionate about developing KSRTC. You received national Award for e-Governance in 2009-10.
I joined here in July 2008. So it’s three years now. KSRTC is a fantastic organisation. I would not say I have been able to do single handedly whatever has been done here. I was only continuing the good work initiated by my predecessors. KSRTC has slowly emerged as the role model for road transport corporations in the country. Other State Corporation officials are also in touch with us – they ask us about what we are doing and how we are able to improve our services. We are also able to get the best talent within the public sector or private sector. We get our buses designed by Ogilvy and Mather, the leading advertising company. And similarly, we work with other multinational and other companies and we ensure that people are comfortable as and when they travel in our buses. KSRTC’s passenger specific initiatives include Accident Relief Fund Trust and Accident Relief Wagon equipped with GPD tracking.