To stop loss, BMTC may convert Volvos to non-AC buses | Bengaluru News

BENGALURU: Once a money-spinner, BMTC’s air-conditioned Volvo buses, introduced to the fleet in 2006, are fast turning into white elephants with the advent of the pandemic.
With ridership and consequently passenger revenue plummeting, and diesel prices skyrocketing, the state transport undertaking is considering running these buses minus ACs. It plans to replace fixed windows with sliding ones.
Currently, BMTC operates only 48 of its 860 Volvo buses.
Officials say they plan to convert two buses into non-AC ones and deploy them on long-distance routes like Bidadi, Attibele, Hoskote, Devanahalli, Doddaballapur and Nelamangala on a pilot basis.
Volvo buses guzzle fuel and return a mileage of only 2-2.5km per litre. Officials are hoping it will increase to 4-4.5kmpl if the buses are converted to non-AC.
“It’s a do or die situation,” said a BMTC official. “If the experiment succeeds, we will convert more buses to non-AC ones. We will get better mileage on the outskirts rather than in city limits. The Covid-19 situation may continue for a year or two. We need out-of-the-box ideas. Maintenance costs for these buses have also increased since they have been lying idle at depots for nearly two years.”
While demand for Vajra and chartered services, especially in the tech corridors, fell due to work-from-home arrangements, demand has also plunged for Vayu Vajra services due to international travel restrictions and reduced flight movements.
Some passengers also fear travelling in AC buses puts them at a higher risk of contracting Covid and this is adding to the STU’s woes. It had reduced fares of its AC buses by up to 20% from January 1, but there has been no significant increase in passenger footfall.
Even prior to the pandemic, Volvos were already facing the heat due to app-based taxis and rental scooters as well as Namma Metro. In 2019, the HD Kumaraswamy-led government had planned to transfer AC Volvo buses from BMTC to other corporations in the state. But the proposal was scrapped after opposition from citizens.
BMTC has now decided not to induct any AC buses in the next few years.
Previously, BMTC had converted some AC Tata Marcopolo buses, inducted under JNNURM in 2008, into non-AC ones.
The decision was taken after it received several complaints including frequent breakdowns, emission of dark smoke, engine noise and poor AC. But there were few takers for those buses.
There was also a proposal to convert some Marcopolo buses into electric ones, but that too didn’t take off.

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